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Abstract:
A brief tribute of this scholar, attorney, and travel teacher. Taken from an address by his son-in-law, Walker.
Notes:
First published in The Bahá’í Journal 4:6 (September 1987), a publication of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United Kingdom. Later reprinted in Bahá’í News #682, January 1988.

Navidi, Dr. Aziz (1913-1987):
Intrepid Pioneer, Knight of Bahá'u'lláh

by Graham Walker

published in Bahá'í News, 682
1988-01
GRIEVED PASSING DEDICATED SERVANT CAUSE KNIGHT OF BAHA'U'LLAH AZIZ NAVIDI. HIS FEARLESS DEFENSE OPPRESSED BAHA'IS CRADLE FAITH HIGHLY PRAISED BY BELOVED GUARDIAN. HIS CONTINUOUS SERVICES PIONEERING FIELD CROWNED BY OUTSTANDING SUCCESSES GAIN RECOGNITION FAITH BY MANY AFRICAN COUNTRIES OBTAINED THROUGH HIS UTTER RELIANCE BAHA'U'LLAH AND HIS INDEFATIGABLE RESOURCEFULNESS SACRIFICIAL EFFORTS ALL SHED LUSTRE UPON HIS LOVING MEMORY. REQUESTING NSA UGANDA HOLD MEMORIAL SERVICE MOTHER TEMPLE AFRICA RECOGNITION UNIQUE SERVICES THAT CONTINENT. ASSURE ARDENT PRAYERS PROGRESS SOUL ABHA KINGDOM. ADVISE HOLD MEMORIAL GATHERING LONDON.
      - UNIVERSAL HOUSE OF JUSTICE JULY 2, 1987
Dr. Aziz Navidi was a remarkable man, loved and respected by all who knew him. Although in his capacity as an international lawyer he spoke with presidents and kings, he always remained humble and self-effacing. He brought about constitutional changes in many countries to secure freedom of worship for millions and protection for the Bahá'ís in particular. He was a masterful lawyer and a consummate diplomat, and above all he was completely devoted to the Cause.

Aziz Navidi was born in Hamadan, Iran, in 1913. He studied law in Tehran and took his doctorate at the Sorbonne in Paris. Soon after completing his military service he was appointed as legal adviser to the Iranian Ministry of the Interior and Defense and soon became one of the most successful advocates in the country.

Recognition and success brought him a great deal of work, but he still found time to defend the poor, for whom he worked without charge. He would receive them early in the morning before going to his office and again upon his return he would often be greeted by a long queue of people anxious to petition him. He often worked late into the night preparing cases for his poorer clients.

In his civil practice he also defended Bahá'ís, sometimes against the most powerful in the land. Many attempts were made on his life, and on one occasion enemies tried to abduct one of his daughters. His friends and colleagues tried to persuade him to drop these contentious cases and to protect himself from the attacks of his enemies, but he continued to fight for justice regardless of the personal risk. He won the respect of everyone around him. On one occasion he had successfully defended a man charged with theft. Outside the court, after his acquittal, the man privately told him that he was in fact guilty. Dr. Navidi did not hesitate for a moment; he marched him straight back into the court, apologized to the judge, and then conducted the prosecution.

In 1953 Aziz and his wife, Shamsi, pioneered to Monte Carlo. Aziz had been offered the post of Consul General in Paris, but being a Bahá'í, he refused it. From his base in Monte Carlo he was sent all over the world to defend the Bahá’ís who were being unjustly treated and persecuted. It was no surprise that the beloved Guardian designated him the “Shield of the Cause of God” and predicted that future historians would study his achievements, although Dr. Navidi himself never spoke of this precious accolade.

He was frequently called upon to be absent from home for six months at a time and Shamsi had accepted to support him in this work and to raise their family almost single-handedly. Their daughter, Guilda, was always a problem at mealtimes, throwing her food over the balcony or surreptitiously putting it into her pockets when no one was looking. She was told on one occasion that if she ate well and gained weight, her father would come home. She secretly inserted two cherries in her cheeks and then asked brightly when he would be coming home.

In 1968 Dr. Navidi became a representative of the Iranian Oil Company for its operations in the Indian Ocean. The family pioneered again, establishing their home in Mauritius. Dr. Navidi then undertook the first of many missions to various African states to secure recognition of the Faith there. He fearlessly visited countries hostile to the Bahá'ís with no protection except his faith and his credentials as official lawyer to the Universal House of Justice with special status at the United Nations. His missions took him to Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Congo, Gabon, the Gambia, Kenya, Madagascar, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Zaire and many, many other countries throughout the world. He was successful time and again in persuading democratic governments and dictators alike to alter their laws and constitutions and to officially recognize the Bahá'í Faith. His professional brilliance, his calm perseverance in the face of what often seemed to be insurmountable obstacles, and his unswerving faith in Bahá'u'lláh earned him the esteem and respect of even his fiercest adversaries.

In one African country he had been asked to meet with a certain government minister to try and convince him to change his country's harsh stance toward the Bahá'ís. Every morning he would go to the minister's office and sit in the waiting room all day. They ordered him to wear a suit and tie while they themselves wore light tropical clothing. At the end of the day he would walk back to his hotel drenched with perspiration and completely exhausted. He was forced to take expensive rooms in the hotel in order to maintain the prestige of the Faith. The little food that he was able to secure was extremely expensive — for example, an egg cost $5. Hepatitis and malaria were epidemic, and theft and murder were commonplace. He was completely without friend or contact. He tolerated indignity and intimidation without complaint, but at the end of three months he began to think that perhaps God did not mean for him to achieve his aim. He prayed ardently for guidance, and decided that he would leave the following day. The next morning he was summoned by the minister who was so impressed by his reasoned argument and firm resolve that he granted the Faith official recognition.

When Dr. Navidi returned from these missions he did not speak of the hardships he had suffered, or of the danger, or of the tribulations of the Bahá'ís. He never himself spoke of what he had achieved, nor at what cost. When the Guardian passed away in 1957 the Hands of the Cause called upon his services. When the Universal House of Justice was elected in 1963 they honored him to become their legal adviser in Africa. It was on one such mission to Africa that he became ill, but he could not bring himself to abandon his task and so did not leave until his suffering became unbearable. By that time his illness was beyond control.

He passed away in a London hospital on July 1, 1987. Messages of condolence were received from individuals and institutions all over the world, and 500 friends and family members attended his funeral service. In recognition of the sterling services rendered to the Cause of God by this devoted servant, the National Spiritual Assembly of the United Kingdom arranged a national memorial service which was held September 4 at the Royal Overseas League in London.

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