That gentle gesture by the 45-year old teacher in the Iranian Kurdish town of Mariwan, on behalf of 10-year old Mahan Rahimian, was picked up by the foreign media. Photo by Bahman Shahbazi
Muhammad Ali Muhammadian was a simple elementary school teacher in Kurdistan. That was until he shaved his head as an act of compassion for a shy pupil in his class, who had lost all his hair due to an unidentified illness.
That gentle gesture by the 45-year old teacher in the Iranian Kurdish town of Mariwan, on behalf of 10-year old Mahan Rahimian, was picked up by the BBC Persian service Iranian and the foreign media.
As a result, Muhammadian has gained wide recognition in Iran and among the Iranian diaspora. The teacher and pupil have been taken to Tehran for better healthcare, the Iranian president has been told the story and both adult and child could soon have their faces on a postage stamp.
“Mahan and I are allergic to winter, which is why our hair falls. But it will grow back in the spring,” the teacher reportedly told the class, after seeing the other boys make fun of Mahan because of his bald head. He decided to shave his own hair to make the boy feel less awkward.
“When he saw me with shaved hair Mahan smiled for the first time in a long time,” Muhammadian reported.
Pupils of the Sheikh Shaltouk Boys Elementary School, near Mariwan’s Lake Zrebar, all showed up with shaved head this week to support their classmate.
The teacher had told the pupils to wait until the weather warms before shaving their heads. But eager to join the movement, the class could not wait. “I am really happy that pupils who used to bully Mahan have now shaved their heads despite the cold winter,” Muhammadian said.
After receiving attention and support from the teacher, Mahan became less shy and showed a better spirit. But he is still getting weaker by the day.
The father of the pupil said that it did not occur to him to shave his own hair to support his child.
After the widespread media coverage, the province of Kurdistan decided to put the faces of the teacher and pupil on a postage stamp.
The ill-equipped hospitals in Kurdistan province, which is among Iran’s most impoverished regions, have been unable to diagnose Mahan’s illness. His father, a mechanic, has been unable to afford the medical bills and travel expenses.
“I hope this significant reflection of my effort in the media would change the life of not just Mahan but all the sick pupils in Iran who need support. We have many pupils like Mahan in Iran,” Muhammadian was quoted as saying.
Muhammadian, who has been teaching for 23 years, has received wide praise for his gesture on Facebook and other social media networks.