Among other human rights violations, Iran continues to persecute members of the Bahai religion. [Updated 8 Nov 2010]
Members of the Baha’i faith, constituting Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious group, are not recognized in the constitution. Iranian Baha’is have suffered from government persecution since the 1979 Revolution. Members of the Bahai faith are not allowed to practice their religion, and are subject to severe persecution and the denial of almost all their civil rights (such as the right to own land or have access to higher education), and their religious sites have been vandalized. Hundreds of Baha’is have been executed since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.
Nov. 8, 2010
Baha’i child writes moving letter to his imprisoned mother: A letter written by a nine-year-old boy to his mother, Susan Tabianian, a young woman of the Baha’i minority detained in Evin Prison for her religious beliefs, has been widely published on human rights websites. Entitled Mommy, why you? the boy writes, "I want to ask if it is a crime to be Baha’i, because I too am Baha’i. If it is a crime, then why am I not in jail as well? Have you ever opened your eyes to find that your mother is gone? Have you ever come out of school to find no-one waiting for you? Or have you ever come home not to be met by mommy’s loving presence? Have you ever heard your little sister crying because she wants her mommy? Have you ever tried to stifle tears of longing for your mother at night? Is there anyone who can answer me? Dear mommy, if you are in jail because you are a Baha’i, well, I am Baha’i too. Come, and take me with you.”
Iranian regime continues efforts to smear the Baha’i community – The IRGC-affiliated newspaper Javan, which leads a campaign against the Baha’i faith, says several Baha’i residents of Hamedan threw a party to celebrate the alleged desecration of Quran books in the US. Javan further claims that a group of several tens of Baha’is held a huge celebration on one of Ramadan’s nights. This photo accompanies Javan’s allegations.
Baha’i students expelled – More than fifteen students from the Baha’i minority were expelled from studies at the Management and Industry School in Isfahan. The school’s managers also denied registration from several Baha’i candidates and announced that all adherents of the Baha’i faith should be expelled according to the Intelligence Ministry’s directives.
Roxana Saberi, a journalist detained in Iran last year and the author of “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran,” writes in the Washington Post about the Baha’i faith leaders detained in Iran: “While Iranian authorities deny that the regime discriminates against citizens for religious beliefs, the Baha’i faith is not recognized under the Iranian constitution. The known persecution of many Bahais includes being fired from jobs and denied access to higher education, as well as cemetery desecration. In addition to the seven leaders (that were sentenced recently), 44 other Baha’is are in prisons in Iran. People of many nations and faiths have called for the release of the Baha’i leaders. But many more must speak out, such as by signing letters of support through Web sites such as United4Iran.com. Protests of these harsh sentences can make clear to authorities in Iran and elsewhere that they will be held accountable when they trample on human rights.”
Three Baha’i youths in solitary confinement for three years – In a letter sent by an Iranian from the Baha’i minority to Iran’s Minister of the Intelligence, he described the condition of three Baha’i citizens, who have been held in solitary confinement for about three years. The three are Hale Rouhe, Sasan Taqavi and Raha Sabet. They are charged with compromising national secutiry. According to the letter, their physical and mental conditions are very poor, and so is the condition of their families.
Arrest of four Baha’is from Isfahan extended – Four Iranian citizens from the Baha’i minority, who were arrested two weeks ago at their homes in Isfahan, are to remain in custody for another ten days. The four had been engaged in social and charity activities in villages throughout the Isfahan Province before their arrest. The Baha’i community in Iran is under increasing pressure, with 47 community members imprisoned and seven Baha’i leaders sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment.
Heavy prison sentences for Baha’i leaders; more Baha’i citizens arrested – The seven Baha’i leaders, detained for close to two years now, were sentenced by Revolutionary Court to 20 years imprisonment each. At the same time, security forces have arrested three Baha’i citizens from the city of Vilashahr in Isfahan: Faraz Ruhi, Nasim Ruhi and Jinus Jooshian.
Iranian court prolongs the arrest of Baha’i leaders – An Iranian court sent the seven detained leaders of the Baha’i community to another two months of arrest. The seven are accused of espionage and compromising national security, among other things. The seven Baha’i leaders have been held in custody for nearly two years, despite the Iranian law that forbids temporary detention of more than two months.
Members of the Baha’i faith in Iran have reportedly been subject to a series of attacks on their homes and cemeteries in recent time, as well as investigations into their bank accounts.
One-year sentence to Baha’i woman – Simin Gorji, a Baha’i woman from the city of Qaem Shahr, was sentenced to one year in prison for adhering to the Baha’i faith.
Baha’i citizen arrested on Ashura Day sentenced to six years – Payam Fanaeian, one of the Baha’i Iranian citizens arrested on Ashura Day, was sentenced by a Revolutionary Court to six years of imprisonment. He had been arrested with ten other Baha’is in Tehran, and accused of being involved in the in post-election events. Another two Baha’i brothers from Yazd were arrested during the past week for propagating against the regime. The two are Soheil and Behnam Rohani Fard.
Baha’i youths forced to attend Islamic religious classes – The Intelligence Ministry HQ in Shiraz forced fifty youths from the Baha’i minority to attend lessons in Islam during the next three years. The youths had been arrested three years ago due to their cultural activity and banned from leaving Iran. Three of them were also sentenced to four years in prison.
• Seven Baha’i citizens arrested – Agents of the Internal Security Forces arrived at the houses of five Baha’i families in Marvdasht, near Shiraz, in the middle of the night, and arrested seven people, among them Farhnaz Ashnaei, Tayebe Falah, Jahanbakhsh Bazarafkan and Nozar Falah. The agents also arrested two suspended students from the Baha’i minority, Sama Noorani and Iqan Shahidi. Security forces also arrived at the house of Darsa Sobhani, a female Baha’i student, currently suspended from studies, and a member of the Million Signature Campaign for women’s equality. Sobhani was not at home at the time, but the security forces attacked her father and warned him that he would be severely punished if he did not turn his daughter in within a few days. The Baha’i community suffers growing pressure on behalf of the Iranian regime, which accuses them of being deeply involved in the Ashura Day protests (March 7).
• Soheil Rohani Fard, a 44 year-old Iranian citizen from the Baha’i minority, was summoned to the Intelligence Ministry in Yazd and arrested. He was sent to an unknown place. His brother Behnam had been arrested ten days earlier (Oct. 25, 2009).
• "When you’re a Baha’i in Iran, you’re considered a non-citizen." Farshad Madhi, a Baha’i refugee who moved to Utica, NY with his parents and sister about five years ago, says “You can’t continue to higher education, you can’t work in the government. They’re basically trying to wipe out the Baha’is in Iran" (Oct. 26, 2009).
• Three Baha’i students were expelled from university – Ms. Mojde Nourani, Ms. Farahnaz Felfeli and Mr. Ardalan Tabyanian, were expelled from Semnan University a week after the beginning of the academic year and were banned from continuing their academic education. The three said all their appeals to the heads of the university had been in vain (Oct. 28, 2009).
• Rohollah Rezaei, a Baha’i citizen from Shiraz, was kidnapped and tortured by unknown persons, then abandoned on the side of the road (Nov. 2, 2009). Ali Bakhsh Bazar Afkan, a member of the local Baha’i council in the city of Yasouj, was arrested by Internal Security forces, who searched his house and confiscated personal belongings (Nov. 2, 2009).
• A Baha’i student expelled from university – Pedram Qanbari, a student at the University of Semnan, was expelled from the university due to his adherence to the Baha’i faith. The university’s administration informed him that he could return only if he abandoned his religion (Nov. 19, 2009).
• The committee for Baha’is in the Iranian human rights activists’ organization reported the arrest of Ali Bakhsh Bazarafkan, a Baha’i citizen from the city of Yasouj. Two Muslims who worked for him were also arrested and interrogated by the Intelligence Ministry. They were pressured to admit that Bazarfkan wanted to force them into converting to the Baha’i faith. The three are currently detained in the local prison (Nov. 26, 2009).
June 8, 2009: In Brussels, the Presidency of the European Union has issued a strong statement expressing “deep concern about the increasing violation of religious freedom in Iran.”
About the Baha’is, it says “evidence suggests that the persecution deliberately aims to suppress Baha’i religious identity and legitimate community activities.”
May 28-31: Family of detained Baha’i-minority citizen concerned for his life
Moshafeq Samandari, a 20-year-old Baha’i-minority citizen from Babol, was arrested a month and a half ago by Intelligence Ministry officials. Samandari, who is accused of disseminating anti-government propaganda, has only spoken to his family twice since his arrest and has not been allowed to see them. His situation and condition remain unknown.
May 28: Tender for sale of Baha’i-minority cemetery ground in Semnan area
Human rights activists are reporting that a tender has been issued for the sale of the land on which a Baha’i-minority cemetery currently lies in the village of Ayool, near Semnan. The cemetery is some 100 years old. In the early 1980s, the 20 Baha’i-minority families living in the village were forced to leave their homes.
May 26: Baha’i-minority citizen seized from home in Tehran: Shahram Hasim, a Baha’i-minority citizen left his home in Tehran two days ago and has since been missing. The incident occurred after Hasim ignored a telephone message instructing him to report to the Internal Security Forces’ Minorities Division. Hasim’s mobile phone is turned off and his wife has no knowledge of his whereabouts.
May 20: Editor of daily newspaper: Bahai’s are an Israeli fifth column and shouldn’t enjoy civil rights
Hosein Shariatmadari, chief editor of the conservative daily Keyhan, and one of Khamene’i’s close confidants, commented on a statement made by Karrubi’s advisor on women’s issues who allegedly stated that the Baha’is (a “Zionist sect” in Keyhan’s words) are Iranian citizens, who deserve their civil rights. Shariatmadari strongly resented this statement, asking: "Is Karrubi really unaware of the Baha’is’ Zionist nature and identity? Hasn’t he read those thousands of documents proving the Baha’is are an Israeli fifth column? How can one say they should enjoy civil rights like other Iranians?"
May 13: The principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations reported that seven Bahai community leaders face the death penalty for charges of “the spreading of corruption on earth”, which has been recently added to the original accusation of espionage. The seven are Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm. All but one of the group were arrested on 14 May 2008 at their homes in Tehran. Mrs. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008 while in Mashhad. The seven have been held in the notorious Evin prison for one year, without formal charges and without access to legal representation, and are facing imminent execution if charged. The seven are represented by lawyer and Nobel peace prize laureate, Shirin Ebedi.
The Canadian government issued a statement, published on 14 May – the one-year anniversary of the imprisonment of six of the seven Baha’i leaders. Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon said his government “calls upon the Iranian authorities to immediately release the seven Baha’i leaders and to cease the harassment of members of the Baha’i Faith.”
He said Canada is “deeply troubled by the continued imprisonment of these Baha’i leaders, without charge or legal representation.”
“We believe they are being detained solely because of their faith,” he said.