NEW YORK-July 4, 2022—The Iranian government’s systematic campaign to persecute the Baha’i religious minority was further accelerated last week with the arrest, hearing or imprisonment of at least 18 other Baha’i citizens across the country, bringing the June total to 44 people. Hundreds of others, meanwhile, are also waiting to be summoned to court or to prison.
The Baha’i International Community believes that the increasing rate of arrests and imprisonments in recent weeks constitutes a disturbing new chapter in the persecution and shows that the authorities are increasingly implementing their plans to imprison or harass the Baha community. ‘ie.
Last week saw the further arrests of three women in Shiraz, two in their early twenties, and a 41-year-old mother of two, all of whom are being held without charge in the Intelligence Bureau detention center from Shiraz.
In what seems to add insult to injury, one of the young women had already applied to enter university in 2019 after passing the Iranian national entrance exams. Authorities told her she had an “incomplete file” – a common experience among Baha’is who apply and are denied university entrance. Baha’is have been denied access to higher education in Iran since the 1983 Cultural Revolution.
Seven other Baha’is, all of whom had previously been arrested and released on bail, were also summoned to hearings last week and are awaiting the results.
In Bandar-e-Lengeh, southern Iran, officials forced the closure of a Baha’i-owned workshop and denied business licenses to two other optical businesses, depriving these families of their means livelihoods and further strangling the economic opportunities of community members. .
In Sanandaj and several other small towns in the ethnic Kurdish region of western Iran, members of the Baha’i community have been constantly monitored, harassed and threatened because of their beliefs.
“Bahá’ís in Iran are barely surviving a single week without facing further arrests, jail sentences and other forms of persecution by the Iranian government,” said Bani Dugal, senior representative of the Baha’i International Community. at the United Nations. . “We are sounding the alarm: the Baha’is in Iran are suffering the worst coordinated attack we have seen in many years.
The latest developments follow the imposition of prison and exile sentences against 26 Baha’is in Shiraz last month for gathering and collusion “for the purpose of causing intellectual and ideological insecurity in Muslim society.” Baha’is had actually gathered across Shiraz as part of their efforts to meet the needs of the local community and to assess the severity of the water crisis in the region. A number of young children will be separated from their parents as a result of these sentences.
Two years ago, also in Shiraz, another 40 Baha’is were summoned before a revolutionary court where an official threatened to “uproot‘ the city community.
Journalist and human rights activist, Maziar Bahari, recipient of the 2020 Elie Wiesel Prize and the 2009 Oxfam Novib/PEN Prize for Freedom of Expression, and who made several movies on Baha’is in Iran, said the ongoing arrests showed that the Iranian government was trying to “bury” the Baha’i community in the country.
“The Iranian authorities imprison you if they want the world to forget you and make you lose hope for the future,” Bahari said. “Thousands of Baha’is in Iran have been imprisoned over the past 40 years, a testament to Iran’s ambition to bury Baha’is, and now it looks like the situation is getting worse. I hope the international community can pressure the Iranian government to give in.
Recently reported actions against Baha’is this month include:
On June 28, 2022, Ms. Jila Sharafi Nasrabadi, a Baha’i resident of Shiraz, was arrested by security forces, who searched her home and confiscated numerous items, and was taken to the Intelligence Bureau Detention Center from Shiraz. Ms. Nasrabadi, 41, is married and has two children.
On June 26, 2022, Ms. Shaghayegh Khanehzarrin and Ms. Negar Ighani, both in their twenties, were arrested in Shiraz. The charges against these two individuals are unknown and they are still being held at the Shiraz intelligence office.
On June 20, 2022, Mr. Moin Misaghi, Mr. Mehran Mosalla Nejad, and Ms. Negareh Ghaderi and Ms. Hayedeh Foroutan were summoned to appear in court in Shiraz.
On June 19, 2022, Mr. Said Abedi, Mr. Vahid Dana and Mr. Salehi, first name unknown, were summoned to appear before the court in Shiraz.
On June 18, 2022, Mr. Fardin Naddafian, from Tehran, was transferred to Evin prison to serve his sentence. Additional information is available regarding this case.
On June 17, 2022, Ms Haideh Ram was transferred to Adilabad Prison in Shiraz to serve her sentence. Five other Baha’is, Mr. Borhan Esmaili, Ms. Maryam Bashir, Ms. Faranak Sheikhi, Ms. Minou Bashir and Ms. Dorna Ismaili, who had previously been sentenced to a total of over 64 years in prison in a joint prison case with Ms. Ram , were also ordered to serve their sentences. Additional information is available regarding these cases.
On June 15, 2022, Ms. Samin Ehsani, child rearing specialist, was arrested and transferred to Evin prison to serve her sentence. Additional information is available regarding this case.
The Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, have been persecuted in Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979. A secret note endorsed by Iran’s Supreme Leader in 1991 calls for the “progress and development” of the Baha’i community to be blocked by barring them from university, disrupting their ability to earn a living, and other discriminatory means.