Sen's daily

2010-04-05

Economic and social pressure on Bahais in Birjand

RHANA, 31 May

Experiences like the following have been frequent lately, for the Bahais of Birjand: on the morning of 26 May, individuals representing the office responsible for administering commercial premises went to the shops of several Bahais of the city, and questioned them for about half an hour. They posed questions such as, “How much do you earn?” “How much rent to you pay?” “Are you happy with your life?” “Why do you remain in Iran, why don’t you leave?” “Which party do you support?” “What organisations do you maintain in the present conditions?” “What are your activities?”

The RHANA reporter says that the same individuals asked their neighbours questions such as “What kind of people are they?” “Do they do anything suspicious?” “Do suspicious-looking people go to their shops?”

The enquiries appear to be designed to create fear and suspicion, to encourage the Bahais to leave Iran, and increase the economic pressure on a community which, since the Revolution of 1979, has been barred from all government employment and many other jobs.

Source (in Persian)
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Bahai property confiscated

Parsdaily, 30 May

Agricultural land belonging to a Bahai in Qa’emshahr was confiscated by the army last month. The dependents of the owner are said to rely on the land for their income.

Source (in Persian)
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Another Bahai arrested in Sari

RAHANA, 29 May

On May 26, intelligence agents in the northern city of Sari arrested Pezhman Roshankouhi, one of the city’s Bahai residents. He was arrested at his home by agents from the Intelligence Ministry in Sari, who presented an arrest warrant. His wife and his elderly parents remain in the dark about his fate and his current whereabouts. Sari intelligence authorities have said that Roshankouhi’s temporary detention order is valid for 17 days, and may be renewed upon expiry. Roshankouhi, had in the past been interrogated by the Intelligence Ministry in Sari.

In recent weeks, the authorities have significantly stepped up the persecution of Baha’is in Mazandaran province and its capital Sari.

Source
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Next trial date for 7 Yaran

Khabar Navard, 27 May

There are unconfirmed reports that the next sitting in the trial of the seven Bahai leaders who have been imprisoned in Iran for more than two years will be held on 12 June 2010. This is 22 Khordad in the Persian solar calandar, the anniversary of last year’s presidential election, and a day on which both the opposition and the government are expecting action on the streets. It coincides with a global day of action demanding an end to human rights abuses in Iran. The action is being promoted on the web site of the Bahai World News Service, and the Baha’i International Community is listed as one of the co-sponsors. For details see the Bahai World News Service article.

Source (in Persian)
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Two Bahai women enter prison in Hamadan

RAHANA, 25 May

Sahba Khademi and Sorur Soruriyan ( صهبا خادمی و سرور سرورِِیان ), who are 24 and 25 years old respectively, were arrested in March 2009 and spent some time time in prison in Hamadan. On 30 December they were sentenced to one year in prison for teaching the Bahai Faith. The review court has not reduced their sentences, and they have been detained to serve their sentences, in Hamadan.

Source (in Persian)
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Three Bahais of Sari sentenced

HRANA, 23 May

HRANA is reporting the following sentences imposed on Bahais by the Revolutionary Court in Sari, Mazandaran: Mrs Tareh Taqi Zadeh ( طره تقي زاده ) is sentenced to 22 months imprisonment for propaganda against the regime and teaching the Bahai Faith; Sepideh Ma’sumi ( سپيده معصومي ) to 6 months imprisonment; Sepideh Zamani ( سپيده زماني ) fined 3 million rials (240 euros) for propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran and 2 million rials (160 euros) for possession of CDs showing unveiled women relating to the Bahai Faith. Mrs Saha Zamani ( سها زمانی ) was found not guilty.

Source (in Persian)
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Bahai school pupils excluded from Iran’s top stream schools

RAHANA, 21 May; HRANA 24 May

Shadan Shirazi ( شادان شیرازی ), a 14 year old Bahai pupil who attempted to enroll for the entrance examination for schools for gifted pupils ( مدرسه‌ی تیزهوشان ), has been excluded. Enrollement is through an on-line system, and the form does not allow the section for “religion” to be left blank. This means that all Bahai children will be excluded from Iran’s top stream schools.

Nura Sabet is another student in a similar situation: she has written a letter describing her treatment which HRANA has translated here.

Source (in Persian)
English version (23 May), Persian2English
Another English version, by ‘A Street Journalist
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Two Bahai homes raided in Qaemshahr (updated)

RAHANA, 12 May

Security forces in Qemshahr raided the homes of Changiz and Parviz Awladi ( چنگیز و پرویز اولادی ) on 11 May, seizing books, pictures and CDs relating to the Bahai Faith. According to HRANA (17 May), seven agents were involved in the raid on the home of Parviz Awladi, and they showed a search warrant. They then instructed Mrs Shahnaz Ranjbar ( شهناز رنجبر ) to present herself to the offices of the Ministry of Intelligence in Qaemshahr on the following day, 12 May. The appointment was later changed, by telephone, to 15 May. According to the search warrant, she wanted for “Bahai activities” and “membership of the institute of modern mothers,” a registered non-profit organisation founded in 1998 and tasked with improving relationships within families.

At the same times as the home of Parviz Awladi was being raided, five security officers raided the home of Changiz Awladi, showed a search warrant, and took Bahai papers and books. He was summoned to appear at the Ministry of Intelligence on 15 May. The search warrant in this case said that he was building a large house to hold Bahai meetings. The security officers said they had five private complaints concerning this.

The harrassment of Bahais in Mazandaran has been stimulated by anti-Bahai training institutes operating in the province.

Updated source (in Persian)
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Two Bahais arrested in Pars Abad

Bahai World News Service in Persian, 11 May

On 5 May, Mr Ramin Aidalkhani and his wife `Ahdieh Rashediyyehrad, ( رامین ایدلخانی و عهدیه راشدی راد ) were arrested. Mr Aydal-khaneh had been summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence and was arrested there; his wife was arrested when she made enquiries about him. The couple have two children, who are being cared for by relatives.

Source (in Persian)
English report, 12 May
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Iqan Shahidi freed

Population for Combat against Educational Discrimination, 11 May

Iqan Shahidi, a Bahai activist seeking the end of religious discrimination in education, was freed from Evin prison today, on a bail of about 4000 euros.

Source
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Prison conditions for the Yaran described: action campaign to protest

Bahai World News Service, 10 May

On Friday, the “seven yaran,” a group who undertook to look after the well-being of the Bahais in Iran after the Bahai institutions and administration had been disbanded, will have been imprisoned for two years. They have not been convicted, although a trial has begun with intermittent sittings at long intervals. Details continue to emerge about the severe conditions under which they are being held. It is known, for example, that the two women and five men are confined to two cells which are so small that they restrict adequate movement or rest.

“They have neither beds nor bedding,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. The place has a rancid smell, and they are permitted to have fresh air for only two hours each week. They have a light that if turned off during the day makes it impossible for them to see anything. “Contact with their loved ones is restricted to one 10-minute telephone call a week, or visits which are mostly conducted through a glass barrier.”

“Such inhumane conditions show no regard for the principles outlined in international agreements for the treatment of prisoners, which provide that no one may be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment,” she said. “The prisoners’ own requests for modest improvements to their conditions remain unaddressed, and as a consequence their health is suffering…. These people are innocent, and there is no reason they should be made to suffer like this,” she said.

According to the journalist Roxana Saberi – who shared a cell for three weeks with two of the Baha’i prisoners – the women are confined in a small space. “They roll up a blanket to use as a pillow,” she said. “The floor is cement and covered with only a thin, brown carpet, and prisoners often get backaches and bruises from sleeping on it. … When I was with them, we were allowed into a walled-in cement yard four days a week for 20 to 30 minutes.”

A collective gesture of solidarity with the imprisoned Baha’i leaders has also been called for by the human rights network United4Iran. They are asking sympathizers worldwide to replicate the dimensions of the cells in Evin prison, and document themselves confined to the space. Photographs and video clips will be then shared on the Internet (details here). The Universal House of Justice has called for the worldwide Baha’i community to host special prayer meetings across the globe this Friday.

Source
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Open letter from families of prisoners of conscience, to the UN

Street Journalist (blog), 9 May

A group has written an open letter on behalf of the families of prisoners of conscience in Iran, addressed to the Secretary-General the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations. It calls attention to the overcrowding, poor conditions and lack of medical care in Iranian prisons.

Source (Persian and English)
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Summary for March-April

The English HRANA site has a “Calendar of Human Rights Abuse of Baha’is, March and April 2010″ here.

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Simin Gorji detained

HRANA (English), 8 May

Simin Gorji ( سیمین گرجی ), a Baha’i of Qaimshahr was summoned to the Police Station on May 6, 2010 and was immediately arrested and transferred to the Qaimshahr Prison. In all likelihood she has been summoned to serve an additional jail sentence as she had been sentenced to an additional year in prison by the Superior Court. She has already spent 6 months under extremely difficult conditions and in solitary confinement, and had been released on bail.

Source (English)
Inside of Iran (Persian)
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Foad Khanjani released

RAHANA, 8 May

Foad Khanjani ( فواد خانجانی ) was released today. He was arrested on 17 April. Several other members of the family are in prison.

Source (in Persian)
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Pressure on Bahai school children in the new school year

Bahai News Service in Persian, 7 May

The Bahai News Service reports several cases of harassment of primary and secondary school students in the new school year. In one case, Mr. Fraiborz Miraki ( فریبرز میرکی ), a student at the pre-university level, answered questions that arose when on of the teachers ridiculed and insulted the Bahai Faith and Bahais.
He was summoned to the school administration and told that he would be expelled if this occurred again – even though he was simply answering questions. The teacher has continued the insult-the-Bahais sessions. Similar cases have been reported in Karaj and Rasht.

The parents of Nova Matlaq ( نوا مطلق ), a child in the first year of secondary school in Karaj, were told that because she had failed to participate in political and religious activities marking the anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Republic, she would be expelled for “non-compliance with school rules.” She would be permitted to attend school if her parents undertook that she would participate in the school’s religious and political activities.

Source (in Persian)
English version from HRANA
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Another Bahai cemetary destroyed

Bahai News Service in Persian, 7 May

The Bahai cemetary in Gilavand, a town in the Tehran province, has been destroyed by someone using a tractor. The four grave markers in the cemetary were destroyed and the fences around it was removed. The land was brought, and the fence built, with permission from the authorities.

Source (in Persian)
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Four arrests in relation to the murder of John Veira

Updated to 8 May

There have now been four arrests in the case: the first on 29 April, a second a few days later, the third a man who appeared to be a foreigner, whose car was forced to the side of the road by police, on a main street in Paramaribo, on 6 May, and another apparently on 7 May. One of the first two men arrested is said to have been a man recently released after serving a sentence for armed robbery: these two are said to have rebuilt a motorcycle used in the killing, which has been recovered in the ‘Flora’ quarter of Paramaribo. Star News reports that one of those held is thought to be the hired assassin, and another has family links to an air transport company.

Source: NoSpang 7 May (In Dutch)
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Iqan Shahidi still in solitary confinement

5 May

Iqan Shahidi, a Baha’i who had been denied his right to enroll at university, who was arrested in Kermansha on 3 March, is still being held in solitary confinement.

Source (SCHRR, in Persian) is at present unavailable
Included in this Rahana report

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Sentence confirmed for Ali Ahsani

HRANA, 5 May

The Court of Review in Seman has confirmed the sentence of Ali Ahsani ( علی احسانی ), to two years imprisonment followed by two years of internal exile. The charges were ‘propaganda against the regime’ and ‘actions against national security.’ He was originally sentenced on 9 June 2009.

Source (in Persian)
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Bahai in Babul sentenced

Iran Press News, 4 May

Mr. Mushfeq Samandari ( مشفق سمندری ), a Bahai resident in Babul, has been sentenced to six month’s imprisonment, on charges of teaching the Bahai Faith. He was also detained for 75 days about this time last year, for the same ‘crime.’

Source (in Persian)
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Two arrested for the murder of John Veira in Suriname

NoSpang, 3 May

Two men have been arrested in connection with the murder of John Veira in Suriname on 21 April (see below). More arrests may follow.

Source: NoSpang (in Dutch)
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Navid Khanjani Released on Bail

Persian2English, 3 May

Navid Khanjani, a founding member of the Population of Combat Against Educational Discrimination (PCED) and member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters (CHRR), was released on bail from Evin prison on May 3, 2010. He was arrested at his home in Isfahan on March 2, 2010 and held in the wing of Evin prison that is run by the Revolutionary Guards. The Bahai News Service in Persian reports that the bail was about 50,000 American dollars.

Khanjani is one of those denied the right to higher education because he is a Baha’i. Iqan Shahidi, another Baha’i student denied access to higher education, remains in Evin prison. Shiva Nazar-Ahari and Kouhyar Goodarzi, two other members of the Committee of Human Rights Supporters, also remain in Evin.

Persian2English source
Iran Press Watch supplement
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Baha’i Cemetery Wiped out in Damavand

RAHANA, 2 May

According to a RAHANA reporter, on April 24, a group of individuals illegally entered the Gilavand cemetery and desecrated the graves of the buried Baha’is. Armed with heavy construction machinery, the assailants then completely leveled the cemetery. There are no tombstones left undestroyed in the cemetery. Legal complaints filed with the authorities against the assailants have been to no avail.

The cemetery, which was the 3rd Baha’i cemetery in Damavand, was established in 2005 with the Intelligence Ministry’s permission. Prior to the construction of the cemetery, the lots on which the city’s 2 other cemeteries were located were illegally confiscated by the Intelligence Ministry.
Source
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A prison photograph from 2008


Mehran Bandi – a tale of woe

HRANA and other sources

Mr Mehran Bandi ( مهران بندی ) is a Bahai who was arrested and imprisoned for a three and half year sentence in Yazd. His imprisonment is to be followed by three years of exile in Babak, in Kerman province. In addition, his computer services company and business license and assets were seized, and he is barred for an extra 5 years from civil rights and participating in commercial activities – a total of 11 and a half years of punishment. He was charged with “collusion against the internal and external security of the nation”, “statements against the Islamic Republic regime and in support of anti-revolutionary groups” and having an “inventory of satellite TV accessories.”

He has served approximately two years of the prison sentence, part of it in hospital since he suffers from respiratory and heart problems. Prison authorities have now informed him that he will be transferred to Zabol to serve the remainder of his sentence. Zabol is about a thousand kilometers by road from Yazd, on the Afghan border.
Update 8 May: The Persian Bahai News Service reports that he was actually transferred to Khash, another town south of Zabul, near the Afghan border, on 28 April.

Source (in Persian)
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Susan Tabyanayan sentenced

HRANA

HRANA reports that Susan Tabyanayan ( سوسن تبيانيان ) has been sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court in Semnan, Iran. She was detained and questioned on 27 April 2009. The charges are not specified in the report. On 16 December 2009, her home (and many other Bahai homes) were searched by security forces.

Source (in Persian)
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Report on religious freedom slates Iran

RFE/RL, 29 April

A new report from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom warns that religious freedom across the globe is increasingly being threatened and oppressed by governments in human rights “hot spots.”

“The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused. During the past year, and particularly since the June 2009 elections, the Iranian government’s poor religious freedom record deteriorated, especially for religious minorities, in particular Baha’is as well as Christians and Sufi Muslims, including intensified physical attacks, harassment, detention, arrests, and imprisonment. Dissident Muslims were increasingly subject to abuse and several were sentenced to death and even executed for the capital crime of moharebeh, or ‘waging war against God.’ A revised penal code that would codify serious punishments, including the death penalty, on converts from Islam remains under consideration by the Iranian parliament. Heightened anti-Semitism and repeated Holocaust denial by senior government officials have increased fear among Iran’s Jewish community. Since the 1979 Iranian revolution, members of minority religious communities have fled Iran in significant numbers for fear of persecution.”

Full report
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Home in Sari raided

CHRR, 29 April

On 28 April, security officials searched the home of Behnam Arjmand ( بهنام ارجمند ) in Sari and confiscated a computer. Behnam was required to report to the local office of Ministry of Intelligence in Sari at a specific time: he was interrogated for a time and released.
Source (in Persian)
RAHANA’s English version
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Two Bahai prisoners released

HRANA, 29 April

Puya Tabayaniyan ( پویا تبیانیان ), a Bahai sentened to two years imprisonment by the court in Semnan, has been released on bail after serving 14 months in prison. Mr. Gudarz Baydaqi ( گودرز بیدقی ), a 60-year old Bahai who was arrested in Sangsar in February/March, was released on bail on 26 April. The Persian Bahai News Service reports the bail at about 100,000 American dollars. In 2007, he was one of four Bahais of Semnan found guilty of propaganda against the regime and disturbing the mind of the public, and fined about 260 dollars each.

Source (in Persian)
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Arrest of a Bahai in Yazd

RAHANA, 30 April

RAHANA reports that intelligence officers entered the home of Majid Eslami ( مجید اسلامی ) in Yazd at 7 a.m. on 29 April, confiscated computers and computer and satellite equipment, and Bahai books and pictures, and arrested him. A few months previously, security officials had shut down his flower stall at a hospital in Yazd.

Source (in Persian)
RAHANA’s English version
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Pressure on Bahai school children in the new school year

Bahai News Service in Persian, 7 May

The Bahai News Service reports several cases of harassment of primary and secondary school students in the new school year. In one case, Mr. Fraiborz Miraki ( فریبرز میرکی ), a student at the pre-university level, answered questions that arose when on of the teachers ridiculed and insulted the Bahai Faith and Bahais.
He was summoned to the school administration and told that he would be expelled if this occurred again – even though he was simply answering questions. The teacher has continued the insult-the-Bahais sessions. Similar cases have been reported in Karaj and Rasht.

The parents of Nova Matlaq ( نوا مطلق ), a child in the first year of secondary school in Karaj, were told that because she had failed to participate in political and religious activities marking the anniversary of the establishment of the Islamic Republic, she would be expelled for “non-compliance with school rules.” She would be permitted to attend school if her parents undertook that she would participate in the school’s religious and political activities.

Source (in Persian)
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Bahai business closed in Birjand

HRANA, 28 April

The workshop of Siavash Deimi ( سياوش ديمي ), a Bahai in Birjand, in Khorasan province near the Afghan border, is reported to have been closed by administrative officers on the morning of April 26th.

Source (in Persian)
IPW translation
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Even the trees must pay

Khabar Navard, 27 April.

In Marvdasht, near Shiraz, where the Bahai cemetry was destroyed with bulldozers and heavy equipment four months ago, a large tree-filled garden belonging to three Bahais was attacked. Heavy equipment must again have been used, since some 1200 trees were uprooted. (Other reports say, grape vines)

Source (in Persian)
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Foad Khanjani arrested

HRANA, 27 April

HRANA reports that Foad Khanjani ( فواد خانجانی ) has been arrested. He is the grandson of one of the ‘Yaran,’ Jamal-al Din Foad Khanjani. Five members of the family are currently in jail.

Persian2English report, with photo
Source (in Persian)
Iran Press news report (in Persian)
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Heavy sentences confirmed for 9 Bahais of Mashhad

HRANA, 26 April

Last year, Rozita Vaseghi and Nahid Qadiri and 7 other Baha’is were sentenced to 5 years in prison. Their cases went to appeal, and they would normally be free during the appeals. However as reported earlier they were re-arrested in Mashhad on March 15, and were then held in solitary confinement for a time, without access to lawyers or family contact.

Sima Eshraqi, Rozita Vaseghi, Davur Nabil-zadeh, Jalair Wahdad and Nahid Qadiri ( سيما اشراقي، رزيتا واثقي، داور نبيل زاده ، جلاير وحدت و ناهيد قديري ) have had sentences of 5 year’s imprisonment confirmed. They are accused of propaganda against the regime, endangering domestic security through membership and illegal participation in Bahai activities, propaganda and links with foreigners, attending illegal meetings and the production and distribution of Bahai CD’s and books.

Four others, Nasir Qadiri, Kaviz Nuzdehi, Human Bakht-Avar and Sima Rajbiyan ( نسرين قديري، كاويز نوزدهی، هومن بخت آور و سيما رجبيان ) have had their sentenced reduced to two years. The nine were previously sentenced to 5 years’ imprisonment and a 10 year ban on leaving the country.

Source (in Persian)
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House search in Tonekabon

RAHANA, 27 April

RAHANA reports from Nashta Rud, a coastal town near Tonekabon on the Caspian Sea, that a house belonging to a Bahai whose name is given only as Isma’ilpour ( اسماعیل پور ) was searched by security officials on 11 April. They seized various possessions including Bahai books and a computer.

Source (in Persian)
Update: a later report gives the name of the Bahai as Foad Anvari (فواد انوري )
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Sama Nurani released

HRANA, 26 April

Sama Nurani ( سما نورانی ), a Bahai human rights activist of Shiraz, who had been excluded from tertiary education, is reported to have been released from Evin Prison, on bail. He was detained on 3 March and transferred to Tehran. The Bahai News Service reports that the bail was about 30,000 US dollars.

Source (in Persian)
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Rozita Vaseghi moved

RAHANA, 25 April

Rozita Vaseghi (see report below, 5 April) was reportedly moved to the Mashad Central Prison on April 13, but according to prison officials she is not allowed prison visits until further notice.

Source
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Payam Fana’yan’s sentence reduced

HRANA, 25 April

Payam Fana’yan ( پیام فنائیان ), one of the Bahais arrested following the Ashura protests in January 2010, has been sentenced to one year imprisonment, having been sentenced three weeks ago to six years in prison.

Source (in Persian)
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Bahai in Semnan sentenced

HRANA, 23 April

The Human Rights Activists News Agency reports that Sho`aleh Ta’if ( شعله طائف ), a Bahai of Semnan who was arrested in November 2009 and later released, has been sentenced to one year imprisonment in Tehran and two year’s exile outside of Semnan.

Source (in Persian)
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Shirin Ebadi opposes Iran’s membership of the UN Human Rights Council

Peyvand News, 21 April

In a letter to the UN General Assembly, Dr Shirin Ebadi, a prominent human rights advocate and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, she states that “Iran is signatory to the international covenants on Civil and Political Rights, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Rights of the Child. Sadly, however, it does not abide by its obligations, in law or in practice.” After summarising Iran’s breaches of these undertakings, which include legal discrimination on the basis of gender and religion, the execution of minors, discrimination in political rights, censorship and the imprisonment of journalists, women’s rights activists, and trade unionists, and discrimination against ethnic minorities, she asks:

Does the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has been violating human rights for years, deserve to be on the Human Rights Council? Could a state that has hitherto disregarded and ignored UN resolutions make proper judgements on observance of human rights in other countries?

Full text
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Dorsa Sobhani released

Persian2English, 21 April

One Million Signatures Campaign activist Dorsa Sobhani ( درسا سبحانی ) was released on bail on April 21st. She was arrested on 7 March in Sari and was transferred to Tehran’s Evin prison. She spent about 25 days in solitary solitary confinement in the cell block controlled by the IRGC, also known as the Pasdaran. She had been banned from tertiary studies because she is a Bahai. The charges against her are still unknown.

Source
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Bahai assasinated in Suriname

Various sources, 21 April

The Dutch-language news services are reporting the shooting of John Veira, a Bahai and Director of Civil Aviation in Suriname. He was at his house in Commewijne on Wednesday night. One account says that his attackers, two men on a motorcycle, called to him, and shot him three times in the chest when he came out. He died on the spot. He was 59 years old and leaves a wife, An, who is living in a nursing home. (Fuller report on the front page of this blog, 22 April)

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Campaign to remove religion from personal records in Lebanon

Beirut Daily Star, 17 April

The Union of Lebanese Democratic Youth (ULDY) is calling for people to join them in their “National Campaign to Abolish Mentioning Confessions [i.e., religious affiliation] on Civil Registry Records” and is organizing gatherings of young people at civil registries across the country. The ULDY initiated the campaign a year ago after a decree was issued in February 2009 by Interior Minister Ziyad Baroud allowing people to remove any religious reference from their personal status register in order to ensure equal treatment of citizens. The ULDY’s campaign has been picking up steam over the past year, and has been joined by other groups.

While most political leaders are still encouraging strong identification to sectarian affiliations, the ULDY and its campaign partners are commemorating the month of April, which witnessed the start of the Civil War 35 years ago, by saying no to sectarian difference. The organization’s members will be gathering at the country’s registries to encourage people to remove their religious affiliation from their personal record.

The proper forms will be distributed on site to anyone willing to participate in the campaign, which will encourage young people to stop identifying themselves first and foremost by their religion, which the groups say is impeding national unity.

Full story
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Survey on temporary release of political prisoners in Iran

IHRV, April 20

At the beginning of Norooz in Iran, Islamic Republic officials announced a plan to temporarily release a number of prisoners who had been detained during the disputed presidential election. It appears the plan does not include a large number of human rights activists, Bahai prisoners and minorities from various ethnic groups. According to reports, even the prisoners who qualify under this plan are asked to give interviews confirming the fairness of the courts, as a condition for extending their release periods. Interrogators have also pressured a number of prisoners to testify against Mr. Karoubi and Mr. Mousavi, to affirm the election results, the accuracy [sic] of the courts and the absence of the use of pressure against inmates.

The further analysis is extensive. Read it in full here
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Arrest and beating of a Pastor in Karaj

HRANA, 19 April

HRANA reports that on 14 April a number of people who appeared to be plainclothes police officers raided a house church in Karaj, beat the Pastor, Behnam Irani ( بهنام ایرانی ), and took him away. His whereabouts is not known.

Source (in Persian)
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Hoda Fallah summoned in Babolsar

RAHANA, April 20

On April 9, Hoda Fallah, a Baha’i resident of Bahmanmir, was summoned to the Revolutionary Prosecutor’s office in Babolsar. He was released after being questioned, but was told by the prosecutor that he has to hand over his business permit as collateral for his release: failure to produce the business permit would result in his arrest. Additionally, he is expecting to be summoned again. Previously, Fallah’s house was raided on January 15, and he was interrogated in Babolsar on January 19.

Full story
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Three members of the Ahl-e Haqq sentenced

RAHANA, 17 April

Sahand Ali Muhammadi, Bakh-Ali Muhammadi and Abadallah Qasem-zadeh ( سهند علی محمدی، بخشعلی محمدی و عباداله قاسم زاده ), three followers of the Ahl-e Haqq religious tradition, have been sentenced in Yazd to 30 months imprisonment. They were charged with disturbing public opinion.

I do not attempt to cover all the human rights abuses in Iran here – they are far too numerous and too diverse for one person to track. I note this one among many similar reports, as a reminder to readers that many other groups beside the Bahais are denied religious freedom in Iran, especially in the last two years.

Source (in Persian)
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Artin Ghadanfari re-arrested (update)

RAHANA, 12 April
Updated, 16 April, by SCHRR

Artin Ghadanfari ( آرتین غضنفری ), a Bahai who was released on bail on 3 April (see below), is reported to have been re-arrested. He had been free for medical treatment for a lung infection which, according to his doctor, had entered his blood. He had been in solitary detention for two months and under intense pressure by interrogators. He was told on his re-arrest that his release on bail had been an error, but also that he would be re-released within 48 hours.

Report (in Persian)

SCHRR update (in Persian)
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Al-Baradei on the need to recognise the Bahai Faith??

Copts United news site, 14 April

Mohamed ElBaradei has spoken on the need to recognise the Bahai Faith in Egypt. However the reports may well come from opponents seeking to discredit him.

The Muslim Network of Bahai Rights has translated the Copts-United report, but does not mention that the “Popular Front for the Protection of Egypt” appears to oppose everything Elbaradei says, treating him as a “foreign agent.” (The accusation again being transmitted through Copts United) Other reports of ElBaradei’s meeting with intellectuals do not mention this topic even coming up.

Source (in Arabic)
~~~~~~~~~~~

Nahid Ghadiri meets his family

RAHANA, 14 April

Nahid Ghadiri is one of 8 Baha’is sentenced to 5 years in prison; he had been free pending an appeal but was re-arrested in Mashhad on March 15, and has since been held in solitary confinement. Now RAHANA reports that he has been able to meet his family.

Source (in Persian)
~~~~~~~

Trial of the Yaran: open or closed?

RAHANA, 12 April

According to a RAHANA reporter, at the beginning of their hearing this morning, the 7 leaders told the court that if the hearing was public, their families should be allowed to attend, otherwise the agents who were filming the session should also leave the courtroom. They let the court know that they would not defend themselves otherwise. Subsequently, in an illegal act, court officials, who had made special preparations to record the session, announced to the families that the 7 leaders had been moved back to Evin.

Full report
A later report from the Bahai World News Service states:

… when the prisoners arrived at the court, their families were not allowed to enter, signaling a closed hearing. Inside the courtroom, however, the prisoners saw numerous officials and interrogators from the Ministry of Intelligence – along with a film crew which had already set up its cameras. Concerned over the presence of non-judicial personnel in a supposedly closed hearing, the Baha’is – with the agreement of their attorneys – declined to be party to the proceedings.

Background and legal analysis
~~~~~~~~

Debunking the Myths

12 April

Adib Masumian’s short book on anti-Bahaism in Iran, “Debunking the Myths: Conspiracy Theories on the Genesis and Mission of the Baha’i Faith” is now in the public domain and available to download as PDF files, in English and Persian versions.
~~~~~~~~~

Three more Bahai students expelled

RAHANA, 11 April

Shayan Sanaee (Sana’i), IT student, Vanoush Sharifi Mojtaba, first year computer engineering student and Mana Sharifi Mojtaba Sharifi, second year geology student ( شایان ثنایی، وانوش شریفی محبتی و منا شریفی محبتی ) have been expelled from Payam Nour University in Bojnourd. According to the report, the 3 students first found out about their expulsion when it was published on the university website on March 17. Upon further inquiry, the news was confirmed by the university.

In 2004, a small number of Baha’i students were admitted to universities. The majority of them have since been expelled.

Full report
Source (in Persian)
~~~~~~~

Navid Khanjani pressured for confession

HRANA, 9 April

According to CHRR, Navid Khanjani is undergoing daily interrogations, lasting several hours at a time, to pressure him to accept the heavy charges against him. The interrogations are being conducted in an Evin ward run by the Revolutionary Guards. Khanjani calls his family twice a week, with his interrogator present during the phone conversations.

Full report
~~~~~~~~

Shahidi and Nourani pressured for televised confessions

CHRR, 9 April

Iqan Shahidi and Sama Nourani ( ایقان شهیدی و سما نورانی ), two Baha’is who have been denied university admission, are reportedly under pressure to make televised confessions. Almost 40 days after their arrests, there is still no information regarding the reasons behind their arrests or their charges. Both men had said during recent phone calls that their interrogations had ended. Shahidi, 21, and Nourani, 20, were arrested on March 2 & 3 in Kermanshah and Shiraz. Both were transferred to Tehran following their arrests.

Other reports suggest that, on April 7, Evin officials prevented the family of Dorsa Sobhani from visiting their detained daughter. Since her arrest, Sobhani has only been allowed one prison visit with her family. In a 1-minute phone call yesterday, Sobhani told her family that her interrogations have ended. The Bahai News Service in Persian reports she has been moved from solitary confinement to a normal cell.

Full report
~~~~~~~~

Cautious optimism for the Bahais in Azerbaijan

Forum 18, 8 April

Baku’s Baha’i community told Forum 18 on 7 April that it had just been told it can
come to collect its re-registration certificate from the State Committee for Work with Religious Organisations on 8 April. Hundreds of other religious communities in Azerbaijan are still waiting for the legally-required registration certificate, and some have been refused.

Full report
~~~~~~~~~

A Black year for human rights in Iran

RAHANA, 27 March

Reporters and Human Rights Activists of Iran (RHRAI) has issued a statistical summary of events in the Persian year 1388 (to March 20 2010). Journalists, bloggers and media outlets suffered the largest number of violations. 314 students were summoned or tried; there were 48 cases of legal action against women’s rights activists; 174 cases of action against organised labour, with 208 arrests.

iolations of the rights of religious minorities remained widespread. Scores of citizens belonging to religious minorities were denied their rights as citizens. The houses of many became subjects of raids and search by intelligence agents. Scores of students were expelled from universities as a result of their religious faith. The places of worship such as Hosseiniehs (Sunnis) and Khaneghahs (dervishes) were arbitrarily raided by intelligence agents.

In the course of 1388, there were at least 8 reported cases of attacks on Baha’i houses or businesses. Baha’i citizens were summoned by different judicial or intelligence authorities on 29 separate occasions. There have been 26 cases of summons of Christians as well as 28 cases of summons among dervishes.

There have been a total of 126 reported cases of arrests of religious minorities.

Full Report
~~~~~~~~~~

US religious leaders impatient for freedom ambassador

Washington Times, 6 April

Thirty religious leaders have sent a letter to the Obama administration asking the president why he has neither appointed an ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom after almost 15 months in office, nor announced a government strategy for promoting religious freedom. The position was created in 1998, when Congress passed a law mandating the position as a way of making religious liberty around the world part of American foreign policy. A copy of the letter is posted at www.freedomhouse.org.

Full story
~~~~~~~~~

Five Bahais of Shiraz free on bail

RAHANA, 7 April

According to RAHANA, five Bahai residents of Marvdasht who have been held in Shiraz since 1 March were released on bail yesterday. Their names are given as Farahnaz Ashnayi, Tayebeh Fallah, Jahanbakhsh Bazrafkan, Hasan Bazrafkan and Nozar Fallah ( فرحناز آشنایی، طیبه فلاح، نوذر فلاح، جهانبخش بذرافکن و حسن بذرافکن ). Bail is said to be 50 million Tuman, or 38,000 euros.

Source (in Persian)
~~~~~~~~

Interview with Roxan Saberi

IPS has a new interview with Roxana Saberi, the Iranian-American journalist who was imprisoned from January-May 2009, initially for attempting to buy alcohol, then for lacking proper credentials, and ultimately for espionage. She talks about the methods used against her, and other prisoners, during her detention.

The system is unjust and unfair: interrogations without a lawyer, being prohibited from telling your loved ones your whereabouts, being falsely accused of fabricated crimes, being pressured to make false statements and confessions, being barred from getting the lawyer of your choice, being tried in a closed trial in which you are prohibited from cross-examining the “witness” and studying the so-called evidence… the list goes on.

She is appealing to the leaders gathering for a conference on nuclear security to put human rights questions high on the agenda. Read the full interview
~~~~~~~~

Last three ‘Christmas detainees’ released

RAHANA, 5 April

Maryam Jalali, Mitra Zahmati, and Farzan Matin were among 15 Christians arrested on Christmas Eve in Varamin, at a Christmas celebration. After initial detention locally, they were later moved to Evin Prison in Tehran. They were released on March 17, after 80 days in captivity.

Full report

~~~~~~~

Two Bahai detainees pressured to agree to halt religious activity

RAHANA, 5 April

Last year, Rozita Vaseghi and Nahid Ghadiri and 7 other Baha’is were sentenced to 5 years in prison. Their cases are currently before the appeals court, and they would normally be free during the appeals. However they were re-arrested in Mashhad on March 15, and have been held in solitary confinement, without access to lawyers or family contact. According to the RAHANA report, the two women are under immense pressure to sign an undertaking to end their religious activities.

Source
Source in Persian

7 April: Persian2English has a report about the kinds of ‘pressure’ exerted on one prisoner of conscience, Jahangir Abdollahi, who is a Sunni Muslim. Civilized nations do not employ such techniques to extract confessions: when it happens in a young nation we are shocked, when it happens in a nation such as Iran with its ancient civilization we are both shocked at the action, and outraged at the betrayal of Iran’s contribution to human culture.
~~~~~~~~~~

Hesam Misaghi and Sepehr Atefi escape

Iran Human Rights Voice, AP, other sources, 4 April

Mr. Hesam Misaghi and Sepehr Atefi are Bahais and members of the Human Rights Reporters Committee, and founding members of the Society for the Prevention of Educational Discrimination. Both have been expelled from university for their Bahai beliefs. On 3 March, their homes in Isfahan were raided by agents seeking to arrest them for “establishing connections with the Mojahedin Khalq Organization (MKO),” and “waging war against God.” The agents also said that they were wanted in conjunction with the arrests of people accused of promoting a soft toppling of the government (that is, advocating social change through civil society). But Hesam Misaghi and Sepehr Atefi were not at home at the time … They had set out for exile a month before. Now they have arrived in Turkey, where Scheherezade Faramarzi has interviewed them for Associated Press.

… For them that meant a harrowing journey through the country’s rugged northwest in the dead of winter, with the help of Kurdish smugglers. At a river crossing, the ice broke beneath them and their horses stumbled in, soaking the two with freezing water.
“There was no feeling in my legs and hands,” recalled Misaghi, a tall, wiry 21-year-old. “I felt drunk. I didn’t know where I was. I was laughing from pain.”
Atefi, 20, spotted a van from a distance, grabbed Misaghi’s arm and dragged him toward it through the snow. “There was no life left in me to move forward, but …

I will leave you with the cliff-hanger. The full interview is here.

~~~~~~~~

Artin Ghadanfari released on bail

RAHANA, 3 April

Artin Ghadanfari ( آرتین غضنفری ) is reported to have been released on bail from Tehran’s Evin Prison this afternoon. His release had been delayed by the case investigator until today’ bail was increased to $50,000. According to CHRR, Ghazanfari who is a professional photographer and musician, was arrested even though he has no history of political activities. He was arrested on 3 January.

Source

~~~~~~~~~

Reporters without Borders: conditions in Evin

Reporters without Borders, 2 April

Reporters Without Borders is extremely worried about the appalling conditions in which Iranian prisoners of conscience, including many journalists, are being held. The authorities continue to detain them arbitrarily even when they are ailing and in very poor physical or psychological health.

“The lives of many journalists are now in danger,” Reporters Without Borders said …
Full statement

HRANA also has a detailed report in Persian on one of the detained journalists, Issa Saharkhiz ( عیسی سحرخیز )
~~~~~~~

Dorsa Sobhani in normal detention

HRANA, 2 April

Dorsa Sobhani ( درسا سبحانی ) is reported to have telephoned her family, and has been moved to a cell with other prisoners. She was previously held in solitary confinement and for a time incommunicado (see reports below). There is still no indication of the charges against her.

Source (in Persian)
~~~~~~~~~~

For older news, see the “old news” archive

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