Sen's daily

June 19, 2013

New Zealand “Supreme Commitment Award” for the prisoner Aziz Samandari

Dominion Post, June 17

Azizullah Samandari ( عزیز‌الله سمندری ), a 40 year-old Baha’i IT specialist who is serving a 5-year prison sentence in Raja’i Shahr prison, has been selected for the New Zealand Parliament’s “Supreme Commitment Award.” Mr. Samandari took part in the 2010 Global Enterprise Experience (GEE), which is supported by Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. He received the award in absentia at Parliament last week. The charges against him included communicating with foreigners, a possible reference to his participation in the competition. However the only question he was asked at his trial was whether he belonged to the Baha’i community. The very short judgment – which was read out but not handed over – spoke of his “active membership in the misguided Baha’i sect” and his association with the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education.

GEE founder Deb Gilbertson said Mr Samandari’s school in Iran indicated his participation in the business competition was not the only reason for his arrest, but was probably a factor. “The Supreme Commitment Award is to recognise the exceptional sacrifice he is making to pursue higher education and global communication,” Mrs Gilbertson said.

This year 12 Baha’i students took part in the competition from Iran through the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE). The institute is run secretly out of homes because the Iranian government does not allow Baha’is entry to public universities. Mr Samandari’s father, a founding member of the BIHE, was executed in 1992.

Kasem Samanadri, who lives in France, said his nephew’s trial had lasted less than ten minutes. “It is not like what we have here in the West. “The verdict had been prepared in advance and executed immediately.” Mr Samandari is confined to a 2×3 metre cell with two, at times three, other people.

“We, as his family are extremely proud of Aziz for what he has done to help innocent young Baha’i boys and girls. We are grateful to the New Zealand Government and Parliament for recognising his courage and distinguishing him with this honour.”

The Iranian Embassy’s public relations officer said groups like the Baha’i did not respect Islam and, therefore, could not expect to participate in normal Iranian life. “We recognise them as humans but do not recognise their beliefs as they are 100 per cent anti-Islam. It is just like how Singapore does not recognise gays.”

Ramez Rowhani, who attended the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education with Mr Samandari, spent three months in a different Iranian jail in 1995 after also being charged with communicating with foreigners. He was released without a trial and fled to New Zealand in 2000. Mr Rowhani said the only time he was removed from his 2×1 metre cell was for the “usual” physical and psychological interrogation handed out to Baha’is in prison.

Mr Rowhani, who is now an IT consultant in Wellington, said since then the conditions inside Iranian jails had worsened, with mothers and their infants in jails with horrendous hygiene and overcrowding conditions. “It is difficult to understand how human beings can do these sorts of things to another human being, let alone their own countrymen.”

Amnesty International New Zealand activism manager Margaret Taylor said what had been happening to the Baha’i in Iran was a serious breach of human rights. “The persecution has intensified quite recently. The Iranian government is demonising the Baha’i people and using the state-run media to push this demonisation to their people.”

Full report in the Dominion Post

[The Dominion Post report incorrectly states that Mr. Samandari is being held in Evin Prison in Tehran. This is no longer correct, was transferred from Evin to Raja’i Shahr prison in August, 2012. He was also tried twice: at the first trial he was acquitted of all charges, and the case was re-opened with new accusations in 27 Oct 2011. This may explain why there are differing accounts of what he was charged with. ~ Sen]
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Older items can be found in the archive, here. Even older news is here.



  1. I appreciate all your efforts in keeping us informed. Thank you.

    Comment by Sally Qazi — June 19, 2013 @ 21:07 | Reply

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