UHJ letter on economic restrictions on Bahais in Iran
Editorial, July 22, 2016.
On June 23, the Universal House of Justice issued a letter through its Secretariat, regarding the response of the Bahais in Iran to the economic restrictions imposed upon them. With regard to employees, it restates existing policies that a Bahai employee should try to take leave from work on the Bahai Holy Days on which work is suspended, but can work with a good conscience if this is refused. With regard to Bahai-run businesses and institutions, the letter marks an important development both in Bahai policy and in the willingness of authorities in some parts of Iran to allow Bahai businesses to close for Bahai Holy Days under certain conditions.
The letter refers to a description given by two Bahais of the economic restrictions imposed on the Bahai community in a particular city and to some questions they had presented to the Universal House of Justice. It praises them for their interest in the progress of the Faith, their willingness to endure hardships in the path of God and their determination to remain in Iran. The letter refers to the alarming level of the difficulties imposed on the Bahais in that city, and other places in Iran, because they have closed their shops and work places on the Bahai Holy Days. [The authorities have responded by closing the businesses down] These illegal closures by some authorities are undoubtedly part of a plan for the economic strangulation of the Bahai community in Iran, in the hope of weakening the resolve of the Bahais to remain in Iran. The world and the people of Iran now recognize that, despite this pressure and the diverse restrictions on them, the Bahais uphold their spiritual teachings and high hopes for Iran.
The letter refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees freedom of conscience and religion, and states that the observation of Bahai Holy Days, including the suspension of other community activities, the closure of Bahai-owned businesses, and the suspension of work on the Holy Days form part of the religious practices of Bahais around the world. Every sincere believer is obliged to observe the Bahai Holy Days. In countries where freedom of religion and beliefs is respected, Bahais observe the Holy Days by taking leave from their work, just as the Shiah in Iran close their businesses on their religious festivals. For the Bahais in Iran, the implementation of this religious practice in present circumstances implies:
1. Bahai employees in whatever field, as well as students at all levels, should refrain from working on the holy days on which work is suspended, but if their superiors do not agree to this, they can do their work on that day with a clear conscience.
2. Bahais who control a business should close their businesses on the holy days on which work is suspended, even if they have employees who are not Bahais. However if this would have effects requiring prior arrangements to meet the needs of the public, they should endeavour to make such arrangements and should inform the authorities of the intention to close the business and of the measures they have taken.
3. In exceptional cases, entities linked to Bahais may continue to operate on Bahai Holy Days, for example where they provide services that are essential to society, to protect the life and health of persons, or provide a service that directly impacts the lives of the people around them, to such an extent that a short closure, even where prior arrangements had been made, might disrupt orderly life. In such situations, the Friends may continue the services offered by such institutions, but it is desirable to minimise the work involved in consultation with the authorities.
The authorities in some cities have demanded promises as regards the closure of Bahai businesses on Holy Days [as a condition for allowing a closed business to reopen], or have offered suggestions, such as closing the Bahai business one day before and one day after the Holy Day [as well as on the Holy Day], leaving the lights of a business turned on although nobody is working in the business, or having a worker present although no trading is done. The Bahais, who are always ready to show good will and to be flexible, may in consultation with mature Friends accept such conditions or suggestions providing they do not conflict with the spirit of the Bahai teachings.
With regard to the suggestion made elsewhere, that the Bahais should seek permission from the authorities to close their shops on Bahai Holy Days, if the civil law and trade regulations require such permission, it should be obtained, and the obligations of Bahai individuals in this case will be the same as those of employees and students. But if permission to close is neither required in the case of non-Bahais, nor mentioned in the relevant legislation, then it does not seem necessary to obtain it, as it would only be interference in individuals’ spiritual lives.
The above is a precis and explanation rather than a translation. The most important change in practice, for the many Bahais in Iran who run small businesses, will be the possibility of observing the Bahai Holy Days while avoiding conflict with the authorities. The closures of Bahai businesses in Iran appear to have three motives, in a mix that varies from place to place. One is prejudice and superstitions: the belief that Bahais are unclean and that Muslims should not interract with Bahais. This is also the motive behind the exclusion of Bahais from economic sectors involving food, drink and personal services. When Bahais observe a Holy Day by closing their business, the authorities can withdraw the business licence and so reduce interraction between Shiah and Bahai individuals. The second motive is mentioned in the letter: the economic strangulation of the community with the intention of compelling as many Bahais as possible to leave Iran. The third is a desire on the part of some local authorities to remove the visible presence of Bahais from public spaces. A business that is visibly closed on Bahai Holy Days, and only on those days, is a visible statement that the Bahais are still there, despite over 30 years of Islamic education and unremitting state propaganda against the Bahais. A Bahai cemetery is also a visible presence: hence the destruction of old cemeteries near to towns and the allocation of sites for new Bahai cemeteries in remote places.
Since the Bahais observe the Holy Days not to make a public statement, but because of the holiness of the day and events it commemorates, it is logical that the Universal House of Justice says that the Bahais may, in consultation with mature Friends – who will help all the Bahai business in a locality to act together – accept conditions or suggestions from the authorities that are designed to lower the public profile of the Bahai businesses, providing these conditions do not conflict with the spirit of the Bahai teachings.
Seven Bahais arrested in Shiraz, one released on bail
Bahai News (Persian), July 19, 2016.
On the morning of July 16, security forces in Shiraz arrested five Bahais: Mrs. Noushin Zanhari (نوشین زنهاری), Yekta Fahandezh-Sa`adi (یکتافهندژسعدی), who was recently sentenced to five years in prison, Behnam Azirpour (بهنام عزیرپور), Sa`id Hosna (سعید حسنی) and Rahim Shirvani (رامین شیروانی). They are being held by the Ministry of Intelligence in Shiraz. On the following morning, security forces arrested two more Bahais in Shiraz, Na’im Qa’idsharfi (نعیم قائدشرفی) and Nabil Tahdhib (نبیل تهذیب). The agents also searched their home(s) and seized books, a laptop and a smart phone. They were taken to the Ministry of Intelligence’s Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz. Na’im Qa’idsharfi was released on bail on July 18.
Security forces destroy Bahai cemetery in Qorveh, arresting one Bahai
Iran Press Watch, translating Bahai News, July 17, 2016.
Law enforcement agents in Kurdistan province have demolished a Golestan Javid (a Bahai cemetery), uprooted over three hundred 20-year-old trees, and have also confiscated personal property from the mortuary.
Law enforcement agents also summoned one local Bahai, Mr. Khalil Eqdameyan (خلیل اقدامیان), to the Kurdistan Province Judiciary. A Persian source, Bazdasht, reports that when he answered the summons, he was detained for several hours and then released on bail. He had followed up the destruction of the cemetery in enquiries to the security forces, who referred him to the Department of Agricultural Development (Agricultural Jihad).
Yekta Fahandezh sentenced to 5 years
Bahai News (Persian), July 11, 2016.
Yekta Fahandezh-Sa`adi (یکتا فهندژ سعدی), a Bahai from Shiraz, has been sentenced to five years in prison. She was one of fifteen Bahais arrested in Shiraz in 2010. On February 3, 2012, she was again arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and spent 82 days in Detention Facility 100. She was released on bail and later charged with propaganda against the regime and undermining national security. She was given a five-year suspended sentence, but was later acquitted by the Court of Review. She was arrested again by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on March 16, 2014. The agents searched her home and seized books, a laptop and personal effects. She was transferred to Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz, and was detained for two months. On June 16, 2016 she was again tried and sentenced by Judge Doctor Sadati (دکتر ساداتی) to five years in prison.
Afshin Seyyed-Ahmad begins a 3-year sentence
Iran Press Watch, July 4, 2016.
Afshin Seyyed-Ahmad (افشین سید احمد), a Bahai from Tehran, was summoned to Evin Prison in Tehran on June 28, to begin serving a 3-year sentence. He was arrested on November 7, 2012, when his work place in Tehran was searched. Two days earlier, the workplace of Kamran Qaysari (کامران قیصر) in Karaj was also searched, and his home was searched on November 7: the Iran Press Watch report links these two cases, which is plausible. Mr. Seyyed-Ahmad is expected to serve his sentence in Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj. His sentence, of three years, was not previously reported on Sen’s Daily.
Afif Na`imi granted 5-day leave after 8 years in prison
Bahai News (Persian), July 2, 2016.
Afif Na`imi (عفیف نعیمی), one of the seven imprisoned ‘Yaran’ (national facilitators for the Bahai community in Iran) began a five-day prison furlough on July 2. He is serving his sentence in Raja’i Shahr prison, and suffers from very poor health, exacerbated by prison conditions and the lack of sustained medical care. During his time in prison he has often been transferred to a coronary care hospital in Tehran, only to be moved back to prison after a short period of care.
Shayda Ta’id begins a one-year sentence in Babol
Bahai News, June 24, 2016.
On June 23, Shayda Ta’id ( شیدا تائید ), a Bahai living in Nur County, Mazandaran, was taken to Babol prison to begin a one-year sentence. She was arrested in her home, along with her guest, Bayan Baba’i ( بیان بابایی ) from Qaemshahr, on January 21, 2013. They were taken to the Ministry of Intelligence in Sari, and three days later were allowed to contact their families. They were detained by the Ministry of Intelligence in Sari for a total of 25 days. Previously, on November 6, 2010, the home of Shayda Ta’id and her mother, Fariba Ta’id ( فریده تایید ), was searched by the Ministry of Intelligence, and on November 20, 2010, they were arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence. They were both released in early December, 2010.
Navid Khanjani transfered to hospital
Iran Press Watch, June 23, 2016.
Navid Khanjani, a Bahai social activist, has been transferred from Raja’i Shahr prison to hospital for treatment. He has physical health problems, a weakened immune system and a sudden weight loss, of about 20 kilograms (44 lbs) in two months.
On March 2 2010, after protests against the elections of 20091, under the human rights activists detention project operated by the Intelligence Office of the Islamic Guards, Navid Khanjani was detained at his family home in Isfahan and transferred to section 2-A of the Islamic Guards Detention Center for some time. In August 2012, in the course of helping with earthquake relief in the Iranian province of Azarbaijan, he was arrested, and on September 5, he was moved to Ward 4, Hall 12 of Raja’i Shahr prison to carry out his sentence. He had previously been detained in March 2010, and released on bail after spending two months in solitary confinement.
He was then sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment by Branch 26 of the Iranian Revolutionary Court. In 2015, his 12-year sentence was reduced to 5 years of incarceration. The accusations compiled by the Revolutionary Court against Navid Khanjani are as follows;
Membership of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters and Human Rights Activists
Forming the “Deprived from Education Group”
Perturbation of the public and propaganda against the system by disseminating news, reports, and conducting interviews with foreign radio and TV
Publishing lies to disturb public opinion.
Bahai student expelled from the Imam Reza University in Mashhad
Bahai News (Persian), June 21, 2016.
Mo’in Muhammadi (معین محمدی), a Bahai student, has completed an undergraduate course in biomedical engineering at the Imam Reza University in Mashhad, and, based on a provisional Bachelor’s certificate, has been accepted to study for a Master’s degree. However university officials then refused to issue his Bachelor’s certificate, saying initially that they had lost his files. Mr. Muhammadi pursued his case, even going to Tehran, but he was subjected to months of bureaucratic buck-passing. In the meantime, in the winter of 2014-2015, Mr. Muhammadi sat the entrance examination for the Master’s course, and was accepted for a course in Electricity of Telecommunications at the Imam Reza University. When he went to register, in August 2015, the Office of Education, the security office, and the Chief of Security told him that, as a Bahai, he did not have the right to register or attend university.
Bahai shop-keeper protests in Urumeyyeh
Bazdasht, June 22, 2016.
Mr. Navid Maraqhi (نوید مرغی), one of the Bahais in the city whose shops have been sealed by the local authorities because they are operated by Bahais, who have refused to convert to Islam, has protested by sitting outside his closed premises.
On December 29 2010, security agents raided the homes of five Bahai families in Urumeyyeh (Urmia), a substantial city situated between Tabriz and the Turkish border, and arrested Mr. Maraghi along with Mrs. Shiva Karimi (شیوا کریمی) and Mrs. Hamira Parvizi (حمیرا پرویزی). They were released on bail on January 19, 2011. They were charged with seeking to undermine national security, establishing meetings to teach the Faith, getting to know Muslims with the intention of teaching them, and confusing the minds of Muslims. They were sentenced to one year in prison, but because they had no previous criminal records, three months of each sentence was commuted to three year’s probation. [I have no record of them serving their sentences ~ Sen]
Bahai business owners in North West Iran required to convert to Islam
Gold News (translation, Iran Press Watch), June 18, 2016.
Since mid-May 2016, in different parts of the city of Urumiyyeh (Urmia) such as Madani and Khayyam Streets, twenty-seven Bahai shops have been sealed and the owners warned that “they have no right to work in that city until and unless they convert to Islam”. In the city of Sanandaj, six Bahai-run shops, including a stationery store, were sealed. Despite appeals to different organizations such as trade unions, municipal officials and national officials, authorities at the Office of Public Places and the police department, the owners of these shops in Urumiyyeh and Sanandaj were offered “conversion to Islam” as their only option.
Full translation at Iran Press Watch
Continuing difficulties for Bahai burials in Iran
Various sources, June 18, 2016.
According to Gold News, on March 4 this year, a group of Bahais from Tabriz met with Ayatollah Tehrani to present a sampling of the indignities suffered by deceased Bahais in Tabriz over the past four years. The problems are experienced by Bahais throughout Iran. Bahais are buried in coffins with the graves oriented to Akka, in Israel, while Muslims are buried in shrouds, which require smaller graves that are oriented to Mecca. Separate cemeteries or separate sections are therefore a practical requirement, as well as being required by the existing anti-Bahai prejudices. Prior to the 1979 Revolution, Bahai ‘Spiritual Assemblies’ (elected bodies that administer the affairs of local Bahai communities) administered Bahai cemeteries, but many members of these local Assemblies, including eleven in Tabriz, were executed following the Revolution. In August 1981, the Assemblies were disbanded by the Bahais, on government instructions. Local and nation facilitators were appointed, in part as intermediaries with government bodies in matters relating to the Bahai community, but in March 2008, Mahvash Sabet, one of the national facilitators (Yaran) who had travelled to Mashhad to deal with a burial, was arrested. Two months later her six colleagues were also arrested, and local facilitators across Iran ceased serving as intermediaries with the government. The Iranian government therefore has a problem of their own making.
The Bahais from Tabriz told Ayatollah Tehrani that since September 3, 2011, the burial of Bahais in Tabriz has not been allowed. The decision was apparently made by high-ranking government officials, but has not been publicized. As a result, Bahais have had to wash and shroud the bodies of those who have died at home in their own homes. Where Bahais have died in hospital, their families are sometimes not even informed, but buried unceremoniously by the authorities far from Tabriz, in the districts of Miandoab or Urumeyyeh. A distant grave is not only cruel for the family of the deceased, it is contrary to Bahai rites, which stipulate that a body should not be carried more than one hour’s travel from the town where he or she died. In the past few years, at least 35 Bahais from Tabriz have been buried in other districts in this way.
Some of these events in Tabriz have been reported previously on Sen’s Daily. On June 13, 2016, Bahai News reported that the body of Mrs. Rezvanieh Nabavi Dehkharqani (رضوانیه نبوی دهخوارقانی) is still in the morgue at the Vadi-e Rahmat Cemetery in Tabriz, five days after her death, because authorities will not issue a burial permit. After she died on June 8 2016, her body was washed and shrouded in her home, and the Bahai prayer for the dead was read. Then her body was delivered to the morgue to await a burial permit. A later report indicates that the body was taken to Miandoab by government agents, and buried there.
Bahai News also reported, on June 17, that a Bahai who died six days previously has suffered a similar fate. Hussein Aqa Zahedi Muhammadpour (حسین آقا زهدی محمدپور), aged 92, died in the southern city of Ahwaz on June 12, 2016. Permission for burial in the Bahai cemetery in Ahwaz was withheld. Security forces (in Iran, Bahai burials are a “security issue” !) told the family that they should take the body to the town of Hendijan, 200 kilometers to the south. Thus far, the family have no indication who is responsible for barring burial in the Bahai cemetery, except that it is “on orders from above.”
Bahai-run shop in Shiraz closed, owner arrested
Bazdasht, June 16, 2016.
About a month ago, the bridal wear shop of Sara Ekhlaqi (سارا اخلاقی) in Shiraz was closed down, because photographs of women in wedding dresses had been posted to the shop’s Instagram account. These were called ‘obscene images.’ Agents took her Instagram password and used it to post a message on her Instagram account saying, “This account has been blocked for producing and distributing indecent images and instigation to behaviour incompatible with chastity.” The same message was attached to the door of her shop. The agents effectively took the place of the court and judge, deciding what was offensive and punishing her without a warrant or an opportunity for a hearing.
Two days ago, the Muslim holder of the business license [and presumably the owner of the premises] was contacted and told to go to the court with Sara Ekhlaqi, saying, “we have reviewed the case, you have no problems. Come to the court tomorrow for the legal procedure to reopen the shop.” A judge told them there was no problem, but they would have to participate in a “training class.” As the afternoon wore on, the pair had still not emerged. One of Mrs. Ekhlaqi’s neighbours reported that five or six agents posing as servicemen from the Water Department had rung her doorbell to gain admittance to the apartment building. They entered and brought a vehicle into the yard, and then contacted Mrs. Ekhlaqi’s husband to come for a signature for their work [The water company’s work on the apartment? ~ Sen]. When he opened the door, they entered and asked him whether he was a Bahai, and whether his wife was a Bahai. When he said they were, they said, “then your work is going nowhere.” The seized books and CDs relating to the Bahai Faith, poetry books and books on history and psychology, and departed over an hour later, saying that the books would be returned once they had been checked, and that Mrs. Ekhlaqi might be released that day; otherwise he was to contact the court the next day to arrange bail.
The holder of the business license was released that afternoon, and appeared very frightened. The word “Bahai” made his face cloud over. In the evening of the day she was arrested, Mrs. Ekhlaqi was allowed to telephone her husband, but there is no word of where she is being detained. The sources end by noting the polite behaviour of the various agents they dealt with, in the shop and in their home.
Six Bahais in Tabriz acquitted on appeal
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), June 13, 2016.
The Court of Final Review has acquitted six Bahais from Tabriz who were sentenced to one year in prison in May, 2015. They are four members of the Bahadori family, Mr. Farzad Bahadari (فرزاد بهادری) and Mrs. Simin Rasouli (سیمین رسولی) and their children, Sahar ( سحر بهادری ) and Nassim Bahadari (نسیم بهادری ), along with Shabnam Issakhani (شبنم عیسی خانی) and Mrs. Rashin Saberi (راشین صابری). They were arrested following a raid on the Bahadori home in Tabriz on July 12, 2014, by eight agents from the Ministry of Intelligence: five men and three women. The agents seized all the Bahai books and other materials they could find. From the date of their arrest, it is likely that they had gathered to celebrate the “Feast of Kalimat,” which Bahais around the world mark with prayers and readings from scripture. The usual policy of the security forces in Iran is to forbid gatherings of more than six Bahais in private homes, so Bahais in Iran meet only in small groups.
Mrs. Rashin Saberi, who was pregnant, was not arrested at the time of the raid, but was summoned for interrogation. Mrs. Simin Rasouli and Nassim Bahadari were arrested three days after the raid. All those arrested were released on bail in the following two weeks. They were charged with forming an opposition group and propaganda in support of opposition groups. Their trials, before Judge Baqerpour (قاضی باقرپور), extended over nine court sessions, leading to their acquittal on the first charge, and sentences of one year for propaganda in support of opposition groups. This was followed by a first review in June 2015, which confirmed the one-year sentences. This has now been overturned by the Court of Final Review.
Afif Na`imi returned to prison, Adel Na`imi remains in hospital
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), June 8, 2016.
Afif Na`imi (عفیف نعیمی), one of the seven imprisoned ‘Yaran’ (national facilitators for the Bahai community in Iran), has been transferred from a Coronary Care unit in Tehran to Raja’i Shahr prison, despite his poor condition. He suffers from blood clots and recurrent fainting. He has been imprisoned for 8 years without any prison furlough. His health problems are described as “severe,” and the prison’s Medical Examiner has determined that he is not fit for prison because of his failing health.
His brother Adel Na`imi (عادل نعیمی), another Bahai prisoner in Raja’i Shahr, suffers from diabetes and from low blood pressure, which has worsened. He remains in hospital. He is serving a 10-year sentence for his Bahai beliefs. He was arrested (along with his wife Elham Faramani ( الهام فراهانی )) during wide-spread raids on Bahai homes in Tehran, Mashhad and Shiraz on July 10, 2012.
Keyvan Pakzadan still held incommunicado
Bahai News Today (Persian), June 9, 2016.
Keyvan Pakzadan (کیوان پاکزادان), a Bahai from Tehran, who was arrested as he was leaving his sister’s home on June 1, is still being held, without contact with his family. At the time of his arrest, agents not only searched his home and workplace and seized some of his personal effects, they also searched through his sister and brother-in-law’s effects and seized a laptop, flash drives, contracts, a Will, receipts, signed cheques and working notes. A previous report stated that Mr. Pakzadan was allowed to contact his family briefly, and told them that he has been taken to section 209 in Evin Prison, which is run by the Ministry of Intelligence. This is not confirmed in the present report, but in the days following their son’s arrest, his parents came from the city of Kalaleh, in Gulestan Province, to seek information from the Ministry of Intelligence in Tehran, where Evin Prison is located, but have received no news of the whereabouts of their son. It would appear that their requests for information are being sent to a Court named after the late Moqaddas Ardabili (شهید مقدس اردبیلی), which has not responded. Mr. Pakzadan must therefore be considered to be detained incommunicado, location unknown.
Shamim Ettahadi released from prison
Bahai News (Persian), June 7, 2016.
Shamim Ettahadi (شمیم اتحادی), a Bahai prisoner of conscience, was released from the Central Prison in Yazd today, at the end of his sentence. He was charged with propaganda against the regime, membership of Bahai organisations, insulting officials, spreading lies and having satellite receiving equipment. The charges relate to his supposed responsibility for a 4-minute video documenting the destruction of the Bahai cemetery in Yazd, which was shown on the Persian-language television network Manoto. He was sentenced to 3 years in prison, 74 lashes, a two-year ban on leaving Iran, and a fine of 40 million rials (1200 euros; $US 1600). He was previously arrested in August 2011, along with three other Bahai youths who had gone walking in a mountainous area. On that occasion, he was sentenced to 91 days in prison, on charges of propaganda against the regime, which the review court changed to 3 years probation. His mother, Mrs. `Azam Motahari (اعظم مطهری) was summoned to begin serving a one-year sentence in the central prison of Yazd on March 3, 2015, but for reasons that are not clear, it was later reported that she began her sentence on October 6, 2015. Mrs. Motahari is one of 20 Bahais who were arrested in central Iran in August 2012. They were charged with propaganda against the regime and participation in Bahai community activities.
Egypt again considers the “religion” field on ID cards
Egyptian Streets, June 1, 2016.
Egyptian MP Ala’a Abdel Mone`em (علاء عبد المنعم) has announced he will introduce new legislation to remove citizens’ religious affiliations from national identity cards within the next two weeks. All Egyptians over 16 must have an ID card, which is used for opening a bank account, registering at a school or university, obtaining a mobile or landline telephone, obtaining a driver’s license or passport (which does not have “religion” field), applying for social services, registering to vote, and paying taxes. However the Bahai Faith cannot be entered as a religion: the possibilities are limited to ‘Muslim,’ ‘Christian,’ or ‘Jew.’ Atheists therefore face the same difficulties as the Bahais, and Shiah Muslims are assumed by default to be Sunnis, Catholics are assumed to be Copts, and so on. This matters because ‘personal status’ issues in Egypt are settled in accordance with the religious law of the person concerned – providing his or her faith is one the three main religions.
A report in ‘7 days‘ reports Bahai spokesperson Dr. Basma Moussa (بسمة موسى) as expressing strong support for the abolition of the “religion” field on identity cards, but adding that this “is not sufficient to eliminate discrimination, extremism and sectarianism within the community. We need to reform education to eliminate the problem at its roots.” The need for curriculum reform to combat sectarianism and prejudice has been echoed by others, in what has become a wide debate in Egypt.
Shamim Rouhani on ‘furlough’ (pending exile?)
Bahai News (Persian), June 2016.
Shamim Ruhani (شمیم روحانی), a Bahai prisoner of conscience from Ahvaz (a city in Khuzestan Province, in the Iranian part of the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates), has been granted a 5-day prison furlough after posting a bond of 50 million tumans (14,400 euros; $US 16,400).
He was arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on November 5, 2013, along with a number of Bahais who were present in his home. The agents seized his religious books, documents, personal effects, mobile telephone and computer. All the detainees except for Mr. Ruhani were released three days later. Mr. Ruhani was held by the Ministry of Intelligence for several months before being released on bail. He was charged with propaganda against the regime and membership in Bahai organisations, and sentenced to one year in prison followed by banishment from the Province of Khuzestan for two years. He began his sentence on January 11, 2015. This means that he has already completed his sentence: it appears that he has five days’ grace to leave the Province on internal exile. It is not usual to demand a bond for prisoners on furlough (at least, I have never seen it reported). In other cases where a Bahai prisoner is sent into exile, the authorities have simply dumped him beside the road at the Provincial boundary on the last day of imprisonment.
Bahai student expelled from university in Qazvin
Bahai News (Persian), May 30, 2016.
Faraz Karin-Kani Sisan (فراز کرین کانی سیسان), a Bahai student of civil engineering, has been expelled from university because of his religious beliefs. He was in the first year of studies at the Alborz Institute of Higher Education (recently recognized as a University). He received a letter from Dr. Assadullah Asra’i (دکتر اسدالله آسرایی), who is named in this report as the “President” (Chancellor) of the Institute, although the Institute’s web site names Dr. Seyyed Morteza Nourbaksh (دکتر سید مرتضی نوربخش) as President. The letter states that he has been expelled in accordance with a decision of the University’s Security Department, on May 18 this year, that Bahai students cannot continue their education. Mr. Sisan is referred to the University’s Bureau of Education to “settle accounts,” suggesting the possibility of refund of his fees.
One new arrest in Tehran
HRANA, June 1, 2016.
On June 1, security forces arrested Keyvan Pakzadan (کیوان پاکزادان), a Bahai from Tehran, as he was leaving his home. The agents also searched his home and seized some of his personal effects. They then took him to his workplace, which they searched, seizing a laptop and some documents. Later in the day, Mr. Pakzadan was allowed to contact his family briefly, and told them that he has been taken to section 209 in Evin Prison, a prison within the prison, which is run by the Ministry of Intelligence. There was no arrest warrant, and no indication of the reason for his arrest.
Campaign against Bahai businesses in Mazandaran continues
Various sources, late May, 2016.
Gold News reports the closure of four Bahai-run businesses in Babolsar, which had closed on May 28, when Bahais around the world commemorated the Ascension of Baha’u’llah (13 ‘Azamat in the Bahai calendar). The managers are named as Mr. Mithaq Leqa’i (میثاق لقایی), Farshid Hikmat Sho`ar (فرشید حکمت شعار), Peyman Sahand (پیمان سهند) and Shahin Sana’i (شاهین سنایی).
Gold News also reports the closure of one Bahai-run business in Babol, a stationary shop run by Mr. Baha’ul-Din Samimi (بهاالدین صمیمی).
Bahai News reports that the former employees of the Bureau of Public Places in the city of Qaemshahr, who allowed Bahai businesses there to re-open, have received threats from the Bureau’s Provincial Office, including even death threats. Bahai News states that an agent from the Ministry of Intelligence, who uses the name of “Ansar al-Husseini” (انصار حسینی; Companion of Imam Husayn), is personally responsible for maintaining records for the Bahais and has fabricated cases against them on charges such as “smuggling.”
Meanwhile the Bahais concerned have been told by the Bureau of Public Places that if they want to open their businesses, they should ask the (Universal) House of Justice (in Israel). This refers to recent claims in the state-sponsored Iranian media that Bahais obey the instructions of the House of Justice rather than those of the government in Iran, and calling the Bahai community “a state within the State.” In fact, just the opposite is true: the Bahai teachings specify that the Bahais “in whatever country they reside, … will, unhesitatingly, subordinate the operation of [Bahai] laws and the application of [Bahai] principles to the requirements and legal enactments of their respective governments. Theirs is not the purpose, … to violate, under any circumstances, the provisions of their country’s constitution, much less to allow the machinery of their administration to supersede the government of their respective countries.” (Source). Far from aiming to be a state within the State, the Bahais are fully committed to the separation of the institutions of religion from politics, and this is one reason for their persecution by the theocratic order in Iran. “Go ask the House of Justice” apparently means that the authorities have no intention of allowing Bahai businesses to re-open. Security officials have also told the Bahais that they will be dealt with under the law (which allows them to close their shops for up to 15 days per year, see Article 28.b of the Code of Trades Guilds); that their business have been closed down because they did not open on Bahai Holy Days, which amounts to “teaching the Bahai Faith;” and that their cases would be referred to the Revolutionary Court for prosecution.
Afif Na`imi transferred from prison to hospital
Bahai News (Persian), May 29, 2016.
Afif Na`imi (عفیف نعیمی), one of the seven imprisoned ‘Yaran’ (national facilitators for the Bahai community in Iran), was transferred from Raja’i Shahr prison to a hospital in Tehran on Saturday. He suffers from blod clots and recurrent fainting (apparently due to the effects of blood thinning drugs to reduce the risk of brain hemorrhage). On several occasions, he has been taken from prison to a heart disease hospital in Tehran for treatment, only to be returned to prison with the treatment incomplete.
Nateq Na’imi begins 10-day prison leave
Bahai News (Facebook, Persian), May 28, 2016.
Mrs. Nateq Na’imi (ناطقه نعیمی), a Bahai held in Yazd Prison, has been granted a 10-day prison furlough. She was one of 20 Bahais arrested in Yazd, Isfahan, Kerman and Arak in August 2011, and sentenced to a total of 78 years in prison. Her sentence is two years in prison and one year’s suspended sentence, while her husband Mr. Faribourz Baghi (فریبرز باغی ) is also serving a 2-year term, on charges of acting against national security and propaganda against the regime. Mrs. Na’imi began serving her sentence, along with Mrs. Azam Motahari (اعظم مطهری), on October 6, 2015. Her name was previously reported on Sen’s Daily as Nateq Na’imi (ناطق نعیمی).
House of Justice letter on pioneering
Editorial, May 25, 2016.
The Universal House of Justice has released a letter on the role of international and home-front pioneering in the 5-year Plan that has just begun. It begins by saying, “it is our hope that the friends will continue to consider entering the international arena, whenever their circumstances allow.” In the coming five years, the International Teaching Centre will identify areas that would benefit from international pioneers, “with the expectation that … by the end of the Plan there will be at least one well-advanced intensive programme of growth in every country in the world where external conditions allow …”
As regards home-front pioneers, the House of Justice writes, “Whatever assistance they are able to provide to further the work of the Plan is, of course, most welcome; nevertheless, their efforts will have an even greater effect if, guided by the institutions, their capabilities are directed towards specific needs in clusters where the friends are labouring to intensify the growth process.” Thus, in contrast to pioneering to establish a Baha’i presence, however small, in every town and area across the globe, the emphasis now is on pioneers as assistants to growth programmes in established communities. This also means that those who can stay in an area for only a short period, even “as little as three months” are considered valuable pioneers. “Such friends can kindle a spirit of selfless service and transmit valuable experience from stronger clusters to emerging ones. In time, they return to their communities much inspired and enriched…”
I have placed a plain text version of the message, with paragraph numbers added, in the documents archive of my Bahai Studies blog.
28 Bahai businesses closed down in Urumiyyeh
Bahai News (Persian), May 24, 2016.
Agents from the Bureau of Public Places in Urumiyyeh (aka Urmia or Orumiyeh) have closed down at least 28 Bahai-run businesses. Ten days ago, the Bahais were told they had 10 days to shut down their businesses. The Bahais pursued the matter but were not able to learn any reason for the closures, having enquired with the local Burea of Public Places and the provincial government and Ministry of Intelligence in Urumiyyeh, although the Bureau of Public Places had originally said that the Ministry of Intelligence had ordered the closures. The Bahais have heard unofficially that it relates to the Bahai Holy Days, when the Bahai-run businesses shut.
Bahai businesses in Qaem Shahr re-opened, then re-closed
On April 20, 2016, a number of Bahai-run businesses in Qaem Shahr and other cities on the coastal plain of the Caspian Sea were closed by the authorities. On May 4, 22 businesses in Qaem Shahr and Fereydounkenar were allowed to reopen. There is a slight discrepancy here with our previous report that 16 Bahai businesses in Qaem Shahr and five in Fereydunkenar had been closed down. Now the Bahai businesses in Qaem Shahr have again been closed down, as local authorities sealed the shutters on their premises on May 23 (a Bahai Holy Day). The names of the owners are included in the Persian report of May 23, linked above.
Iranian media publish list of Bahai businesses for boycotting and closure
Oweis, May 18, 2016.
Government-sponsored media in Iran have published a list of Bahai-run businesses in Zahedan, along with a compilation of fatwas from Shia and Sunni divines, requiring Muslims to have no dealings with Bahais. Zahedan is a city of half a million, in the South of Iran, near to the border with Pakistan. It is an important centre for the Sunni population in Iran (70% of the population are Sunni). The Oweis report begins with an ugly “Rasputin” image, one of the stock images used in the anti-Bahai literature to represent the Bahai Faith. (See “Images of Hate“) for a catalogue of these images: the content is offensive.) The list contains the names of 40 businesses, which suggests a Bahai population of some thousands in Zahedan. From the names, it appears that 12 of the businesses relate to optician’s work, four to photography, six to computers and electricity, and the remainder to an assortment of retail, services and consultancy work. The report promises to publish lists of Bahai businesses in other cities ‘soon.’
According to the report, in recent days the hearts of many of the faithful [Muslims] have been wounded by a visit from a well-born lady [Faezeh Rafsanjani] to the leaders of the Bahai Faith, which took place in Tehran. Oweis is therefore republishing the fatwas and a list of Bahai businesses in Zahedan, first published in August 2015 (as previously reported on Sen’s Daily). It says with regret that the government has not taken any action against these businesses.
Anti-Bahai demonstration in Qom ; coming of 12th Imam postponed
Gold News (Persian), May 21, 2016.
An anti-Bahai — and anti-Rafsanjani — demonstration was held in Qom after the noon prayers on Friday, May 20. The protest was a reaction to Faezeh Rafsanjani’s taboo-breaking meeting with Fariba Kamalabadi, one of the Bahai “Yaran,” who had been released on prison furlough. The crowd was demanding legal action against Ms. Rafsjaneh for socializing with a Bahai. They were equipped with slogans such as “Death to the traitor, death to the troublemaker,” “What price for defending Bahaism?” “We follow [Imam] Husayn, we will not be silent” and “Down with the monarchist troublemaker.” The report states that another slogan was “Hashemi, may your Bahai link be blessed,” but the photograph shows the slogan “Troublemaker, may your Bahai link be blessed.” “Troublemakers” is the term used in government media for those who questioned the outcome of the 2009 elections. In this context it is a reference to both Faezeh Rafsanjani and her pragmatic-conservative father, who campaigned against the populist incumbent, President Ahmadinejad.
Another report, on the Bahai site “Equality of men and women” states that Hojjat al-Islam Nekounam (حجتالاسلام نکونام), the representative of the Supreme Leader (Khamane’i) in the Province of Chaharmaqal and Bakhtiari, has said that the promotion and publicising of the Bahai Faith, for example when the Bahais meet with opposition figures, on flimsy excuses such as Bahais being ‘oppressed’ or in the defence of ‘human rights,’ will delay the coming of the Twelfth Imam. [In actual fact, the publicising of the Bahai Faith in Iran occurs almost entirely through the anti-Bahai propaganda of the government-sponsored media. ~ Sen]
However a very detailed report of what appears to be the same speech, on the government-controlled site Qatreh, abbreviates this part of the speech, saying that the delayed coming of the Twelfth Imam is due to the existence of “deviant thinking (تفکر انحرافی),” without mentioning the Bahai Faith. The report on “Equality of men and women” does not name its source.
Summary of Iranian media reactions to Faezeh Rafsanjani’s meeting with Fariba Kamalabadi
Iran Human Rights (English), May 20, 2016.
[Editorial] The Persian-language media and social networks have been buzzing with reactions to a home visit by Faezeh Rafsanjani, daughter of a prominent Iranian politician, to visit Fariba Kamalabadi during the latter’s 5-day prison furlough. Mrs. Rafsanjani was imprisoned with Mrs. Kamalabadi for six months. The visit broke social taboos and the propaganda stance of the government, according to which Bahais are ‘unclean’ and Muslims should not have social contact or business dealings with them. Mrs. Rafsanjani is not the first prominent Iranian intellectual to make such a gesture in recent years, but her visit with the Bahais has hit the headlines in government-sponsored media because it gives the enemies of her father a chance to undermine his position. The IHR report gives a compact overview of the flood of reactions, and also explains why, in Iran, a person can be punished by the courts for doing something that is not against the law.
~~~~~~~~~~ Full Report ~~~~~~~~
Two Bahai students expelled and two businesses closed in Kashan
Bahai News (Persian), May 18, 2016.
Mahsa Elahian (مهسا الهیان), a Bahai student in the third semester of a degree in English language and literature, has been expelled from the Payem-e Nour University in Kashan. University officials asked her why she had listed her religion as “other” in the application forms, to which she replied that her religion was not one of those mentioned in the form. She was then expelled.
On April 25, another Bahai student, Laden Foroughi (لادن فروغی) was also expelled because of his religious beliefs. He was expelled from the Payam-e Nour campus at Natanz, about an hour south of Kashan, where he was studying Accounting.
On May 10, the optician’s shop of Behman Elahian (بهمن الهیان) in Kashan was closed by local authorities, because he had no business licence and was a Bahai. The optician’s shop of Arash Dhabiheyan (آرش ذبیحیان) was closed for the same reasons on May 17.
Imprisoned Bahais in Yazd denied furlough
HRANA, May 18, 2016.
Bahais who are detained in Yazd Prison have been denied the prison furloughs for which they are eligible by law. Iranian law states that prisoners who have served more than half of their sentences may benefit from furlough. However the Public Prosecutor and prison officials in Yazd have denied their applications, without indicating a reason. It would appear to be discrimination based on prejudices. The policy has been in place for some time: in April 2015 Shamim Ettahadi (شمیم اتحادی), a Bahai imprisoned in Yazd, was denied furlough, although he met the conditions. He was imprisoned for his supposed responsibility for a 4-minute video documenting the destruction of the Bahai cemetery in Yazd, which was shown on the Persian-language television network Manoto. A policy of refusing furlough for Bahai prisoners applied in Mashhad, at least from 2013 to 2015 (but my records are incomplete ~ Sen). In Mashhad, the opposition to granting furlough to Bahai prisoners came from the Ministry of Intelligence.
Obama appoints transgender woman, Sikh and Bahai to faith advisory council
Christian Today, May 17, 2016.
A transgender woman will join representatives from the Sikh and Baha’i communities as new advisers to President Obama on faith-based issues.
The White House announced the additions to the President’s third and final advisory council on faith-based and neighbourhood partnerships last week.
Barbara Satin is the assistant faith work director for the National LGBTQ Task Force and a member of the United Church of Christ (UCC). She was the first openly transgender member of the UCC’s executive council and has served on the board of a number of other LGBT community groups.
Of her appointment, Satin said: “Given the current political climate, I believe it’s important that a voice of faith representing the transgender and gender non-conforming community — as well as a person of my years, nearly 82 — be present and heard in these vital conversations.”
The other appointments included Naseem Kourosh, human rights officer at the US Baha’i office of public affairs and Manjit Singh, co-founder and chairman of the Sikh American Legal Defence and Education Fund.
Along with a number of other appointments, Obama said Satin, Kourosh and Singh were “fine public servants” and would bring “depth of experience and tremendous dedication” to their roles.
“I look forward to working with them,” he said.
The President’s advisory council is charged with making policy recommendations to the administration as well as suggesting improvements and best practices for services that relate to faith-based groups. The council currently has fifteen members, most of whom are Christian.
Bahai-run business told to close in Urumiyyeh
Bahai News (Persian), May 17, 2016.
The Office of Public Places in Urumiyyeh (aka Urmia or Orumiyeh) has informed Farzin Aghsani (فرزين اغصاني), a Bahai who runs a refrigeration business, that he must close and vacate his business within 10 days. The report does not indicate a reason.
Nine Bahai businesses allowed to reopen
Bahai News (Persian), May 11, 2016.
Nine Bahai-run businesses in Sari and Ramsar, which were sealed by local authorities on May 1, have been given permission to reopen. The Bahai businesses were shut down by the authorities because they had closed to allow the Bahais working there to observe Bahai holy days. But the authorities’ action was illegal, since the law allows all businesses in Iran, except for essential services, to close for up to 15 days per year.
The news that the businesses may reopen is surprising and gives hope that the authorities may begin to observe the law in their relations with Bahais. The 6 Bahai businesses in Kerman province that were closed down in April 2015 are still sealed, and another 7 have since been shut down. The picture is similar across Iran: Bahai businesses are frequently closed down but seldom allowed to reopen. However a number of international business leaders have recently been pressuring Iran to halt its economic discrimination against Bahais, “as an affront to the freedom to do business.”
Fariba Kamalabadi begins five-day prison furlough
Bahai News (Persian, facebook), May 9, 2016.
Fariba Kamalabadi (فریبا کمال آبادی ) one of the seven “Yaran” (National facilitators for the Bahai community) who are serving ten-year prison sentences as prisoners of conscience, has been granted a five-day leave from prison following the birth of her grandchild. In November, 2014, she was denied leave to attend her daughter’s wedding. According to the normal prison rules (which do not necessarily apply for Bahai prisoners), she should be due for early release now, having served 8 years of a 10-year sentence.
The seven ‘Yaran’ served as national facilitators assisting the Bahais of Iran in their dealings with government organs until their arrest and imprisonment. They were appointed following the disappearance and execution of the elected leadership of the Bahais in Iran in 1980, and again in 1981. The elected leaders in many cities were also executed at that time, notably in Tehran, Tabriz, Yazd and Hamadan, where a total of 33 members of the local Bahai “Assemblies” were executed, in addition to the 18 members of the two national “Assemblies” and two assistants. In August 1983, the government declared the elected assemblies illegal. In accordance with the principle of obedience to government, the Bahais then dissolved all elected bodies. Nevertheless, seven former members of the national Assembly were arrested and executed. (see this Wikipedia article).
National and local facilitators were later appointed, principally because government bodies needed to have a Bahai representative to discuss necessary matters and to transmit government instructions to the Bahais, which were not publicised in the media. One of the most important tasks of the facilitators was to arrange for Bahai burials, as Bahais are often barred from burial in public cemeteries, and Bahai practice requires a coffin, which is not allowed in many public cemeteries.
On 5 March 2008, one of the Yaran, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet (مهوش ثابت) – a schoolteacher and mother of two – was arrested having been summoned to the Iranian city of Mashhad to discuss some matters regarding a Bahai burial. Two months later, on 14 May, the other six Yaran were arrested in raids of their homes. Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi was one of these, the others being Jamaloddin Khanjani (جمال الدین خانجانی), Afif Na`imi (عفیف نعیمی), Sa`id Reza’i (سعید رضایی), Behrouz Tavakkoli (بهروز توکلی), and Vahid Tizfahm (وحید تیزفهم).
After twenty months in prison without charge, a trial began on January 12, 2010, under Judge Moqayesseh (قاضی مقیسه, also spelled محمد مقیسهای). Throughout their long wait for justice, the seven had received barely one hour’s access to their legal counsel, and suffered appalling treatment and deprivations, including psychological and physical hardship. They were charged with spying for Israel, propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and the establishment of an illegal administration – charges that were all rejected completely and categorically by the defendants. According to the defence lawyer, the charge of spying for Israel was based only on the fact that the Bahai properties in Israel are tax exempt. However Bahai properties are tax exempt in almost every country, and Islamic holy sites in Israel are tax exempt! The trial of the seven accused ended on 14 June 2010 after six brief sessions, characterized by their lack of due legal process.
The initial sentence of 20 years imprisonment for each of the defendants, met with outrage and condemnation throughout the world. One month later, the appeal court revoked three of the charges, including that of spying for Israel, and reduced their sentence to 10-year jail terms. In March 2011, the prisoners were informed that their original 20-year sentences were reinstated. In November, 2015, the 20-year sentences were again reduced to ten years. Despite repeated requests, neither the prisoners nor their attorneys have ever received official copies of the original verdict or the ruling on appeal.
Mrs. Kamalabadi was initially detained in Evin Prison in Tehran. On July 29, 2010, all the Yaran were transferred to Raja’i Shahr prison (Gohar Dasht prison), about 50 kilometers West of Tehran. On May 6, 2011, when the women’s block at Raja’i Shahr was closed, she and Mahvash Sabet were transferred to Gharchak Varamin prison, 40km south of Tehran, where conditions are particularly inhumane. Two weeks later she was again transferred to Evin Prison, where she has remained.
Bahai businesses closed down in Isfahan
Bahai Press (Facebook, Persian), May 3, 2016.
On May 1, which was the 12th day of the Ridvan festival for Bahais, local authorities in Iran closed down a number of Bahai-run businesses in the Province of Isfahan. Six owners are named, but it is not clear from the report whether only six businesses were closed down.
Six Bahai businesses closed in Ramsar and Sari; total now 39
Bahai Community News, May 2, 2016.
On May 1, local authorities closed down one Bahai-run business in Sari and five Bahai businesses in Ramsar. Both these centres lie in the province of Mazandaran, where 12 other Bahai-run businesses have been closed in the past week. This brings the total number of Bahai businesses closed in the past month, in Iran as a whole, to 39: 16 in Qaem Shahr, two in Babol, three in Tenakabon, five in Babolsar, two in Bahnamir, five in Fereydunkenar, and the six mentioned in this new report. All the closures appear to be related to the observance of Bahai festival days of Ridvan, and are contrary to Article 23 of the Constitution which forbids investigations of individuals’ religious beliefs, and also contrary to the regulations which allow businesses (except essential services) to close for 15 days per year without notifying the authorities.
According to a HRANA report, all the closures have been done in the absence of the owners, without written notice or informing the trades guild in advance. In Qaemshahr, authorities have told the Bahais that they cannot be accepted as residents and their businesses would be shut down, because they are Bahais and therefore have security files. One interesting aspect is that the Office of Public Places in Babolsar had told the Bahai businesses there that they would not be closed if they left their lights burning or the shop shutters raised during the Bahai Holy Days. It is not clear whether they complied (there is no reason why they should not) and were shut down anyway, or if they failed to comply. However this does suggest that the issue for the local authorities in Babolsar is that, on Bahai Holy Days, there should be no obvious sign in the commercial district of the number of Bahai-run businesses in the town. In other towns however, the closures are part of a general pattern of persecuting the Bahais at any opportunity. In 1934, when the Shah wished to close down the Bahai schools in Iran, he used the observance of Bahai Holy Days as an excuse.
Summary of new businesses closures in Mazandaran province
Bahai News (Persian), May 2, 2016.
Five Bahai-run businesses in the city of Babolsar, on the Caspian coast in Iran’s Mazandaran Province, were shut down by the local authorities on May 1. Seven other Bahai-run businesses in neighbouring areas were also closed. In Babolsar the Office of Public Places closed five Bahai businesses: an optician’s workshop belonging to Farshid Hekmat Sho`ar (فرشيد حكمت شعار), a computer workshop run by Karen Momtazeyan (كارن ممتازيان), a tailor’s shop run by `Erfan Ma`sumeyan (عرفان معصوميان), a tailor’s shop run by Afshin Azadi (افشين آزادي), and a photography studio run by Shahin Sana`i (شاهين سنائي). In the district of Bahnamir, a little inland of Babolsar, they closed another two businesses: a bicycle assembly shop belonging to Faizullah Nikunejad (فيض الله نيكونژاد) and a household appliance workshop run by Ahmad Nikunejad (احمد نيكونژاد). In Fereydunkenar, a coastal place near Babolsar, they closed an optician’s workshop belonging to Babak Wada`i (بابك وداعي). None of these closures have been previously reported on Sen’s Daily.
In Tonekabon, another coastal city 3 hours West of Babolsar, authorities closed five Bahai-run businesses: a security alarm system run by Omid Qaderi (امید قادری), a home appliances shop run by Armin Esma`ilpour (آرمین اسماعیل پور), an airconditioning service shop run by Ruhollah Eqani (روح الله ایقانی) and a refrigerator shop run by Michelle Esma`ilpour (میشل اسماعیل پو). The recent closure of two other Bahai-run businesses in Tonekabon, both home appliance shops, run by Mr. Mehryar Lotfi (مهریار لطفی) and Mr. Soroush Garshasbi (سروش گرشاسبی), has already been reported here.
In Babol, which lies half an hour inland of Babolsar, authorities closed two Bahai-run businesses: a staionary shop run by Baha’addin Samimi (بهاءالدین صمیمی) and a security alarm business run by Arash Keyan (آرش کیان). They were given a few days to close their businesses.
Another Bahai business closed down in Bandar Abbas
Bahai News (Persian), May 3, 2016.
On April 27, the Supervisors of Public Places in Bandar Abbas went to all the Bahai-run businesses still operating in the city and told them they must not close on the coming Holy Days for the Bahai festival of Ridvan. On the same day they told Mr. [?] Gamrun (گامرون), who runs an optician’s shop, that the shop would be closed. Three other Bahai-run optician shops in Bandar Abbas have been closed in recent months.
The shutting of Bahai optician’s shops probably relates to a common superstition in Iran, that Bahais are “unclean,” and must therefore be excluded from providing personal services. However authorities in Bandar Abbas have also shut down some elevator installation and service companies belonging to Bahais.
Reports indicate that most of the anti-Bahai activity in Bandar Abbas is initiated by a Captain Hassan Zand (سروان حسن زند) who heads the Office of Public Places, with the support of the Ministry of Intelligence. Beginning some years ago, he has been investigating the religious beliefs and personal lives of the Bahais, with the purpose of persuading them to leave Iran. He was one of those who, in past years, focussed on the business activities of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani ( عطاءالله رضوانی ), who was martyred in Bandar Abbas two years ago. On several occasions he threatened to close Mr. Rezvani’s business and inhibit his business activitiies, and did indeed stop the family’s business activities for a period after the killing. One of the optician’s shops that has been closed down was run by Mr. Reavani’s son.
Two Bahai businesses closed in Tonekabon
Campaign against the harassment of Bahais, April 30, 2016.
On April 28, local authorities in Tonekabon acting on a court order closed two Bahai-run businesses because they had not opened for business on the Bahai Holy Day. The two shops, both selling home appliances, were run by Mr. Mehryar Lotfi (مهریار لطفی) and Mr. Soroush Garshasbi (سروش گرشاسبی).
Trial of Hamed bin Haydara in Yemen suspended for two months
Bazdasht, April 25, 2016.
At the initial hearing of the case against Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara, a Yemeni Bahai of Persian background, the Prosecutor asked for another two months to prepare the case, which was granted. Mr. bin Haydara has returned to prison in Sanaa. Although his health is deteriorating, bail was denied, and the Judge said the limited medical facilities within the prison would suffice. He has been charged with collaborating with Israel by working for the Universal House of Justice, the Bahai supreme governing institution, which is based in Haifa, Israel. They also allege that he lured potential Muslim converts to the Bahai faith through charitable giving and tried to establish a homeland for the followers of the Bahai faith in Yemen. A previous report on this blog contains further details.
Kamran Morteza’i released from prison
Bahai News (Persian), April 24, 2016.
Kamran Morteza’i-Farid (کامران مرتضایی فرید), a former teacher at the Bahai Open University in Iran, has was released at the end of a five-year sentence for his educational activies on April 24. He has served an entire five-year sentence in Raja’i Shahr prison without a day of prison furlough. Mr. Morteza’i, now 63 years old, was one of the Bahais in Tehran, Zahedan, Sari, Isfahan and Shiraz who were arrested en masse in May, 2011. Those arrested were academic staff and support staff of the Bahai Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), a Bahai-run distance learning university that provides internationally accredited university education to Iranian Bahais, who are excluded from tertiary education in Iran. He was sentenced to five years in prison for his role in educating the Bahais by Judge Moqayesseh (قاضی مقیسه, also spelled محمد مقیسهای).
Two Bahai-run businesses closed in Babol
Human Rights in Iran, April 22, 2016.
Two Bahai-run businesses in Babol were closed by the authorities on April 20. And in Qaem-Shahr, the number of Bahai-run businesses closed by authorities on the same day, previously reported at 15, has been corrected to 16. The closures apparently relate to the observance of a Bahai Holy day on April 20.
Fifteen Bahai businesses closed in Qa’em Shahr
Bahai News, April 20, 2016.
Fifteen Bahai-run businesses in Qaem Shahr have been shut down by the authorities because they were closed for the Bahai holy day of the first day of Ridvan. In recent years the local departments of public places in Iran have closed down many of the small workshops and shops on which Bahais must rely for their income, since they are barred from employment in the civil service and in many economic sectors. Bahais are also barred from running businesses in sectors that involve contact with food or personal services, in line with a commonly held superstition in Iran, that Bahais are “unclean.”
Bahai student expelled from university in Kashan
Campaign against the harassment of Bahais, April 19, 2016.
Sara Shakib (سارا شکیب), a student of Statistics and Applications at the Kashan campus of Iran’s National University, has been expelled because of her Bahai beliefs. She said that initially the Student Welfare officer told her that University officials had realized that she was a Bahai. He said that the Chancellor’s office did not understand [what to do] and had not expelled her, but she should move from the student hostel, where fellow-students had reported to the administration that she was a Bahai. Given that she came from Isfahan, he suggested that she should transfer to the University there. But when she asked about it at the hostel, they offered to write a joint letter to the Administration on her behalf. She submitted an application to transfer to Isfahan. A few weeks later the University’s security office summoned her and asked her to write that she was a Bahai. She said she had no reason to, as she was at the university only for education. They asked her to write that she was a Muslim, and she again refused. Then the head of security came and told her that the Revolutionary Council had decided that Bahais did not have the right to tertiary education. She replied that there was nothing about that in the University’s registration form. He said, “But you are expelled anyway.” They took her student ID, and a few days later the gates of the university were closed to her, and she was told that the other branches of the University had been informed. Later the University sent a notification that she had been transferred to the Isfahan campus, but the security office there told her she had been barred from tertiary education because of her religious beliefs.
BIHE teacher Faran Hesami released after 4-year sentence
Bahai News (video in Persian), April 15, 2016.
Faran Hesami ( فاران حسامی ), one of the imprisoned teachers from the Bahai Open University (BIHE) was released from Evin Prison in Tehran today, at the end of a four-year sentence for educational activities.
Mrs. Hesami and her husband Kamran Rahimiyan (کامران رحیمیان) were arrested in September 2011. Both were charged with membership of the Bahai community and assembly and collusion to undermine national security in relation to their work for the Bahai Open University, which offered courses to Bahai students who had been excluded from Iranian tertiary institutions because of their Bahai beliefs. Both received four-year sentences, handed down by Judge Salvati (قاضی ابوالقاسم صلواتی). As Mr. Rahimiyan began his sentence earlier, he was released on August 17, 2015. In March 2015, Mrs. Hesami was awarded the Raha Südwind Award which honours individuals who have participated in the promotion and protection of human rights in Iran.
Ramin Aidalkhani’s exile ends
Bahai News Today (Persian), April 11, 2016.
The internal exile of Ramin Aidalkhani ( رامین ایدلخانی ), a Bahai from the city of Parsabad in Ardabil province (the extreme northern tip of Iran, on the Azerbaijan border), ended on April 11. Mr Aidalkhani and his wife `Ahdieh Rashediyyehrad, ( عهدیه راشدی راد ) were arrested in Parsabad on May 11, 2010. Mrs. Rashediyyehrad was released on bail 10 days later, and was eventually tried and acquitted. Mr. Aidalkhani was sentenced in Ardabil on September 20, 2011, to two years in prison, on charges of propaganda against the regime and insulting the Supreme Leader, to be followed by a 5-year exile from Ardabil province. He began his sentence on August 21, 2012. In June 2013 he was transferred unexpectedly from Parsabad prison to Meshginshahr prison, in a town some 200 kilometres south of Parsabad but still within Ardabil province. During his time in prison, his sentence was reduced to one year in prison. It would appear that his term of exile was also reduced, from 60 months to 32 months. When his prison term ended, security officers took him in a vehicle and left him on the side of the road, leaving him to make his own way to the city of Ahar in Eastern Azerbaijan. It is approximately 70 kilometers from Meshginshahr to Ahar, and the provincial boundary is about halfway along this road.
Soroush Shadabi free on bail
Bahai News (Persian), April 10, 2016.
Soroush Shadabi (سروش شادابی), a Bahai from Karaj, near Tehran, has been released on bail. His arrest on March 11, and the closure of his business, is assumed to be related to the arrest on March 8 of three young Bahais who have been excluded from tertiary education. They were held in Evin Prison, and released on bail on March 15. The report does not indicate where Mr. Shadabi was detained: in the circumstances it is very likely to have been Evin Prison.
Behzad Dhabihi summoned again
HRANA, April 6, 2016.
On April 4, Behzad Dhabihi (بهزاد ذبیحی), a Bahai from Sari, was summoned to the police station and interrogated in relation to a new accusation that is being developed against him. Mr. Dhabihi has been arrested four times in the past five years, and shops he ran have been shut down three times in the same period. This time, the case is said to have been initiated by a complaint from the electricity supply authority. His most recent arrest was on March 8, 2016, when he was held for 7 days before being released on bail. At the time of his arrest, he was charged with “propaganda against the regime” but at the court sitting the charges were presented as “propaganda against Islam and the Quran.” On February 22 this year, his shop in Sari was closed by the authorities, and remains closed despite efforts to reopen it.
American NSA changes ruling on voting in primaries
Editorial, April 7, 2016.
A letter issued by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States on April 5 corrects its previous ruling of March 8, which stated, “nor should we, even as an ‘independent,’ vote in primaries — the purpose of which is to elect delegates to political conventions.” This ruling has now been rescinded in view of a letter from the Universal House of Justice which states that:
A Baha’i may not vote in a primary election if in order to do so he or she must declare membership or affiliation with, or support for, a particular political party. But if the ballot is secret, a Baha’i is free to vote in any political election provided that he does not, by doing so, identify himself with any political party and bears in mind that he is voting on the merits of the individual rather than because he belongs to one party or another.
The National Spiritual Assembly concludes that “Individual Baha’is … bear the responsibility of researching the election laws in their particular electoral district to determine whether or not the above-mentioned criteria have been met and may vote their consciences as they see fit.”
Two students expelled from Urumiyyeh University for Bahai beliefs
Campaign against the harassment of Bahais, April 5, 2016.
Sara Penahi (سحر پناهی) and Navid Moqaddam ( نوید مقدم) have been expelled from the Payam-e Nour University’s campus in Urumiyyeh (aka Urmia or Orumiyeh). Miss Penahi was in the fifth term of a degree in Persian Literature, and Mr. Moqaddam was in the fifth term of a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Both are also banned from further tertiary study.
Sarmad Shadabi, Tara Houshmand and Rouhiyyeh Safajou bailed
Sarmad Shadabi, Tara Houshmand and Rouhiyyeh Safajou (تارا هوشمند، سرمد شادابی و روحیه صفاجو) have been released on bail after 20 days in Evin Prison in Tehran. Mr. Sarmad Shadabi’s bail was set at 200 million tumans (600 Euros, $660 US) while bail for Ms. Houshmand and Safajou was 50 million tumans each. These three students, expelled from tertiary education for their religious beliefs, had all tried to pursue their supposed right to education using legal means. They were arrested in Tehran and the nearby city of Karaj on March 8. Soroush Shadabi (سروش شادابی), a Bahai from Karaj, was arrested on March 11, and his business was shut down. This appears to be related to the other three arrests. He remains in prison.
Mehran Eslami released in Yazd
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), March 15, 2016.
Mehran Eslami (مهران اسلامی) has been released from prison in Yazd, having completed his one-year sentence. He is one of 20 Bahais who were arrested in central Iran in August 2012: 10 in Yazd and Isfahan and 10 others in towns and cities such as Shahin Shahr, Vila Shahr, Arak and Kerman. He began his sentence on April 4, 2015, and was released on March 14, 2016.
Behzad Dhabihi still in solitary, despite bail
Human Rights in Iran, March 14, 2016.
Behzad Dhabihi (بهزاد ذبیحی) is still being held in solitary confinement in the Ministry of Intelligence detention facility in Sari, although bail has been granted and paid. He was arrested on February 22, and detained by the Ministry in solitary confinement, although bail of 50 million tumans (31,000 euros, $41,000 US) has been posted, apparently because of administrative delays in registering the collateral. At the time of his arrest his home was searched and his place of business closed down, for the third time in recent years. On January 30, 2011, when agents from the Ministry of Intelligence searched his home and business, seized some personal effects and closed his business. He is also reported to have been arrested in March 2011 and April 2012, and released on bail after a period in detention. Because Bahais are barred from most professions and from regular employment in most economic sectors in Iran, a large portion run small businesses, which are subject to arbitrary closure by the authorities.
Three Bahai students held in Evin prison to be tried
Bahai News, March 15, 2016.
Mr. Sarmad Shadabi (سرمد شادابی), one of three Bahai students arrested in Tehran and Karaj on March 8, and held in Evin Prison, has had telephone contact with his family. They report that he and the other two students, Tara Houshmand (تارا هوشمند) and Rouhiyyeh Safajou (روحیه صفاجو) have been told their interrogation is complete and they will be tried next Tuesday. [I assume this means March 15: at the time of writing it was March 14 in Iran, March 15 in New Zealand where I am ~ sen] These three students, expelled from tertiary education for their religious beliefs, had all tried to pursue their supposed right to education using legal means. The details are in a previous posting on this blog.
Shahram Eshraqi ill in prison in Isfahan
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), March 14, 2016.
Shahram Eshraqi (شهرام اشراقی), a Bahai who is serving a 3-year sentence in Block 3 of Isfahan Prison, has been denied medical treatment although he suffers from a serious respiratory illness. He is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, and served in the front lines. This is the fourth time he has gone to prison for his Bahai beliefs. He is one of 20 Bahais who were sentenced to a total of 78 years in prison by a court in Yazd in April, 2014, and began his sentence in Isfahan on October 11, 2015. He has had health problems because of prison conditions, and his health deteriorated after he was transferred to Block 3, where conditions are particularly bad. He began to suffer from fluid in the lungs and a constant fever. In addition to being refused treatment in prison, he has been denied leave for the Naw Ruz holiday, on the grounds that he was charged with a “security” offence.
Shahram Eshraqi ill in prison in Isfahan
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), March 14, 2016.
Shahram Eshraqi (شهرام اشراقی), a Bahai who is serving a 3-year sentence in Block 3 of Isfahan Prison, has been denied medical treatment although he suffers from a serious respiratory illness. He is a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, and served in the front lines. This is the fourth time he has gone to prison for his Bahai beliefs. He is one of 20 Bahais who were sentenced to a total of 78 years in prison by a court in Yazd in April, 2014, and began his sentence in Isfahan on October 11, 2015. He has had health problems because of prison conditions, and his health deteriorated after he was transferred to Block 3, where conditions are particularly bad. He began to suffer from fluid in the lungs and a constant fever. In addition to being refused treatment in prison, he has been denied leave for the Naw Ruz holiday, on the grounds that he was charged with a “security” offence.
Another arrest in Karaj
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), March 11, 2016.
Soroush Shadabi (سروش شادابی), a Bahai from Karaj, near Tehran, was arrested on March 11, and his business was shut down. This follows the arrest of three young Bahais who have been excluded from tertiary education on March 8, in Tehran and Karaj, and the new arrest is assumed to be related. One of those arrested on March 8 was Mr. Sarmad Shadabi (سرمد شادابی). All three are being detained in Evin Prison in Tehran.
Four more Bahais arrested in Iran
Bahai News (Persian, facebook), March 10, 2016.
On March 8, four more Bahais were arrested simultaneously in Tehran, Karaj and Sari. Their names are given as Tara Houshmand (تارا هوشمند), Rouhiyyeh Safajou (روحیه صفاجو) and Sarmad Shadabi(سرمد شادابی), in Tehran and the nearby city of Karaj, and Behzad Dhabihi (بهزاد ذبیحی) in Sari. It is not known where they are being detained.
Tara Houshmand was arrested by security agents in her home in Tehran, which was searched. Her personal effects including a computer, a mobile phone and books were seized. She was one of a group of Bahais excluded from education who responded to a claim made in 2014, by Mohammad Javad Larijani, Head of the Human Rights Council of the Judiciary, that Iranian authorities do not discriminate against Bahais, and challenging the Bahais excluded from education to send documentation. The Bahai students took their documentation to the authorities as requested, thus exposing Mr. Larijani’s lie. The story is detailed here.
Mr. Sarmad Shadabi was arrested at the Roudehen campus of the Islamic Free University, near Tehran. He was a signatory of a letter about the breaches of Bahais’ civil rights, written to a Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights. An interview with him, about his expulsion from University, was cited on the BBC Persian service.
Rouhiyyeh Safajou was arrested by 8 security agents posing as workers from the gas supply company. When she opened the door to them, they entered and searched her home, and took her away. She is also a student excluded from education. She was one of a group of Bahai students excluded from tertiary education who met with Ali Reza Mahjoub (علیرضا محجوب), a reformist Member of Parliament, to argue for the right of education. The meeting was reported on this blog in September 2014.
No details are available on the arrest of Behzad Dhabihi in Sari, but it appears to be unrelated to the arrest of the three students. Mr Dhabihi, who name was spelled Zabihi in a previous Iran Wire report, managed one of the three Bahai-run optometry businesses in Sari which were closed in November, 2015. At that time the Bureau of Public Places in the Province of Mazandaran shut down 23 businesses belonging to Bahais in the cities of Sari, Qa`em Shahr, Tenakbon and Babolsar.
Update, March 14: Human Rights in Iran reports that Rouhiyyeh Safajou is being held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, and has had contact by telephone with her family, in which she said that she is well.
Peyman Koushk-Baghi arrested in Tehran
Bahai News (Persian, facebook), February 29, 2016.
Peyman Koushk-Baghi (پیمان کوشکباغی), who has also been sentenced to five years in prison for cooperation with BIHE, has been arrested in Tehran. He was visiting his wife Azita Rafizadeh (آزیتا رفیعزاده), who is serving a four-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison for her own work in educating Bahai youth. He was arrested in front of the East gate to Evin prison, and his present whereabouts are unknown. Azita Rafizadeh began her sentence on October 19, 2015. The couple have a six-year-old son.
Azita Rafizadeh was tried by Judge Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court in June 2014, and her husband Peyman Koushk-Baghi was separately tried by him in May 2015. Moghisseh sentenced them respectively to four and five years in prison for “membership in the illegal and misguided Baha’i group with the aim of acting against national security through illegal activities at the BIHE educational institute.” The Appeals Court upheld their prison sentences.
In an earlier interview, Azita Rafizadeh said, “I was one of the BIHE professors when the homes of professors of this online university were stormed in June of 2010. … The news was widely reported. They came to our house with a warrant to arrest me and my husband. They searched the house and interrogated us. They asked us to promise not to work for the BIHE. If we had agreed, the case would have been closed, as was the case for a few others. But my husband and I did not agree. So they only let us go temporarily on 50-million-tuman [approximately $16,700] bail.”
Short link: http://wp.me/pNMoJ-2zZ
Farhnaz Mithaqian released in Yazd
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), February 26, 2016.
Farhnaz Mithaqian (فرحناز میثاقیان), a Bahai from Yazd, was released from prison in the city on February 25, at the end of a one-year sentence (with an additional one-year suspended sentence). She is one of 20 Bahais who were arrested in central Iran in August 2012, and began her sentence on April 6, 2015.
Another Bahai student expelled in Miandoab
Bahai News, February 24, 2016.
Arezu Iqani-Qajalu (آرزو ایقانی قجلو ), a Bahai student entering the last semester of a degree in Islamic Law and Jurisprudence at the Payam-e Nour University in Miandoab because of her Bahai beliefs. At the time when students select their courses for their graduation semester, they receive an overview of their status. In her case it read, “barred from tertiary education.” Arezu Iqani received a law degree from the Bahai Open University (BIHE) three years earlier.
Two more Bahai students expelled in recent weeks
Bahai News, two reports, compiled February 18, 2016.
Bahai News (February 5) also reports the expulsion of Basir Ibrahimi (بصیر ابراهیمی) from the Allameh Mohaddes University in the city of Nur in Mazandaran. He had studied architecture for four months.
Seven Bahis in Isfahan ‘tried’ without their knowledge
Human Rights in Iran, February 16, 2016.
Seven Bahais from Isfahan who were among those arrested in raids in Tehran, Isfahan and Mashhad on November 15, 2015, have been “tried” in Isfahan, without their knowledge, without legal representation, and apparently without charges. evidence or defence. It would appear they have been found guilty. The lawyer acting for one of the Bahais went to the court, and was told that the trial had already been held and the sentences of the seven Bahais would be announced within the next few days.
Those arrested in Isfahan in November 2015 are Yeganeh Agahi (یگانه آگاهی), Adib Janamian (ادیب جانمیان), Keyvan Nik-A’in (کیوان نیک آیین), Parvin Nik-A’in(پروین نیک آیین), Vahid Karami (وحید کرمی), `Arsheya Rouhani (عرشیا روحانی) and Zarin Aqa-Baba’i (زرین آقابابایی). It is not certain that the present report relates to exactly the same seven persons.
Sina Ravankard released from Yasouj prison
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), February 16, 2016.
Sina Ravankard (سینا روانکرد), a Bahai who has been serving a three-month sentence in Yasouj prison, was released on February 15 or 16. He was one of seven Bahais arrested in various cities of Iran on July 26, 2011. He began his sentence on January 13, 2016. His release after just over one month presumably takes account of the time he was held during interrogations, since he and the other seven Bahais arrested with him was at first sent to Evin Prison, where he was held for two months before being released on bail pending his trial. The other Bahais arrested with him were acquitted (an event almost unheard-of in Iran, before or after the Revolution), while Mr. Ravankard was sentenced to one year in prison, later reduced to three months, and fined approximately $300.
Bahai-run optometry business closed in Isfahan
Bahai News (facebook, Persian), February 7, 2016.
An optometry business in Isfahan, run by two Bahais, was shut down by agents from the Ministry of the Interior on February 6 or 7. The business, run by Mehrdad Haqiqi (مهرداد حقیقی) and Kouroush Pirjamali (کوروش پیرجمالی), provided sales and service for lenses. The agents showed a warrant from the Isfahan Provincial Prosecutor, but did not provide a copy. The two Bahais had previously been interrogated twice by security agents, and their premises were searched and their personal property, books and pictures related to the Bahai community were seized.
In the past few days, the Vice President of the Iranian Optometry Association announced that Bahais are involved in manufacturing and importing glasses, and have an active presence in this industry. However there is no direct linkage between this announcement and the closing of the business in Isfahan. Under Iran’s apartheid policy, Bahais are banned from government jobs and numerous industries, but the list of sectors from which Bahais are banned is formally a secret, and the list changes from time to time. On May 19, 2015, Saham News published a copy of the previously secret list of sectors from which Bahais are banned (by that time the list was already five years old, and incomplete). It says that Bahais may not work in cultural, educational or financial institutions, and are not to be allowed to work in the sectors of periodicals, jewelry, watchmaking, print-making, tourist agencies, car rentals, publishing and bookshops, photography, film-making, internet gaming, computers, or internet cafes. They may not own printing works or hotels and other accommodation for travellers, or teach tailoring skills. The order refers to the widespread Iranian belief that Bahais are unclean, and requires the police bureaus to block them from restaurants, cafeterias and catering, food ingredients and foodstuff sales, takeaways (Iranian-style), cafes, butchers shops, supermarkets, the production and sale of ice-cream, fruit juice, soft drinks, pastry and sweets, and coffee. At some stage optometry was apparently added to the list, without distinguishing between import and manufacture on the one hand, and prescription and retail sales on the other hand. The latter involves personal contact and might logically be out of bounds for the “unclean” Bahais (according to this superstition), but from the description of this
business in Isfahan, it would appear the two Bahais were merely grinding lenses.
Saba Golshan returned to Isfahan prison
Campaign against the harassment of Bahais, February 8, 2016.
Mr. Saba Golshan ( صبا گلشن ), a Bahai from Isfahan who is serving a 3-year sentence for his Bahai beliefs, has been taken from hospital to prison although his treatment was not complete. He has been granted a 2-month medical furlough for surgery and other treatment, and a request to extend this leave was refused.
On August 1, 2011, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence raided many Bahai homes in the cities of Yazd , Isfahan, Kerman and Arak, and arrested 17 Bahais. Two weeks later, three more Bahais were arrested in Yazd. These 20 Bahais have been given sentences totaling 58 years (or 78 years, of which 20 years are suspended sentences). Mr. Golshan’s sentence is 4 years, of which one year is suspended. He began his sentence on August 12, 2015. His name is reported by “Campaign” as Sahba Golshan (صهبا گلشن).
Khosro Dehqani released early in Isfahan
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), February 1, 2016.
In the latest of a series of early releases of Bahai prisoners, Khosro Dehqani (خسرو دهقانی ) has been released in Isfahan, after serving less than a year of a three-year sentence. He began his sentence on March 3, 2015. He is one of 20 Bahais who were arrested in central Iran in August 2012, and given sentences ranging from one to 4 years by the Revolutionary Court in Yazd. They were charged with propaganda against the regime and participation in Bahai community activities. Two of this group, Shahram Falah (شهرام فلاح) and Navid Haqiqi Najafabadi (نوید حقیقی نجف آبادی) were released in January 2017, although they had served less than one year of their 3-year sentences.
It is not clear that the early releases indicate a change in policy regarding the oppression of the Bahais in Iran. It could also be due to overcrowding in the jail in Isfahan, or the need to empty prisons in preparation for the coming elections, or that the policy is to cap the number of imprisoned Bahais at about 150 nationwide, and the recent sentencing of 24 Bahais in Gorgan requires some early releases.
Farah Baghi released in Yazd
Bahai News (Persian, facebook), January 31, 2016.
Farah Baghi (فرح باغی), a Bahai from Yazd who has been sentenced to one year in prison and a one-year suspended sentence, was released from prison in Yazd on January 30. She began her sentence on February 10, 2015. She was one of a group of 20 Bahais who were arrested in Yazd, Isfahan, Kerman, Arak and neighbouring areas in August 2012. Three of this group, Shahram Falah (شهرام فلاح) and Navid Haqiqi Najafabadi (نوید حقیقی نجف آبادی) and Tahereh Reza’i ( طاهره رضایی ) were released in January 2017, although they had served much less than their sentences.
Tahereh Reza’i released from prison
Bahai News (Persian, facebook), January 25, 2016.
Mrs. Tahereh Reza’i ( طاهره رضایی ) was freed from prison in Isfahan on January 25 under parole regulations. She is one of 20 Bahais who were arrested in central Iran August 2012: 10 in Yazd and Isfahan and 10 others in towns and cities such as Shahin Shahr, Vila Shahr, Arak and Kerman. They received prison sentences ranging from one year to four years. Mrs. Reza’i began her sentence, of one year in prison plus a one-year suspended sentence, on October 19, 2015, when she was arrested in front of her home in Isfahan and taken to prison in Yazd. She was recently transferred from Yazd to Isfahan. It is not clear why the parole regulations would be invoked so early in her sentence.
In recent months some other Bahai prisoners have been released on parole quite early in their sentences: Navid Haqiqi Najafabadi (نوید حقیقی نجف آبادی) in Arak, and Mr. Sasan Haqiri (ساسان حقیری) in Isfahan are examples. It is tempting to see a change in policy on the length of prison terms Bahais should serve, either because of the damage the persecution of Bahais does to Iran’s image in the world, or because of the need to empty prisons in preparation for the coming elections. However the long prison terms recently given to the Bahais in Gorgan suggest there is no new policy at the national level. Public Prosecutors in the regions have varying priorities, some emphasizing criminal behaviour, others concentrating on ideological purity or the suppression of religious minorities.
Another Bahai student expelled in Tehran
Campaign against the Harassment of Bahais, January 21, 2016.
Ma`ideh Khalili-Amiri (مائده خلیلی امیری) has been expelled from Tehran University because of her Bahai beliefs. She was enrolled at the University for four months. In conversation with the “Campaign” she said that one day in religion class she was told to report to the University’s central office. She did not do so, and was summoned by telephone to the University’s Office of Student Cultural Affairs. There she was told that she had been accused of propaganda (teaching the Bahai Faith) and would need to get a certificate from the office of student evaluations. When she went there, she was told she had been expelled from the beginning (of her enrollment). She asked why they had summoned her then, and they replied that they had no summoned her, she came herself. After following this up in the course of day, I said that I would not go anywhere until they gave me something in writing, and I sent to the official responsible for expelling students. He (or she) said, “You people always pretend not to understand. Anyway, the right to education only applies to secondary schools,” and so on. I said that the Constitution says that everyone has a right to education. He said, “there are other laws that contradict that.” I said, “How can another law be contrary to the Constitution?” He said, “You are living in a Muslim country, so it is possible.”
Sina Ravankard begins 3-month prison sentence
Iran Press Watch, January 23, 2016.
According to Baha’i News (Persian) and sources close to Sina Ravankard, the Revolutionary Court of Yasouj had summoned Mr. Ravankard on multiple occasions, over the past year. He was able to reduce his one-year sentence to three months. On January 13, 2016, he was transferred to Yasouj prison to begin his sentence. According to the sources, he has been fined approximately $300, as well. He was one of seven Bahais arrested in various cities of Iran on July 26, 2011.
Afif Na`imi again refused medical treatment, returned to prison
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), January 27, 2016.
Prison authorities have again refused to extend the medical treatment of Afif Na`imi (عفیف نعیمی), a Bahai prisoner of conscience held in Raja’i Shahr prison, and one of the seven Yaran (national facilitators for the Bahai community in Iran). On January 24 he was taken from the hospital in Tehran to prison, although his medical treatment is incomplete. On several occasions now, he has been taken from prison to a heart disease hospital in Tehran for treatment, only to be returned to prison with the treatment incomplete. His health problems are described as “severe,” and the prison’s Medical Examiner has determined that he is not fit for prison because of his failing health. His case has gone three times to medical boards supervised by the Medical Examiner and the Public Prosecutor, and these have found him unfit for prison. In view of his chronic bad health, the Public Prosecutor’s office has given the prison authorities permission to take Mr. Na`imi to hospital when necessary, without prior permission from the Public Prosecutor.
Mr. Na`imi was arrested in May 2008 together with six other “Yaran.” They were charged with “formation of the Baha’i sect” and “spying for Israel,” and given 20-year prison sentences, recently reduced to 10 years, although it is inherently improbable that the Israeli security services would recruit the seven most high-profile Bahais as spies (Bahais are under constant surveillance, and are excluded from work in the civil services, armed forces and many other sectors), and no evidence of this “spying” was produced.
24 Bahais in Gorgan sentenced to a total of 193 years in prison
Bahai News (Persian, facebook), January 26, 2016.
The court in Gorgan which has been hearing the cases of small groups of Bahais since April 25, 2015, has issued sentences in 24 cases, sending these Bahais to prison for 193 years, collectively. These sentences are one of the heaviest rulings issued in the past few years, for Bahais. The names and sentences of these 24 Bahais are listed below:
Shahnam Jadhbani ( شهنام جذبانی ) from Minudasht and Shayda Qodousi (شيدا قدوسي) from Gorgan were each sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Farah Tebyanian (فرح تبيانيان), Puna Sana’i ( پونه ثنایی), Mona Amri Hesari (مونا امري حصاري), Behnam Hassani (بهنام حسني), Parisa Shahidi ( پریسا شهیدی ), Mojdeh Zouhori (مژده ظهوري), Parivash Shoja`i ( پریوش شجاعی ), Tina Mauhabati ( تینا موهبتی ) and Hana Aqiqiyan (هنا عقیقیان) from Gorgan; Shohreh Samimi (شهره صمیمی) from Minudasht; Bita Hedayati (بيتا هدايتي), Vesaq Sana’i ()وثاق سنايي and Hana Kushkabaghi ( هنا کوشکباغی ) from Gonbad-e Qabus were each sentenced to 9 years in prison.
Rufeya Pakzadan ( روفیا پاکزادان), Soudabeh Mehdinezhad ( سودابه مهدی نژاد ), Mitra Nouri ( میترا نوری ), Shiva Rouhani ( شیوا روحانی ), Houshmand Dehqan (هوشمند دهقان), Mariyam Dehqan (مريم دهقان) and Nazi Tahqiqi (نازي تحقیقی) from Gorgan, along with Kamelia Bideli (کاملیا بیدلی) and Navid Moalemi (نوید معلمی) from Minudasht were each sentenced to 6 years in prison.
These sentences will be reviewed by the Provincial court of review. Three of the women sentenced now have husbands who are already in prison, and who have not been allowed any prison furlough. Their husbands were in a group of seven Bahai men from Gorgan who were sentenced in May 2013. Punah Sana’i is the sister, and Farah Sana’i is the wife, of Fahrmand Sana’i (فرهمند سنایی), who was sentenced to five years; Parisa Shahidi is the wife of Kamal Kashani (کمال کاشانی), also sentenced to five years; and Mojdeh Zouhori is the wife of Farhad Fahandezh (فرهاد فهندژ), who was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Among the 24 Bahais sentenced on this occasion, Shohreh Samimi is the wife of Shahnam Jadhbani), and Kamelia Bideli is the wife of Navid Moalemi.
Bahai shop window broken in Aq Qala city
Campaign against the harassment of Bahais, January 21, 2016.
In the early hours of January 21, unknown people broke the show window of a Bahai-run shop selling wedding dress accessories in the town of Aq Qala, about 15 kilometers from Gorgan, in Golestan province. The shop has previously been closed by the local authorities several times because its owner, Neda `Abdeyan ندا عبدیان) is a Bahai. Because Bahais are considered “unclean” they are bared from working in a variable list of economic sectors. Mrs `Abdeyan previously ran the same shop as a beauty salon, and when the local authorities decided that a Bahai could not work in that sector, she changed her line of business and re-opened the shop.
On May 19, 2015, Saham News published a copy of the previously secret list of sectors from which Bahais are banned (by that time the list was already five years old, and incomplete). It says that Bahais may not work in cultural, educational or financial institutions, and are not to be allowed to work in the sectors of periodicals, jewelry, watchmaking, print-making, tourist agencies, car rentals, publishing and bookshops, photography, film-making, internet gaming, computers, or internet cafes. They may not own printing works or hotels and other accommodation for travellers, or teach tailoring skills. The order refers to the widespread Iranian belief that Bahais are unclean, and requires the police bureaus to block them from restaurants, cafeterias and catering, food ingredients and foodstuff sales, takeaways (Iranian-style), cafes, butchers shops, supermarkets, the production and sale of ice-cream, fruit juice, soft drinks, pastry and sweets, and coffee.
Bahai burial again impeded in Tabriz
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), January 18, 2016.
Officials at the public cemetery in Tabriz, the Wadi-ye Rahmat cemetery, have impeded the burial of Mrs. Afruz Bakhshi (افروز بخشی), who died on Friday, January 15. Siamak Shafi`i (سیامک شفیعی), the son of Mrs. Bakhshi, who is at present in Washington, told Bahai News that officials at the cemetery in Tabriz had been refusing to bury Bahais since 2012. In September 2015, a national policy was announced, that Bahais may only be buried in one designated cemetery in each province.
After the death of his mother, his father washed the body in his own home. Washing the body in a prescribed manner is part of both the Bahai and the Muslim burial rites, and is normally done in a separate washing facility on the cemetery land. Mr. Shafi`i said that he knew it was not appropriate to wash the body in the home, for psychological and health reasons, but his father and the family had no choice, as they did not wish her to be buried according to Islamic rites.
The body was then wrapped in a shroud and placed in a coffin, and the Bahai burial prayer was recited. The use of a coffin in addition to a shroud is part of the Bahai ritual, whereas in Islamic customs the coffin is used only to transport the body, which is buried in a shroud only. Next morning he went to the cemetery to bury her in the Bahai way — in a coffin — but officials at the cemetery said they could not allow a burial in a coffin,
or the performance of Bahai rituals, so the family should bury her according to Islamic rites, without the coffin. Alternatively, they could take the body to the Bahai cemetery of Urumiyyeh (aka Urmia or Orumiyeh). This isolated cemetery was vandalised in August, 2015, and it is two hour’s travel from Tabriz. The Bahai practice is to bury a body within one hour’s travel of the place of death. The officials also suggested taking the body to Miandoab, which is two and a half hours by car from Tabriz. The cemetery officials also offered to conduct the burial themselves (i.e., according to Islamic rites). The body was placed in the morgue. Mrs. Bakhshi’s husband approached various local authorities in Tabriz, but was told that the policy comes from “higher up.” When he returned empty-handed to the cemetery in Tabriz, the cemetery officials said that they would take the body to a cemetery site specifically for Bahais in Miandoab on Monday, January 18. Mr. Siamak Shafi`i said that the “Miandoab” cemetery is actually closer to Mahabad, which is three hours from Tabriz, and is a rocky place, so that a bulldozer is required to dig a grave, and the Bahais would have to travel more than two hours to take each body. The Bahais were allocated a separate cemetery so that Muslims would not be buried alongside Bahais [and also to remove the Bahai presence from a public space ~Sen]. Mr. Shafi`i said that when the bodies of deceased Bahais are taken to the “Miandoab” cemetery by city officials, their families are told they have been buried, and in some cases the Bahais know that the deceased were buried with Islamic rites. He said that officials had been doing this for more than four years now, and 47 Bahais have been buried in this way. Five years previously, his wife’s grandmother died, and become the Bahai to be excluded from the cemetery in Tabriz.
In past years [when the Bahai community in Iran was allowed to organise its affairs], his father was one of those responsible for washing and burying deceased Bahais. After the 1979 revolution in Iran, and especially in 1987, the family, who were then living in Ilkchi, suffered attacks by ‘extremist forces’ and their possessions, land and house were expropriated.
Three more Bahai students expelled
Bahai News (Persian, facebook), reports from January 13, 17 and 22.
Bahai News in Persian has reported three further expulsions of Bahai students from tertiary institutions in Iran, because of their religious beliefs. The first relates the expulsion of Mahnush Shafi`ei-Mehr (مهنوش شفیعی مهر) from the University of Samangan campus in Amol County (Mazandaran Province). The University of Samangan or Samangan Institute is a private non-profit tertiary institution. Mrs Shafi`ei-Mehr had studied Business Administration for two years, and gained a “Foundation degree,” preparatory to a Bachelor’s degree. This degree was declared void because of her Bahai beliefs.
A second report, dated January 17, relates the expulsion of Maqsud Anvari (مقصود انوری) from the University of Shahid Bahonar in Kerman because of his Bahai beliefs. When he enrolled at the University he listed his religion as “other” [because Bahai was not given as an option] but later he was required to fill in various forms by hand, and he wrote that he was a Bahai. He had completed one semester of studies in Information Technology when he was expelled.
The third report is of the expulsion of Mehrdad Dhehni-Miandoab (مهرداد ذهنی میاندوآب) from the Payam-Nur University in Miandoab, before he had actually begun lessons. He had enrolled for a course in Industrial Engineering.
Shahram Falah released early in Kerman
Bahai News (Persian, facebook), January 21, 2016.
Shahram Falah (شهرام فلاح)has been released from prison in Kerman, after serving one year of a 3-year sentence for his Bahai beliefs. He began his sentence on January 31, 2015, and was released on January 20, 2016. Navid Haqiqi Najafabadi (نوید حقیقی نجف آبادی), who began a 3-year sentence on the same day, was released on (or about) January 10. They were among 20 Bahais were arrested in central Iran in August, 2012. Mr. Haqiqi and Mr. Falah were the first two of these 20 to begin their sentences.
Puya Tabayaniyan in solitary confinement in Semnan
Bahai News, January 18, 2016.
Reports indicate that Mr. Puya Tabayaniyan (پویا تبیانیان), A Bahai who began as sentence of six and a half years in the Central Prison of Semnan on December 22, 2012, is being held in solitary confinement. The information apparently came to light after the release of Afshin Eqani (افشین ایقانی), another Bahai prisoner in Semnan, on December 25, 2015.
Mr. Tabayaniyan was arrested on March 8, 2009 and held in solitary confinement for two months, during which he was interrogated by Judge Dowlat-Khah (قاضی دولت خواه). He was sentenced to two years in prison (this report says, 2 years and 6 months), and was granted a conditional release on April 29, 2010. He was one of four Bahais who were arrested in Semnan on March 12, 2011. He released on bail on April 3, and re-arrested on June 11. This was apparently for further interrogation, as reports from that time indicate that he released ten days later, on June 21, 2011. He was charged with undermining national security and propaganda against the regime, and sentenced to six and a half years in prison by Judge `Eyn al-Kamaal (قاضی عین الکمال).
The report does not indicate why he would be held in solitary confienement, or when this began.
Another Bahai student expelled in Tehran
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), January 13, 2016.
Elham Pakru Miandavab (الهام پاکرو میاندوآب) has been expelled from the Mallard Campus of the Azad University in Tehran because of her Bahai beliefs. She had begun a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Engineering. She was summoned to the University’s security office and told she had no right to tertiary education, because she is a Bahai. She was also excluded from a private educational initiative known as “The network era” because of her religious beliefs.
Reports coming to Bahai News indicate that a number of Bahai students have been allowed to register at a university [and pay the first installment of the fees ~Sen], only to be expelled once they have been identified.
Four Bahai students expelled from Iran’s universities
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), January 11 – 12, 2016.
Bahai News reports that Shamis Pourshah-Reza’i (شمیس پورشاه رضایی) has been expelled from the Tehran Central campus of the Azad University, because she adheres to the Bahai Faith. She had filled in the word “other” in the religion column of her personal details, and entered the first term of a study of Video and Direction. When the University’s security officers enquired, she said she was a Bahai and was expelled.
Another report recounts the expulsion of Sahba Avaz-Pour (صهبا عوض پور) and Rabi` Khalili (ربیع خلیلی) from the University of Applied Sciences in Kermanshah, because of their Bahai beliefs. Both were in the first semester of their studies.
A third report from Bahai News is of the expulsion of Irsalan Mirza’i (ارسلان میرزایی), who was in the third semester of a study of Material Engineering at the Shahid Chamran University in Ahvaz.
Shamim Ruhani begins his prison sentence
Shamim Ruhani ( شمیم روحانی ), a Bahai from Ahvaz (a city in Khuzestan Province, in the Iranian part of the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates), has been taken to prison to begin his sentence. He was arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on November 5, 2013, along with a number of Bahais who were present in his home. The agents seized his religious books, documents, personal effects, mobile telephone and computer. All the detainees except for Mr. Ruhani were released three days later. Mr. Ruhani was held for several months before being released on bail. He was charged with propaganda against the regime and membership in Bahai organisations, and sentenced to one year in prison followed by banishment from the Province of Khuzestan for two years.
Navid Haqiqi Najafabadi released early
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), January 11, 2016.
Navid Haqiqi Najafabadi (نوید حقیقی نجف آبادی), a Bahai who has served almost one year of a 3-year sentence in Arak prison, has been released on parole. He began his sentence on January 31, 2015. The report gives no reason for his early release, but he was granted an unusually long 10-day leave from prison, which began on October 31, 2015. He is one of 20 Bahais who were arrested in central Iran in August 2012, and who have been given sentences ranging from one year to three years plus a one year suspended sentence. His father, Majid Enayatu’lah Najafabadi (مجید عنایت الله نجف آبادی) was martyred for his Bahai beliefs.
Nakisa Hajipour released
Bahai News (Persian, facebook), January 8, 2015.
Nakisa Hajipour (نکیسا حاجی پور), a Bahai from Mashhad, was released from Vakil Abad prison on January 7. Mrs. Hajipour was one of 20 Bahais arrested in Tehran, Isfahan and Mashhad on November 15, 2015. It appears she has been released on bail pending her trial.
Tahereh Reza’i transferred to prison in Isfahan
Bahai News (Persian, facebook), January 8, 2016.
Mrs. Tahereh Reza’i ( طاهره رضایی ), a Bahai from Isfahan, has been transferred from Yazd prison to Dowlat Abad prison in Yazd. She is one of 20 Bahais who were arrested in central Iran August 2012: 10 in Yazd and Isfahan and 10 others in towns and cities such as Shahin Shahr, Vila Shahr, Arak and Kerman. They received prison sentences ranging from one year to four years. Mrs. Reza’i began her sentence, of one year in prison plus a one-year suspended sentence, on October 19, 2015, when she was arrested in front of her home in Isfahan and taken to prison in Yazd. It would appear that the authorities in Isfahan arrested her at the request of the Provincial authorities in Yazd.
Final trial of the Gorgan Bahais
HRANA, January 3, 2016.
On December 27, 2015, the Revolutionary Court in Gorgan, in Iran’s Golestan Province, held the eighth and last in a series of trials of the Bahais who were arrested in the Province in October, 2012, and later released on bail. The trials are being conducted by Judge Qanbari (قاضی قنبری). On this ocassion the Bahais on trial were Puna Sana’i ( پونه ثنایی), Sheyda Qadusi (شیدا قدوسی) and Hana Kushkabaghi ( هنا کوشکباغی ). As in the seventh trial, on November 18, 2015, the defendants were not summoned and were not present at the closed trial, but they and their lawyers had been given an opportunity to present a defence [in writing]. In the seventh trial, which was not reported on Sen’s Daily, the accused were Meriam Dehqan (مریم دهقان), Houshmand Dehqan (هوشمند دهقان) and Kamelia Bideli (کاملیا بیدلی). In the past year about 20 Bahais from Gorgan have been tried, two or three at a time, on charges such as propaganda against the regime, undermining national security, and membership and participation in Bahai religious activities. The sentences have not been announced [a ‘guilty’ verdict may be assumed, as Bahais are never “not guilty” in Iranian courts].
Gudarz Bidaqi completes his third prison term
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), January 2, 2016.
Gudarz Bidaqi (گودرز بیدقی), a Bahai from Mehdishahr in Iran’s Semnan Province, was released from the Central Prison in Semnan on January 1, at the end of a four-month sentence. His imprisonment was not previously reported on Sen’s Daily. This is the third prison sentence he has served because of his Bahai beliefs. From July 2012 to May 2013, he and his daughter Roufiya Bidaqi ( روفیا بیدقی ) were imprisoned in Semnan on charges of propaganda against the regime and participation in Bahai activities. The family’s business was closed by the authorities in March 2011. Mr. Bidaqi’s first imprisonment followed the 1979 revolution. He is now over 64 years old.
Parvaneh Rahmani free on bail
Bahai News(Persian, facebook), January 1, 2016.
Parvaneh Rahmani-Ra’ufi (پروانه رحمانی رئوفی), a Bahai from Sanandaj, has been released on bail. She was arrested in her home on December 19, 2015, when her home was also searched.
On September 8, 2015, her husband Dhabihullah Ra’ufi ( ذبیح الله رئوفی ) was arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence, and their home was searched. He is also free on bail, but after his release some of his non-Bahai contacts were detained and lodged personal complaints against him. One of these contacts said that while he was detained at the Ministry of Intelligence office he was threatened with charges of apostasy, which carries the death sentence, but promised freedom if he lodged a complaint against the Bahais (full report here).
For older news, see the “old news” archive.