Sen's daily

News to February 1

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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.

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