Sonya Ahmadi returns to prison in Mashhad
HRANA, April 17, 2014
Sonya Ahmadi ( سونیا احمدی ), returned to Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad on April 17, after three months’ furlough. She began serving her 5-year sentence, on charges of teaching the Bahai Faith and membership of the Bahai community, on September 2, 2012, but she was released early on January 10, 2014, with the promise that her complete freedom would follow. However on April 10, 2014, she was telephoned to say she would have to continue serving her prison sentence. No exact reason has been given, but her family was told that the three months she had been free were permitted by the Ministry of Intelligence, but now she must complete her sentence.
Another Bahai business closed in Semnan
HRANA, April 13, 2014
An optician’s shop owned by Afrasayab Sobhani (افراسیاب سبحانی) was closed by the authorities in Semnan on April 8. No reason was given. Mr. Sobhani is serving a one-year prison term, and one of the other Bahais of Semnan has been running the business so that his family has the means of livelihood. Because of restrictions on Bahai employment and the economic sectors in which they may have businesses, a number of Bahais in Iran have opened to optician’s shops, but in recent years several of these have been closed. On November 29, 2012, another optician’s shop run by Mr. Akbar Por-hoseini ( اکبرپورحسینی ), a Bahai in Semnan, was raided. In that case, authorities not only confiscated his entire stock, valued at 2 billion rials (125,000 euros, 162,000 US dollars), he was fined 3.6 billion rials (225,000 euro, 293,000 US dollars) after a secret trial.
Bishop of Coventry welcomes Ayatollah Tehrani’s symbolic gesture
Church of England news site, April 9, 2014
The Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, has described as a ‘courageous step’, the decision by a prominent Muslim cleric in Iran to gift to the Bahai community an important religious art work, as a sign of support. Bishop Cocksworth, who is the Church of England’s lead bishop in the Lords on foreign policy, said:
“I’m heartened to learn of the recent decision by Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani to gift to the Bahais an illuminated calligraphic work from the Writings of Baha’u’llah…. Given the systemic and long standing suffering experienced by the Baha’i community in Iran, this is an imaginatively courageous step by a senior Iranian Islamic scholar.”
Bishop Christopher, who is also a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Human rights and International Religious Freedom, added:
“Ayatollah Tehrani’s action reminds us all that despite the dehumanising nature of many of today’s conflicts, religious leaders have a shared responsibility to encourage freedom of religion and belief and to foster a deeper respect for human dignity. I very much hope and pray that this generous gift will assist in the flourishing of a culture of religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence in Iran.”
Text in Persian (Mohabat News)
Another Bahai student expelled from Birjand University
HRANA, April 10, 2014
Mazyar Malaki (مازیار ملاکی), a student studying machine manufacturing at Birjand University, has been expelled because of his Bahai beliefs. He was summoned by the University’s security office and asked to sign a statement that he would not participate in Bahai activities or follow the directions of the Universal House of Justice. When he refused to sign this, he was told that he was barred from the university until further notice, and that the final decision would be communicated to him.
15 Bahais face trial in Shiraz
ILNA, April 7, 2014
Giti Pourfazel (گیتی پورفاضل), the lawyer for 15 Baha’is arrested in Shiraz in 2010, has reported that their trial is scheduled for April 28th. They have been charged with propaganda against the regime, and are presently free on bail. [The names of the 15 are not included in this report, but I assume they include Mezhdeh Falah, Eyman Rahmat-Penah, Mazhgan `Amadi, Farshid Yazdani, Sam Jaberi, Yekta Fahandezh, Sina Sarikhani, Kambiz Habibi and Kavus Samimi ( مژده فلاح، ایمان رحمت پناه، مژگان عمادی، فرشید یزدانی، سام جابری، یکتا فهندژ، کامبیز حبیبی، کاووس صمیمی، سینا ساریخانی ) ~ Sen]
Senior Iranian cleric gifts illuminated text by Baha’u’llah to the Bahai community
Bahai World News Service, April 7, 2014 (abbreviated)
In a symbolic and unprecedented move, Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani, a prominent Muslim cleric in Iran, announced today that he has gifted to the Baha’is of the world an illuminated work of calligraphy of a paragraph from Baha’u’llah’s Kitab-e Aqdas. Ayatollah Tehrani states on his website (in Persian, and translated here) that he prepared the calligraphy of the verse as a “symbolic action to serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing human beings, of peaceful coexistence, of cooperation and mutual support, and avoidance of hatred, enmity and blind religious prejudice.” Ayatollah Tehrani presents this exquisite gift to the Baha’is of the world, particularly to the Baha’is of Iran, who he says “have suffered in manifold ways as a result of blind religious prejudice.” He further states that this act is “an expression of sympathy and care from me and on behalf of all my open-minded fellow citizens.”
The excerpt that Ayatollah Tehrani chose to cite in the gift is taken from Baha’u’llah’s Kitab-i-Aqdas – “Most Holy Book”. It reads “Consort with all religions with amity and concord, that they may inhale from you the sweet fragrance of God. Beware lest amidst men the flame of foolish ignorance overpower you. All things proceed from God and unto Him they return. He is the source of all things and in Him all things are ended.”
Ms. Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community at the United Nations, called the gift “a most welcome and hopeful development with possible implications for the coexistence of the peoples of the world.” … “The Baha’i International Community is deeply touched by this act of high-mindedness and the sentiments of religious tolerance and respect for human dignity that prompted it.”
On previous occasions, Ayatollah Tehrani has with great courage publicly voiced concern about the ongoing and severe persecution of religious minorities, including the Baha’is in Iran.
“No excuse is possible”
Editorial, April 6
Two recent news reports, in the Columbian Missourian and the Columbia Tribune have drawn attention to Tyree Byndom’s unusual way of ‘campaigning’ for a seat on the Columbia City Council. Because he is a Bahai, he is not campaigning, although his name is on the ballot. His voice has even dropped from the airwaves: he has taken a break from his day job as a talk show host.
I would certainly not suggest that he should be elected just because he is a Bahai, or that Bahai voters in Columbia should give him any greater credibility because of his faith. So why mention him on a blog dedicated to world Bahai news? He is not the first Bahai to run for public office, even in the US, but his faith and the reasons why he has refrained from self-praise or any critique of other candidates have been more widely publicised than any previous case I know of, and this is helping to correct a misconception about Bahais’ participation in politics. The Columbia Tribune article states, “the Baha’i faith encourages its members to be politically active and vote in elections if they are allowed to do so by secret ballot.” It does not give a source, but seems to be reflecting these words of Abdu’l-Baha:
Thou hast asked regarding the political affairs. In the United States it is necessary that the citizens shall take part in elections. This is a necessary matter and no excuse from it is possible. My object in telling the believers that they should not interfere in the affairs of government is this: That they should not make any trouble and that they should not move against the opinion of the government, but obedience to the laws and the administration of the commonwealth is necessary. Now, as the government of America is a republican form of government, it is necessary that all the citizens shall take part in the elections of officers and take part in the affairs of the republic.
(Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 342)
The same article quotes Glen Fullmer, a spokesman for the Baha’is of the United States, as saying “that the faith takes part in political advocacy work, championing environmental stewardship and the advancement of women’s rights, among other causes. What the Baha’is want to avoid, he said, is divisiveness that tends to arise from election campaigns. … It’s not like there’s a complete aloofness of the political process,” Fullmer said of the faith. “It’s more of wanting to avoid this disunity we see in the world.”
Yet many Bahais, in the past and perhaps today, have taken a stance of complete aloofness from the political process. In 1993 a former member of the Universal House of Justice, David Hofman, spoke at the Maxwell International School on the subject of “Theocracy: Divine provisions for governance in the World Order of Baha’u’llah.” In audio tapes of these talks he called democracy “baloney” and boasted that he had never voted in a non-Bahai election (tape 11, side 2, Q&A). The Bahai community has come a long way in 20 years, from David Hofman to Tyree Byndom and those like him. And that’s the news I would like to draw attention to.
Khalusi sisters begin long prison terms
HRANA, March 30, 2014
Early on March 30, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence arrested Nava and Nika Khalusi ( نیکا خلوصی نوا و ). Nava Khalusi was arrested at her home in Mashhad. Nika Khalusi, and her parents, had gone on a Naw Ruz outing to Babolsar and Nika was arrested there. Nika Khalusi has been sentenced to 6 years in prison, and Nava to four and a half years, on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “participation in Bahai activities.” Their arrests apparently signal the beginning of their prison sentences.
Document of manumission of Isfandiyar by Baha’u’llah published
BahaiTeachings.org, March 2014
BahaiTeachings has announced the discovery and translation of a document that has both historical and scriptural importance for Bahais: the prayer in which Baha’u’llah frees (manumits) a slave, presumed to be Isfandiyar, and explains why slavery is inherently wrong.
Mirza Buzurg, Baha’u’llah’s father owned a number of slaves. Baha’u’llah apparently inherited his father’s slaves when Mirza Buzurg died in 1839, and set them free. Dr. Nader Saiedi has discovered Baha’u’llah’s written, autobiographical account, in Arabic and provided a provisional translation into English. This remarkable Tablet is cast in the form of a prayer:
Sanctified art Thou, O my God! At this moment, one slave (mamlūk) is standing before another slave and seeks, from him, his freedom.
Yet his owner, himself, is naught but a slave of Thee, a servant in Thy Threshold, and absolute nothingness before the manifestations of Thy Lordship.
Standing before Thee, I bear witness, at this very moment, to that which Thou hast testified by Thyself for Thyself, that verily Thou art God and there is none other God but Thee …
All mighty kings are mere slaves before the gate of Thy grace, and all the wealthy are the essence of poverty in the shore of Thy holy dominion, and all the exalted are abject lowliness within the glorified court of Thy bounty.
Notwithstanding this, how then can this slave claim for himself ownership of any other human being? Nay, his existence is a mere crime, graver than any sin in Thy kingdom …
And now, O my God, since that servant hath asked from this servant his freedom, therefore, I call Thee to witness, at this moment, that I am setting him free in Thy path, liberating him in Thy name, and emancipating his neck from the chain of servitude, so that he may serve Thee in the daytime and in the night season, longing that my neck would never be relieved from the cord of Thy servitude.
This verily is my most cherished desire and my supreme end. – Baha’u’llah, unpublished Tablet (A08212). Provisional translation by Nader Saiedi.
Leva Khanjani given prison furlough
Iran Green Voice, March 25, 2014
Leva Khanjani ( لواء خانجانی ), a Bahai serving a two-year sentence in Evin prison, has been granted furlough for Naw Ruz. Leva Khanjani is a student excluded from education because of her Bahai beliefs. She was arrested on January 3, 2010, along with her husband Babak Mobasher, on the pretext that they had participated in street protests following the 2009 elections.
136 Bahais in prison in Iran: signs of progress in civil society
ICHRI, March 24, 2014
Dian Alaei, Baha’i community representative, reacted to the March 17 statements made by Mohammad Javad Larijani, Head of the Iranian Judiciary’s Human Rights Council, in which he claimed that no Baha’is were imprisoned simply because of their faith.
“There are currently 136 Baha’is in the Islamic Republic’s prisons who were arrested only because they were Baha’is. They have committed no other crime,” Dian Alaei told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. She added that some imprisoned Baha’is had been charged with membership in “illegal organizations” or “spying for foreign countries,” but no evidence had been offered to prove such accusations.
“Mr. Larijani must be uninformed about the present situation facing the Baha’i community in Iran,” Alaei said, “or else he would know that Baha’i youths cannot attend university, Baha’i cemeteries are demolished with bulldozers, and Baha’i shops are locked up when their owners close during official Baha’i holidays.” Alaei added that representatives of dozens of countries had met with UN Special Rapporteur Ahmed Shaheed to express their concerns about human rights abuses against Baha’is in Iran.
The Baha’i community representative, who presented a report to the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva this month, said the Iranian government is not prepared to take responsibility for human rights issues and is thus unable to cooperate to solve them.
Alaie praised a group of civil activists in Iran who recently wrote an open letter to President Rouhani calling for Baha’i rights to be respected. “This was a very positive and important step,” Alaei said. “Every day we see more ordinary Iranians defending Baha’is.”
Anti-Bahai demonstration planned for Tehran
Iran Press News, March 16
Iran Press News, a usually reliable, source, reports that an anti-Bahai demonstration was planned in Tehran. It was to take place in front of the United Nations offices in Tehran, on March 16. It is not clear whether the demonstration did take place there, or whether the authorities intervened. The belief that the United Nations, the BBC, human rights organisations and lawyers, the British government and other foreign organs are controlled by Bahais is a common feature of anti-Bahaism in Iran, but it seems unlikely that the authorities would welcome a public display of anti-Bahaism where it could be witnessed from the UN offices.
A statement released by the demonstration’s organisers states that the “deviant sect of Bahais” is a terrorist organisation with its headquarters in the territories occupied by Zionism [Israel], and supported by the Zionist regime. It is linked to this illegal murderous regime which has shed the blood of thousands of innocent people. The actions of this deviant sect are not limited to physical acts of terrorism, they interfere systematically in the lives of the devotees, who are subjected to control from childhood, depriving them of freedom of conscience and the chance to investigate. Moreover, the sect subjects those who leave the sect and seek guidance [become Muslims] to the most inhumane possible treatment, ranging from character assassination to shunning.
The Bahai Faith is a religion founded in Iran in the 19th century, which functions democratically without any priesthood. The Ottoman authorities exiled its founder, Baha’u’llah, to Akka, where he died in 1892, approximately 50 years before Israel came into existence. In the early 20th century there was an appreciable Bahai community in various parts of what is now Israel, but as the future character of the state of Israel became evident, they were all asked to leave. Today there are no Bahais with a permanent residence in Israel, although there are a few hundred staff with temporary appointments working at the Bahai shrines there. The organisers’ “guilt by association” argument is not only logically invalid, it is factually wrong. One of the most important Bahai teachings is the independent investigation of truth: children of Bahais are not automatically enrolled as Bahais, but may chose to enroll from the age of 15, if they wish. There is undoubtedly some separation, in Iran, between Bahais and those who have left the Bahai community to become Muslims. A long-standing fatwa, recently re-iterated by Ayatollah Khamene’i, states that good Muslims should avoid any contact with Bahais.
One arrest in Shiraz
Radio Sahrvand (web site), March 17, 2014
Yekta Fahandezh (یکتا فهندژ), a Bahai from Shiraz, was arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on March 16. The agents searched her home and seized books, a laptop and personal effects. She was transferred to Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz, and was allowed to meet her husband on March 17. In February 2012, Yekta was arrested and spent 83 days in Detention Facility 100. She was released on bail and later charged with propaganda against the regime.
Second Bahai student expelled from Mazandaran University
PCED, March 13, 2014
It was previously reported that Setayash Asadi (ستایش اسدی), a Bahai studying Tourism Management at the Babolsar campus of the University of Mazandaran, has been expelled because of her religious beliefs. The PCED reports that Sama Hashemi (سما هاشمی), a student of management at the same campus, was also expelled, for the same reason: “religious minorities are not entitled to tertiary education.”
Student expelled from Mazandaran University for being a Bahai
HRANA, March 12, 2014
Setayash Asadi (ستایش اسدی), a Bahai studying Tourism Management at the Babolsar campus of the University of Mazandaran, has been expelled because of her religious beliefs. She was admitted in the current academic year, and expelled in the middle of the second semester, after gaining 19 university credits. A HRANA reporter was told that, after her student web page was closed, she was referred to the Office of Education and told that “religious minorities are not entitled to tertiary education.”
Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi: “Equal Rights for the Bahais and the Jews are Against Islam”
Iran Wire, March 3
In a speech to seminary students and teachers, Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi, an influential hardliner in the Iranian regime, stated “Some have come forward with a plan for citizenship rights and want to give equal rights to the Bahais and the Jews and the Muslims and…We can never accept this.” There was no doubt that he was referring to the Draft Citizenship Rights Charter presented by Rouhani’s administration last November.
Yazdi’s ire was directed at the principle that all citizens are equal under the law. “All Iranian citizens, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, wealth, social class, race, etc, enjoy citizenship rights and the foreseen guarantees in rules and regulations,” declares the draft charter’s first article. The sentence does not include the term “religion,” probably intentionally, but the “etc.” leaves a lot of room for speculation. Hardliners have been quick to speculate, especially when it comes to the Bahai community, which has been harassed relentlessly since the Islamic Revolution.
“The standard is always Islam,” Yazdi told the theological school students. “Western human rights and citizenship rights, meaning equality between Muslims and Bahais, has no relation to Islam. These rights, as described by the West, utterly go against Islam, the constitution and the way of Imam [Ayatollah Khomeini]. The people of this country, who have suffered hardships and have given so many martyrs, would not accept anything that goes against Islam. Of course, even those who are not Muslims must be respected. They have rights, which Islam recognizes.”
Ayatollah Yazdi says that religious inequality is acceptable. “Islam never considers a Jew and a Muslim as equals,” he said. “Even though Islam has conferred certain rights to Jews, this does not mean that they are equals in every right. Sometimes this is called ‘second-class citizenship’. They can call it whatever they want, but it does not change the reality.”
Here, Bahais are conspicuous by their absence. Whereas in pronouncements condemning “equality,” Bahais were included [if only to be excluded ~Sen], when it came to “rights” they were not mentioned – not as second-class citizens, not even as third-class citizens. Not at all.
Human rights activists and liberal commentators have been critical of the rights charter for a number of reasons, labeling it “elegant but useless” and a “hodgepodge of things,” but Yazdi sees the charter as anti-Islamic both in word and in spirit.
The spirit, of course, comes from the people who wrote the draft under orders from Rouhani. Addressing the students, Yazdi asserted that those who promote citizenship rights are wrong about Islam and wrong about the history of the Islamic Republic. When citizenship rights supporters cite Ayatollah Khomeini’s respect for democratic practices such as the right to vote, they are misconstruing his words. They believe Khomeini “was a political figure and a national hero who opposed the previous regime because it was harmful for the country and wanted to establish a system which would be more beneficial to people.” But, according to Yazdi, this is simply untrue. “People who think like this are secular and, in their view, good and evil consist of material things,” he said, adding that, for these people, “evil is material backwardness and the absence of well-being, while good is using technology and providing a good life for everybody. They believe religion is something marginal, a fantasy.”
Islam was absolutely central to Khomeini’s thinking, Yazdi said. “When he said that society was facing a great danger, he meant a great danger for Islam. This was something that was not important to many politicians.”
Are the people who want equal rights for all citizens enemies of Islam? asked one student. “They are not really enemies of Islam,” he answered, “but this is how they see the world, especially if the person is educated in England or some other place like that, because in those places they talk of human rights, citizenship rights and other rights with such reverence that gradually the student comes to consider them as the most important issue.” He added that, although he was 80 years old, it would still be possible for him to fall under the influence of Western rhetoric if he travelled to one of these countries. So it was logical to assume a “young person who has no deep understanding of Islamic principles” to be particularly vulnerable to influence.
Sentences confirmed for four Bahais in Mashhad
HRANA, February 24, 2014
The Court of Review for the Province of Khorasan has confirmed the sentences of four Bahais from Mashhad who have been sentenced to prison because of their religious beliefs. Nika and Nava Khalusi (نیکا و نوا خلوصی ) have had their sentences of six years and 4 and a half years in prison, respectively, confirmed. The sentence of Adib Sho`a`i (ادیب شعاعی) was reduced from 18 months to six months, and the sentence of Mahsa Mahdavi was reduced from eight months to three months and one day. All four were charged with membership of the Bahai organisation, participation in illegal Bahai activities, and propaganda in favour of the Bahais and against the regime of the Islamic Republic.
Bahai homes raided in Yazd
PCED, February 21
On February 19, police carrying search warrants raided the homes of Rostam Behifarr, Ramin Hosuri, Majid Qane`, Mehran Basiri and Mehran Bandi (رستم بهی فر، رامین حصوری، مجید قانع، مهران بصیری و مهران بندی). They seized some personal effects, books and computers, but did not arrest anyone.
Five Bahai youth in Semnan sent to military service
HRANA, February 19, 2014
In the past two months, five young Bahais in Semnan have been arrested and sent to military service, on the orders of a judge (or in a previous report, an assistant prosecutor) known as Mr. Zaman. HRANA states that the military call-up law had been disused for some years, and that its application to the Bahais has been initiated by the Ministry of Intelligence. The names of the young Bahai men sent on military service in this way are given as follows:
Erfan Ehsani (عرفان احسانی): at the time of his arrest, he was made to promise that he would serve in the military after completing his time in prison. he was sentenced to one year in prison, which he began serving on October 30, 2012. After his release on parole, he was drafted into the army although his wife and their baby were in prison.
Soroush Firuzayan (سروش فیروزیان): after his home was raided, he was arrested and sent on military service.
Ardeshir Fana’ayan (اردشیر فناییان) was serving a 9-month sentence in Semnan prison. On completing his sentence, he was sent to do military service.
Omid Pirasteh (امید پیراسته): presently doing his military service.
Na’im Hedayati (نعیم هدایتی): presently doing his military service.
Another Bahai youth, Avarakhsh Hedayati (اورخش هدایتی), was reported among the Bahai youths who were arrested in November, 2013, but has been exempted from military service.
Iranian MP claims Bahai community spy for Israel and US
Jerusalem Post, February 19, 2014
Ahmad Salek, chairman of Iran’s parliamentary cultural commission, on Tuesday accused his country’s Baha’i community of spying for Israel and the United States. “I declare very explicitly that Baha’ism is an espionage organization which gathers intelligence for the CIA and Mossad, and there are abundant documents to prove this,” the Fars news agency quoted Salek saying.
Fars, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, reported in the same article comments that Iran’s then-prosecutor-general Qorban-Ali Dorri-Najafabadi made in 2009: “We [as the state] offer a variety of services to the Baha’i sect in Iran and respect them as human beings, but not as insiders, spies, or a political grouplet supported by Britain and Israel to cause disturbance in Iran.”
Neither gentleman explained why the US / British / Israeli secret services would recruit Bahais as spies in Iran, where Bahais are banned from government employment, permanent service in the armed forces, and work in sensitive industries, and their homes are continually monitored and frequently raided. Nor was there any explanation of why, despite this close monitoring, no evidence of the supposed spying has emerged.
Last October, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, issued a report that included a section on the persecution of the Bahais.
He wrote, ”The special rapporteur continues to observe what appears to be an escalating pattern of systematic human rights violations targeting members of the Baha’i community, who face arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, national security charges for active involvement in religious affairs, restrictions on religious practice, denial of higher education, obstacles to state employment and abuses within schools.”
Emanullah Mostaqim on medical leave again
PCED, February 19
Emanullah Mostaqim ( امانالله مستقیم ) was granted medical leave from Raja’i Shahr prison on February 16. He has returned to the prison on February 10, after his previous medical leave was not extended. He has been under treatment for a heart ailment, and was transferred to hospital one month ago, only to be returned to prison. Mr. Mostaqim was one of the staff of the Bahai Open University (BIHE) in Iran, which provides tertiary training to students who have been expelled or barred from Iranian universities because of their religious beliefs. He has been sentenced to five years for his educational activities, but doctors say his health is not adequate to withstand prison conditions.
Two Bahai businesses closed in Karaj
HRANA, February 17
On the morning of February 16, a business owned by two Bahais, Saman and Badi`i Ashkar (سامان بدیعی و اشکان بدیعی ), was closed by the local authorities of Karaj, and their business licence was revoked. The action was taken because of their religious beliefs, and flimsy pretexts.
Bahai candidate for Columbia City Council breaks new ground
Colombia Faith and Values (researched blog), January 28, 2014
Tyree Byndom, a young black Bahai and talk show host in Columbia, Missouri, USA, has put his name forward for election to the City Council, with the approval of the Bahai administration in the United States. “My running for political office is teaching members of my faith about what it means to be Bahai,” Byndom says. “I had to show leaders there is nothing that restricts me from running.” If elected, Byndom would be Columbia’s third African American to serve on the City Council. He was mentored by Almeta Crayton, a three-term Columbia City Councilwoman, who represented the First Ward. Her death on October 21, 2013, has stirred Byndom’s memories of conversations with Crayton. “I remember one weekend, when we were done doing our radio show on KOPN 89.5 FM, called Straight Talk, Almeta and Wynna Faye (Albert) were joking with me and they said ‘Well, Tyree, I guess we have to pass the baton to you, because ain’t nobody else around,’” Byndom says. “My response to them was ‘I don’t want it!’”
“The truth is that I didn’t feel worthy. When we lost Almeta Crayton this past year, it did something to me,” Byndom says. “Her words, the things she fought for, the people that she cared about, her lamentation at the challenges facing her son, this community that she loved, all echoed in my thoughts and the phrase ‘Be worthy’, was the reply.”
Straight Talk, Byndom’s weekly radio show on KOPN, offers Columbia’s black community a place to voice opinions. Listeners talk about increasing gun violence, substance abuse, unemployment for youth and minorities, underemployment for professionals with skills, high cost of living, fast cash stores, growing poverty and a loss of middle class jobs.
Ma’udi family recuperating well
Radio Yekjahan (facebook report), February 12
The condition of ‘Azam Ma’udi (اعظم مودی) is reported to have improved, and she is expected to be discharged from hospital tomorrow. She was stabbed, along with her parents, in an attack on her parents’ home in Birjand on February 3. Her parents were discharged from hospital today, and are in good health.
Emanullah Mostaqim returns to prison
HRANA, February 11, 2014
Emanullah Mostaqim ( امانالله مستقیم ), one of the staff of the Bahai Open University (BIHE) in Iran who is serving a 5-year prison sentence for his educational activities, returned to Raja’i Shahr prison on February 10. He had been held for one month in a therapeutic centre, followed by a one-week medical furlough, which was not extended although his condition had not improved. He suffers from a heart disorder which doctors have said is getting worse, to the extent that prison conditions are a danger to him. The Bahai Open University provides tertiary training to students who have been expelled or barred from Iranian universities because of their religious beliefs.
Prayers requested for `Azam Ma’udi
Radio Yakjahan (facebook report), February 11, 2014
‘Azam Ma’udi (اعظم مودی), who was stabbed in the chest during an apparently religiously-motivated attack on her parents’ home in Birjand on February 3, is reported to be in a serious condition. Prayers are requested.
Murder with impunity in Miandoab
HRANA, February 5, 2014
10 months after the murder of Sa’idullah Aqdasi (سعیداله اقدسی) in Miandoab, the security forces have still not taken any steps to apprehend the murderers. Mr. Aqdasi, an 83-year-old Bahai was found dead in his home on April 23, 2013. It appeared that his hands and feet had been bound with rope, and he had been killed by seven blows from a sharp object. The coroner determined that he had been killed three days earlier, that is, on April 21st, an important Bahai festival, that the door had been forcibly entered, and that nothing was stolen. A relative said that the house was full of blood, indicating that Mr. Aqdasi was alive when the seven blows were struck. His body was sent to the Coroner in Urumiyyeh, who stated that the Coroner’s office could not obtain a lawyer [a detective to deal with the case], since the officer responsible for Bahai cases was not present. Ten months have now passed, but no steps have been taken to investigate the murder.
Home invasion: 3 stabbed in Birjand
HRANA, February 5, 2014
In Birjand, a provincial capital close to Iran’s border with Afghanistan, a masked individual has entered the home of a Bahai family and brutally stabbed three of them. The attack occurred on February 3. Mr. Qodratullah Mu’adda (قدرت الله مودی) was stabbed in the abdomen and side, Mrs. Tibi Mu’adda (طوبی مودی) in the neck, close to the jugular vein, and ‘Azam Mu’adda (اعظم مودی) was stabbed in the chest. The assailant left the house without making any attempt to steal anything. Mr. and Mrs. Mu’adda are a middle-aged couple, living alone. Their daughter, who lives in Tehran, had arrived that morning on a visit.
Another student expelled for Bahai beliefs
HRANA, February 3, 2014
Farshad Farzan (فرشاد فرزان), a student at the Shahid Bahonar school of engineering and technology in Shiraz, has been expelled because of his Bahai beliefs. He began a course in business accounting at the university in October 2011 and earned a preparatory qualification. He was then admitted to the Bachelor’s degree course, but was expelled on January 21, 2014, after completing one semester of study, because of his Bahai beliefs. He was not only denied further study, the university credits he had earned in his first semester were denied to him.
Universal House of Justice writes to Bahai youth in Iran
Editorial, January 30, 2014
A year after a chain of Bahai youth conferences were held around the world — in which the Bahai youth in Iran could not participate — the Universal House of Justice has released a message to Bahai youth living in Iran. I have placed the Persian text in the documents archive of my Bahai studies blog, in PDF format. It may not display correctly in Firefox, but works in Explorer. The URL is :
Sarang Ettehadi sentenced without trial: 5 years
Khodnevis, January 29, 2014
Sarang Ettehadi, a Bahai from Tehran, has been sentenced to five years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “membership in Bahai institutions.” An unusual aspect of the sentence is that Mr. Ettehadi had already been pardoned, and that the sentence was issued three days before the trial — which functioned only to inform the accused of his sentence.
Mr. Ettehadi was arrested was arrested in Tehran on June 27, 2012, in a wave of arrests in Tehran, Mashhad and Shiraz that netted almost 20 Bahais. He was among those pardoned for the Eid al-Fitr on August 15, 2012. Mr Ettehadi has written his own account of his conviction and sentencing, which has been translated by Dr. Nizam Missaghi:
On January 15, 2014, I appeared in the Revolutionary Court to meet the judge as ordered. However, upon my arrival, the Judge’s assistant, Mojtaba, told me that there would be no hearing for me on that day and that my sentence had already been issued in absentia three days prior to the scheduled court date. I reviewed the court document in disbelief and learned that I had been sentenced to five years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “membership in Bahá’í institutions.”
My sentence was issued in absentia on January 12, 2014. However, my court date had initially been communicated as January 8 and had been postponed by the court to January 15, the date when I appeared in court. My attorney objected to the sentencing prior to the court date in absentia and insisted that we meet with the judge. After the urging of my counsel, we briefly met with the judge, who, without any hesitation or reasoning, re-read the same sentence to us and confirmed it had been issued.
It is noteworthy that my initial charge had been “propaganda against the regime,” which carries a maximum one-year prison sentence. However, the judge had illegally annexed another charge to my file prior to issuing the five-year sentence as follows: “membership in an illegal organization in order to disturb national security.” The judge addressed me directly and said, “you participated in prayer gatherings and religious rituals with other Bahá’ís, which constitutes an organized and illegal activity.” However, I responded, the Iranian Constitution clearly protects the rights of religious minorities to assembly and worship. When I asked the judge to explain how saying prayers with friends would constitute “propaganda against the regime” or could “disturb national security,” he responded matter-of-factly, “the assembly of even two or three people is an organized activity and is against the law!”
Unfortunately, legal due process in Iran is lamentably defective. Minorities, ethnic or religious, and dissidents are typically at the mercy of a judge who can add to their charges as he wishes, choose to not communicate a change in the defendant’s court date, and sentence the defendant in absentia without proper time allotted for the defense to respond or even know of the charges. The sentencing and the outcome, by and large, are forgone conclusions, and the hearing, if it actually takes place, is nothing but a formality reminiscent of a show trial. The longer such defective judicial system is in place, the more lives will be ruined, youth will be lost, trust will be replaced with despair, and the future of our glorious Iran will be overshadowed with injustice.
Punished for complaining: Hadjbar Firuzeyan begins his sentence
HRANA, January 26, 2014
On January 25, Hadjbar Firuzeyan (هژبر فیروزیان) reported to Semnan prison to begin serving a 40-day sentence. He is the father of Golrokh and Shidrokh Firuzeyan (شیدرخ و گلرخ فیروزیان), who began serving 6-month sentences in Semnan prison on January 8, 2014. His name has also been reported as Hadjir Firuzeyan (هژیر فیروزیان). He complained of the physical abuse of Golrokh by a Ministry of Intelligence interrogator. During one of her interrogations, the interrogators were harsh. One interrogator stood behind her and pulled here again the back of the chair, leaving her with severe back pains and a bleeding nose. Mr. Firuzeyan informed the officer handling the case, the Prosecutor and the Chief Justice. When there was no response from them, he wrote to the President of Iran, detailing the treatment of his daughter, and also tried to present this letter to the President when he was visiting Semnan. [From the dates, it would appear this refers to President Rouhani, who promised that human rights would be respected in Iran but has not been able to improve the situation at all.] Mr. Firuzeyan was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence and held in solitary confinement for some time. He was later fined 12 million rials (350 euros, $US 480), which was confirmed on appeal, for defaming the head of the Semnan office of the Ministry of Intelligence, Mohammad Reza Hashemian (محمد رضا هاشمیان). He has chosen to serve 40 days in prison rather than pay the fine.
Burial of Bahais in Tabriz hindered by officials
HRANA, January 23, 2014
Since July, 2011, officials have been preventing the Bahais of Tabriz from washing the bodies of their loved ones, and from using coffins in their burial. Following the death of Fatemeh Zara’i (فاطمه سلطان زارعی), officials at the Wadi Rahmat cemetery in Tabriz announced that it was not permissible to wash the body, or to use a coffin for her burial — both of which are part of Bahai burial practices — and that they would not allow her to be buried. This is despite the fact that the Bahais shared in the cost of construction and maintenance of the cemetery, and had previously been buried there alongside others, without any problems. The Bahais of Tabriz have sought redress with officials at all levels, including the Municipality, the Friday Prayer leader, the cemetery’s administrators, the committee for sects and religions, the Mayor, the office of the Supreme Leader, the President of the IRI and members of parliament, but all have refused to consider the matter.
Following the death of one young Bahai, Sabet Muhammadi (ثابت محمدی), his family was told they should hand over his body, and that a burial place would be found by noon, [thus denying the family an opportunity to wash and prepare the body according to Bahai law.] In 11 previous cases, bodies were buried without being washed, and without coffins, in the town of Miandoab, about 160 km south of Tabriz. Bahai teachings do not allow either moving a body long distances for burial (more than one hour’s travel), or burying the body of a Bahai in ways contrary to the Bahai burial rites.
Talu` Golkar sentenced : 5 years for educational activities
HRANA, January 22, 2014
Talu` Golkar, a Bahai from Tehran, has been sentenced to five years in prison, on charges of having links to the Bahai Open University (BIHE). The sentence was communicated to her lawyer on January 14. Talu ` Golkar was one of then Bahais associated with the Bahai Open University who appeared at the Public Prosecutor’s office in Tehran on March 12, 2013. After presenting their defence, they were released on bail. At present more than 10 Bahais associated with the university are serving prison terms for their educational activities, in Raja’i Shahr prison and in the women’s wing of Evin prison.
Shamim Ettahadi’s sentence changed by review court
HRANA, January 21, 2014
The review court has adjusted the sentence of Shamim Ettahadi (شمیم اتحادی), a Bahai from Yazd who was arrested during a raid on his home on March 14, 2013. 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. The sentence of the lower court has been variously reported at 5 or 7 and half years in prison. The review court has changed this 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.
Manuchher Khalasi barred from meeting his daughters
HRANA, January 18, 2014.
Manuchher Khalasi ( منوچهر خلوصی) was arrested at his home in Mashhad on November 29, 2013, and has now been held for more than seven weeks. He has been accused of propaganda against the regime in the form of teaching the Bahai Faith, and membership in Bahai organisations. On January 16 he was finally allowed to meet his wife, mother and father for some 30 minutes. However for reasons that are not clear, his two daughters were not allowed to meet their father. His daughters, Nika and Nava Khalusi (نیکا و نوا خلوصی ), have been sentenced to six years and 4 and a half years in prison, respectively, on charges of membership of the Bahai organisation, participation in illegal Bahai activities, and propaganda in favour of the Bahais and against the regime of the Islamic Republic. They are at present free on bail, pending the announcement of the review court’s findings on these sentences.
In 1999, Mr. Khalasi was sentenced to death for being a Bahai. This sentence was later reduced to one year in prison, by which time he had already served 19 months in prison.
PM of Western Samoa acknowledges Bahai contribution to the nation
Samoa Observer, January 15, 2014
A celebration of the Bahai Faith’s 60th anniversary in Western Samoa, held yesterday, was attended by Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi and Cabinet Ministers. The Prime Minister said, “I take this opportunity to express the appreciation of the government for the important contribution that you make to the spiritual life of our country.” He added that the work of the Baha’i Faith and all churches in Samoa is paramount in bringing out the best from Samoan people. He said there are many members of the faith in different parts of Samoa’s society and he thanked them for their contribution to Samoa. The Prime Minister gave an assurance that the Government would continue to strive to protect the freedom of everyone – including the right to worship.
“As part of Samoa’s engagement internationally through its membership with the UN, Samoa endeavours to support efforts to protect the rights of people in various countries including Iran where the Baha’i faith struggle through persecution.” He assured members of the Faith that the Government would contribute to support work done through the UN to bring an end to abuses and violations of human rights.
Malaysian Baha’is affected by ban on ‘Allah’
The Sun Daily, January 14, 2014
The Executive Councillor for Islamic affairs for Selangor state in Malaysia, Sallehin Mukhyi, stated on January 13 that “The Selangor Non-Islamic Religions Enactment 1988 (Control of Propagation Among Muslims) prohibits all non-Muslims from using ‘Allah’ and 34 other Arabic words….Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah’s decree last December specifically states that the word ‘Allah’ is exclusive to the Muslims.” The Malaysian Bahais are among the groups affected by the ban on the use of the word “Allah.” Bahais use the words “Allah-u-Abbha”, which means “God the most glorious” as a greeting. A spokesman for the Baha’i community of Malaysia said the ban would be deliberated upon by members before they make any statements.
Three Bahais begin their sentences in Semnan
HRANA, January 10, 2014
Ardeshir Fena’eyan (اردشیر فناییان) Golrokh Firuzeyan ( گلرخ فیروزیان ) and Shidrokh Firuzeyan ( شیدرخ فیروزیان ) were arrested on January 8, without prior warning, to begin serving their sentences in Semnan prison. The Firuzeyan sisters face 6 month sentences, and were arrested in their home, while Mr. Fenayan faces an eight-month sentence. He was arrested in the street. All three were tried on August 21, 2013. They were charged with various offenses, but eventually sentenced for “propaganda against the regime.”
Three Bahai women free on parole
RAHANA, January 11, 2014
Elham Ruzbehi (الهام روزبهی) and her baby have been released from Isfahan prison on January 8, while Negar Mulkzadeh and Behnaz Hodadzadeh (نگار ملکزاده و بهناز حدادزاده) have been freed from Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad. Elham Ruzbehi, a Bahai from Isfahan who began serving her 2 year sentence with her baby on April 27, 2013, in Semnan prison, and was later transferred to Isfahan prison, has been released on parole. Negar Mulkzadeh and Behnaz Hodadzadeh were among 10 Baha’i arrested in connection with a handicraft exhibition in Mashhad. They were sentenced to 6 months in prison, on charges of propaganda against the regime, and entered Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad on November 17, 2013. They too have been freed on parole.
Emanullah Mostaqim hospitalized
PCED, January 10, 2014
On January 8, Emanullah Mostaqim ( امانالله مستقیم ), one of the staff of the Bahai Open University (BIHE) in Iran who was serving a 5-year sentence in Raja’i Shahr prison, suffered a sudden heart complaint and was taken to Imam Khomeini hospital in Tehran.
Mr. Mostaqim also suffers from diabetes, and doctors have said that he should be under treatment in a hospital specialising in heart disease. He had an open-heart operation not long before his arrest in May 2011, and has been hospitalised several times since he was imprisoned. The forensic doctor has stated that his physical condition is such that he should not be in prison. On September 4, 2013, he was granted leave from prison on medical grounds. It is not clear from this report whether he had since returned to prison, or was still on leave when his condition required him to be hospitalised on January 8.
Hassan Badhrafkan free on bail
HRANA, January 14, 2014
Hassan Badhrafkan ( حسن بذرافکن ), a Bahai from Marvdasht county (in Fars Province), is reported to have been freed on bail from Adel Abad prison in Shiraz on December 21. Bail was set at 200 million tumans (59,000 euros, $US 80,000). Mr. Badhrafkan was arrested in the street on September 11, 2013, and transferred immediately to the Ministry of Intelligence’s detention facility 100, in Shiraz, where he was held for 48 days before being transferred to Adel Abad prison.
One release, three sentences reduced in Semnan
HRANA, December 28, 2013
Mr. Akbarpour Hosseini ( اکبرپور حسینی ), who has completed half of his 18-month sentence in Semnan prison, has been released. He was arrested on May 14, 2012, and was initially sentenced to 28 months, reduced to 18 months by the review court. He was summoned
to serve his sentence in Semnan prison on February 17, 2013. He was charged with propaganda against the regime and membership of the Bahai community. His optician’s shop was raided by security forces on November 29, 2012. The authorities not only confiscated his entire stock, valued at 2 billion rials (125,000 euros, 162,000 US dollars), he was fined 3.6 billion rials (225,000 euro, 293,000 US dollars) after a secret trial.
The review court in Semnan has reduced the 12-month sentence of Ardeshir Fena’eyan (اردشیر فناییان) to 8 months. Golrokh Firuzeyan ( گلرخ فیروزیان ) and Shidrokh Firuzeyan ( شیدرخ فیروزیان ) who has been sentenced to 9 months in prison have had their sentences reduced to six months. All three were tried on August 21, 2013. They were charged with various offenses, but eventually sentenced for “propaganda against the regime.”
One arrest in Gorgan
HRANA, December 24, 2013
On the morning of December 24, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Iran arrested Mozhde Zohuri, ( مژده ظهوری ) in her home in Mashhad. They also searched her home and seized religious books, a mobile phone and some personal effects. Mozhde Zohuri is the wife of Farhad Fahandezh (فرهاد فهندژ), who was arrested in his home on October 16, 2012, and later transferred first to Evin prison and then to Raja’i Shahr, before being sentenced to 10 years in prison. He is serving his sentence in Raja’i Shahr.
No news of Manuchher Khalasi, arrested in Mashhad
HRANA, December 30, 2013
Manuchher Khalasi ( منوچهر خلوصی) was arrested at his home in Mashhad on November 29, 2013. Since then he has been held by the Ministry of Intelligence, and his family have had no news of him. A court official has said that he is accused of “propaganda against the regime” but the officer in charge of the case has not provided his family with any clear statement of the charges. There has also been no response to a request that he should be bailed pending his trial. A judge has extended his temporary detention to two months.
In 1999, Mr. Khalasi was sentenced to death for being a Bahai. This exceptionally heavy sentence was later overturned, and he was sentenced to one year in prison, by which time he had already served 19 months in prison. Two girls from the same family, Nika and Nava Khalusi (نیکا و نوا خلوصی ), have been sentenced to six years and 4 and a half years in prison, respectively, on charges of membership of the Bahai organisation, participation in illegal Bahai activities, and propaganda in favour of the Bahais and against the regime of the Islamic Republic.
Bahai student expelled from Semnan University
PCED, December 29, 2013
Two years ago, Nilisa Yahyahvi ( نیلیسا یحیوی ), a graduate in Persian language and culture, was barred from university studies with the excuse “file incomplete” — a euphemism used to disguise religious discrimination in Iran’s education system. In this academic year she again applied, and was admitted to a Master’s course at Semnan University. She attended classes until one week before her expulsion, when university officials asked for her BA diploma and a few day later, contacted her by telephone to ask some questions about her religious beliefs. She was then told that she was barred from further study at the University.
Iran’s Minister of Intelligence to present plan for dealing with Bahais
FARS news agency, December 21, 2013
A spokesman for the “Article 90″ committee in Iran’s parliamentary system has stated that the Minister of Intelligence will present a report to the committee on ways of dealing with “deviant sects” — a term usually referring to Bahais and sometimes to Sunni Muslims. The Minister will discuss ongoing correspondence between the Minister and the committee, and UN resolutions relating to human rights in Iran.
Three Bahai women and two babies freed from Semnan prison
HRANA, December 11, 2013
Zohreh Nik-A’in ( زهره نیک آئین ) who has been in prison in Semnan along with her baby, was released on parole on December 4. A week later, Anisa Fana’ayan ( انیسا فناییان ) and Taraneh Torabi ( ترانه ترابی ), also imprisoned in Semnan (the latter accompanied by her baby), were released on parole. Zohreh Nik-A’in was sentenced to 23 months in prison by the revolutionary court of Semnan on June 22, 2012. She began her sentence on September 24, 2012. Anisa Fana’ayan was originally sentenced to 4 years and 4 months, reduced to 22 months on October 14, 2012. She began her sentence on January 12, 2013. Taraneh Torabi was arrested on February 20, 2011, and sentenced to 5 years and 10 months in prison on charges of “setting up and running an illegal group” on February 23, 2012. This was reduced to 20 months on July 1, 2012. She began her sentence, accompanied by Barman Ehsani ( بارمان احسانی ), aged six months, on September 24, 2012. On December 26, Barman was taken to hospital suffering from a severe lung infection. Late in 2012, the women’s block at Semnan prison was reported to contain 70 prisoners and a number of babies, crowded into 50 square meters, which did not allow enough beds for all prisoners.
Nasim Baqeri sentenced: 4 years
PCED, October 24, 2013
On October 8, Nasim Baqeri (نسیم باقری), one of 10 Bahais tried in Tehran on March 12, 2013, was sentenced to four years in prison. These Bahais, all associated with the Bahai Open University (BIHE), were arrested in Tehran. She was charged with “acting against national security through membership of the Baha’i Institute BIHE.”
Bahai cemetery destroyed in Sanandaj
HRANA, December 14, 2013
After a court upheld the confiscation of land belonging to the Bahais in Sanandaj which was used as a cemetery, the site was levelled by bulldozers. The land was given to the Bahais by the city administration in 1993. This was the third Bahai cemetery in Sanandaj to be destroyed since 1987. The Supreme Court had recently sent the case of this land to another branch of the Court of Appeals, which confirmed the previous verdict.
Three Bahais sentenced in Yazd
HRANA, December 8, 2013
Fariba Ashtari (فریبا اشتری), Shabnam Mottahed (شبنم متحد) and Iman Rashidi (ایمان رشیدی), who were tried in Yazd on August 24, 2013, have been informed of their sentences. Fariba Ashtari and Shabnam Mottahed received 3-year sentences and Iman Rashidi was sentenced to 4 years in prison. These sentences are subject to review. All three were arrested on July 31, 2012, as part of a wave of arrests of Bahais in Isfahan, Shahin Shahr (a city in Isfahan province), Vila Shahr (on the outskirts of Najafabad, also in Isfahan province) and in Yazd.
Bahai businesses in Gorgan targetted by false flag flyposters
HRANA, December 1, 2013
In the city of Gorgan (the former Asterabad, in the North East of Iran), unidentified persons have been putting up posters on the homes and business premises of Bahais. The posters contain citations from the Bahai teachings, and typically Bahai pictures, so as to give the impression that the Bahais have put them up advertise their faith. On the morning of November 28, just as one of the Bahai shopkeepers arrived at his shop and found one of these posters on his window, officers from the local government body that supervises public places and businesses also arrived. They closed his business down for propagating the Bahai Faith. It was not re-opened until November 30.
Leva Khanjani returns to Evin Prison
HRANA, November 31, 2013
Leva Khanjani ( لواء خانجانی ), who was arrested on January 3, 2010, along with her husband Babak Mobasher, and who has been on furlough from Evin Prison since July 10, 2013 (her release escaped the attention of Sen’s Daily), has returned to prison to resume serving her two-year sentence.
Another Bahai home raided in Mashhad
HRANA, November 31, 2013
On November 29, the day on which Manuchher Khalasi ( منوچهر خلوصی) was arrested in Mashhad, security forces went to the home of Fares Daneshgeri ( فارس دانشگری ) in Mashhad with arrest warrants for Mr. Daneshgeri, who was not at home, and for his father, who was present. The agents left, without arresting Mr. Daneshgeri’s father, who was told that he would be arrested “another time.”
Bahraini Bahais received at parliament
ABN News, November 28, 2013
A Member of the Bahrain Parliament, Mr. Ahmad as-Sa`ati ( أحمد الساعاتي ) received a number of Bahraini Bahais who paid a courtesy call to the Parliament. In welcoming the delegation, Mr As-Sa`ati said that he appreciated contact with all elements within the country, which cherishes all its loyal citizens, of diverse religions and denominations. He said that throughout its history, and today, Bahrain has been a country that embraces the followers of different religions and ideologies, respects the virtues and special characteristics of all communities, and allows freedom of belief and worship. This has enriched and strengthened its civilization over the centuries. He said that Bahrain’s constitution does not discriminate between citizens on the basis of race, sex or religion and that citizens are equal in rights and duties.
The Bahai representatives said that they were proud to be citizens of Bahrain and said they did not suffer discrimination from their fellow-citizens and were free to practice their religion. They said they held meetings for worship, do good works, and spread love and fellowship and discourage vice. They expressed their willingness to participate in any project that would support national unity and promote love and peace between its citizens.
Egypt’s constitutional committee approves religion articles
Made Masr, November 30, 2013
The committee tasked with amending the Egyptian constitution has passed the first 50 articles of Egypt’s new draft constitution with large majorities. The second article states that Islam is the religion of the state and that Islamic Sharia is the main source of legislation. The third article states that legislation regarding the personal affairs of Christians and Jews should be based on their own religious law. A proposal to refer to “non-Muslims” in the article, rather than specifying Christians and Jews, was considered by the Assembly but was eventually rejected. This means that Egyptians who are not Muslims, Christians and Jews cannot appeal either to the customs of their own communities, or to a single Egyptian code of law governing all citizens. Another article that was approved ensures that women have equal opportunities in the judiciary, where they have long been excluded. Voting on the articles will continue tomorrow.
One arrest in Mashhad
Azadi Qalam blog, November 29, 2013
On the morning of Friday, November 29, five plainclothes officers from the Ministry of Intelligence arrived at to the home of Manuchher Khalasi ( منوچهر خلوصی), which also serves as his workplace and as the home of his father and stepmother. They searched the premises thoroughly, and seized computers, laptops and religious books and prayer books belonging to the whole family. The agents did not have a search warrant, but did have an arrest warrant for Mr. Khalasi, which did not indicate the reason for his arrest, although this is required by law. His family were not told why he was being arrested. In 1999, Mr. Khalasi was sentenced to death for being a Bahai. This exceptionally heavy sentence was later overturned, and he was sentenced to one year in prison, by which time he had already served 19 months in prison. Two girls from the same family, Nika and Nava Khalusi (نیکا و نوا خلوصی ), have been sentenced to six years and 4 and a half years in prison, respectively, on charges of membership of the Bahai organisation, participation in illegal Bahai activities, and propaganda in favour of the Bahais and against the regime of the Islamic Republic. They are free on bail pending a review of their sentences by the review court.
BIHE class raided in Karaj
Iran Press News, November 28, 2013
According to reliable sources in Iran, one of the classes of the Bahai Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) in Karaj (west of Tehran) was stormed by security agents on Wednesday November 27. According to this report the students in the class were required to fill out forms giving their personal data, the names of family members and relatives, and the identity of the BIHE instructors and faculty members. The agents made students sign a promise not to participate in any activities relating to the BIHE. The students’ cell phones were also confiscated.
On the same day, the Office of the President published a Bill on Citizen’s Rights. After more than 100 days of Rouhani’s presidency, Bahais are facing more pressure than before.
Bahai student expelled in Shiraz
PCED, November 27, 2013
Azita Momtaz ( آزیتا ممتاز ) a student of Industrial Management at Zand University in Shiraz has been expelled for her Bahai beliefs, after gaining 92 study credits. The university authorities stated that her expulsion had been ordered by the Ministry of Intelligence and “the powers that be.” She has also been denied all forms of certification for the results of her three years of study, and for her preparatory studies. Following the election of President Rouhani, the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology announced that students who have been expelled from the country’s universities in recent years could be reinstated, none of the Bahai students who have been expelled, or barred from beginning with the excuse that their files were incomplete, have had their rights reinstated.
‘Unclean’ — Iran’s Outcast Baha’i Minority
Huffington Post blog, November 26, 2013
Anthony Vance, Director of Public Affairs for the Baha’is of the United States, has an excellent article on Huffington Post about the Iranian Shiah concept that Bahais (and others) are unclean, and that contact with them is to be avoided. It’s a point I’ve made several times on this blog, but Vance does it better, and has some documentation on the economic sectors that are forbidden to Bahais that I have not seen before:
The concept of ritual uncleanliness is an old one embedded in several major religious traditions, including Islam and Judaism. It is still accepted by many religious Iranian Muslims today. The Iranian Government has even taken legal steps to make sure that it applies to the occupations in which Baha’is may work. In a letter dated April 9, 2007, from the Public Places Supervision Office of the Public Intelligence and Security Force in the province of Tehran, addressed to the regional commanders of police and the heads of public intelligence and security forces, instructions were issued to prevent Baha’is from engaging in a wide range of businesses including “high-earning businesses.” The letter also prohibits Baha’is from receiving permits in 25 “sensitive business categories” and trades ranging from the tourist industry to computer sales, publishing, and a wide range of food businesses. With respect to the latter, the letter provides: “In accordance with the religious canons, work permits will not be issued to the followers of the perverse Bahaist sect in business categories related to Taharat [cleanliness]:
1. catering at reception halls,
2. buffets and restaurants,
3. grocery shops,
4. kebab shops,
6. protein [poultry] shops and supermarkets,
7. ice cream parlors, fruit juice and soft drinks shops,
8. pastry shops,
9. coffee shops.” (italics added)
Keyvan Dehqani begins his sentence in Mashhad
HRANA, November 25, 2013
Keyvan Dehqani ( کیوان دهقانی ), a Bahai from Isfahan, was taken to Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad on November 14, to begin serving his sentence. In September 2012 the review court for the Province of Khurasan sentenced him to 6 months in prison. He was arrested at a Bahai celebration — the Feast of Rahmat — in Isfahan on July 12, 2011 and was taken to the Ministry of Intelligence branch in Mashhad. He was initially sentenced to 18 months in prison, on charges of propaganda against the regime in the form of teaching the Bahai Faith. The review court reduced this sentence to six months.
Analysis of evidence regarding the killing of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani
HRANA, November 23, 2013
Three months after the execution-style killing of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani ( عطاءالله رضوانی ), a well-known member of the Baha’i community in Bandar Abbas, HRANA has published a detailed analysis in Persian of the information available thus far, by Dr. Arya Haghgoo (دکتر آریا حق گو) of Washington. This appears to be the pseudonym of an activist journalist for whom I cannot vouch, but the analysis appears credible and HRANA has a very good record in checking its sources. Despite mounting scientific evidence to the contrary, the local police continue to label the incident a “suicide” and have refused to open an investigation. The analysis focuses on that point, and concludes that Mr. Rezvani was most probably not sitting in his car when he was shot, by a pistol to the right temple at fairly close range. This conclusion is based on the lack of scattered remains on the headrest and in the back of the car, where the exit point of the bullet would have been had he been sitting in the vehicle. Contrary to previous reports, the bullet entered from the front and exited from the back of his head. Further, the murder weapon has not been found: it is not probably that someone could shoot themselves through the head, successfully conceal the weapon, and climb into a car before dying. Another interesting point in the analysis is that his cell phone has disappeared. It appears that Mr Rezvani received a telephone call on the night of his murder and responded to it. A young Afghan man who witnessed his receiving this call has also disappeared. These facts suggest that his murderer was afraid of being caught, which in the Iranian situation is significant. In the past those who murdered a Bahai have been so confident of immunity that they have even gone to the police while still covered in blood, and have indeed been acquitted.
Home searches and arrest of Bahai youth in Semnan
HRANA, November 21, 2013
Security agents have raided homes and arrested young Bahais in Semnan, under the pretext of enforcing the military service law. They carried a letter from someone called Zaman, an assistant prosecutor. They raided the homes of Bahais who sons are eligible for military service. After a thorough search and turning the homes upside down, they seized religious books, computers and personal items, arrested the young men and handed them over to the police. Those arrested were held for one day and released after signing a form that they would present themselves whenever they are summoned. At the time of writing, those arrested and released are known to include Ardeshir Fana’ayan, Awrakhsh and Na’im Hedayati and Saroush Firuzayan ( اردشیر فناییان، اورخش هدایتی، نعیم هدایتی و سروش فیروزیان ). One of the Bahais went to the Police Office to ask the reason for this procedure and was told that the military call-up law had been disused for some years, and that its application to the Bahais had been initiated by other agencies.
Bahai Faith on list of banned groups in Sabah, Malaysia
Daily Express, November 21, 2013
In response to a question in the state Parliament, an Assistant Minister in the Chief Minister’s Department, Datuk Arifin Arif, has listed the “deviant groups” subject to fatwas from the State Fatwa Committee “for propagating teachings that are not in accordance to Islamic ways and Syarak [Shariah].” The banned groups are Bahai, Qadiani [Ahmadiyya], Shiah Islam, Islam Jemaah, Tariqat Nasyabandiah Al- Aliyyah Syeikh Nazim Al-Haggani and a number of Malaysian Islamic groups. The Assistant Minister said “The government always monitors not only those groups that have been banned but doubtful teachings of other groups. The Sabah Islamic Affairs Department, the Home Ministry, the Malaysia Islamic Development Department and other local authorities are always working together in ensuring the faith of Muslims is not influenced by deviant teachings … Those Muslims found to be involved in deviant teachings can be charged under Section 52 of the Syariah Criminal Offence Enactment No.3 1995 with a maximum fine of RM5,000 or a jail up to three years’ or both upon conviction,” he said. He added that Government agencies will be organising seminars on the threat of deviant groups.
Five Bahais begin their sentences in Mashhad
HRANA, November 17, 2013
On the morning of November 17, five Bahais from Mashhad reported to the authorities in response to sumonses, and were taken to Vakil Abad prison to begin serving their sentences. Their names are Their names are Negar Mulkzadeh ( نگار ملک زاده ), Houriyyeh Mohsani (حوریه محسنی), Negin Ahmadiyan ( نگین احمدیان ), Behnaz Hodadzadeh ( بهناز حدادزاده ) and Arman Mukhtari ( آرمان مختاری ). They were charged with propaganda against the regime in the form of teaching the Bahai Faith, and these sentences were confirmed by the court of review for Khorasan Province in October. Houriyyeh Mohsani and Negin Ahmadiyan, who were also fined 300 thousand tumans (90 euros, US$120), have had that fine converted to imprisonment at the rate of 30,000 tumans to one day in prison, so that their sentences will be 10 days longer. There are now 12 Bahais imprisoned in Vakil Abad prison.
Another Bahai business closed in Tonekabon
HRANA, November 14, 2013
On November 12, security forces closed the business of three Bahais in Tonekabon, until further notice. This is the second such closure in a month. The names of the Bahais involved in the business this time are Armeen and Michel Esma`ilour and Badi`ullah Abu-al-Fasli ( آرمین اسماعیل پور، میشل اسماعیل پور و بدیع الله ابوالفضلی ). They had previously been summoned and interrogated several times.
Three arrests in Mashhad in August, no news since
HRANA, August 14, 2013
On August 13, 2013, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence made three arrests which went unreported on Sen’s Daily. The agents raided the home of Fataneh Nabilzadeh-Saraf in Mashhad, where a number of young Bahais who have been barred from higher education were receiving instruction in preparation for classes from the Bahai Open University (BIHE). They arrested Mrs. Nabilzadeh along with Peyman Saraf and Dianne Timuri ( پیمان صراف و دایان تیموری ). I have found no reports of what has happened to them since.
Nahid Qadiri released early on parole
HRANA, November 11, 2013
Nahid Qadiri ( ناهید قدیری ), a Bahai from Mashhad, has been granted conditional release (on parole) from Vakil Abad prison. She has served 3 years and 9 months of a 5-year sentence. For the past several years, no Bahai prisoners in Mashhad prisons have been granted parole, because there was no agreement as to who was responsible for their files. Seven other Bahais remain imprisoned in Valik Abad prison. Nahid Qadiri was arrested on March 15, 2010 and sentenced to five year in prison. According to one report, she was sentenced to another five years in prison on June 28, 2010, but I have not been able to confirm this.
Several detentions and one arrest in Ahwaz
HRANA, November 11, 2013
Shamim Ruhani ( شمیم روحانی ), a Bahai from Ahvaz (a city in the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates) was arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on November 5. The agents searched his home and seized religious books, personal documents, a mobile telephone and a computer. They took Mr. Ruhani and a number of Bahais who were present in his home away. All the detainees except for Mr. Ruhani were released three days later. It is not known where Mr. Ruhani is being held. During this period Mr. Ruhani’s wife, Mina Ruhani-Karimi (مینا روحانی – کریمی), has been summoned and questioned several times.
Signs of hope for Bahais in Iran
Editorial, November 9, 2013
On October 29, Ayatollah Seyyed Hussein Sadr ( آيتالله سيد حسين صدر ), whose voice carries considerable weight in the Shiah world, issued a fatwa stating that God has commanded us (Muslims) to have good relationships with our brothers and sisters of others religions and schools of thought. An Iraqi Bahai had asked him to give his opinion on this matter, stating that some Muslims believed that they were required by the purity laws of their faith to avoid mixing with Bahais, and that certain religious leaders have issued fatwas saying that our religion is deviant and any sort of social intercourse with us is forbidden.
In his response the Ayatollah cites Surah 60:8, “As for those who neither fight you as a matter of religion, nor drive you from your homes, God does not hold you back from dealing kindly and justly with them.” Therefore, he concludes, there is nothing wrong with socialising with, and having dealings with, our brethren of other faiths, in accordance with the normal rules of human relationships. In fact, it is necessary to observe justice and equal rights and prevent discrimination or persecution against any of the followers of other religions.
On October 5, the Melli-Madhabi website published an interview between the film-maker and journalist Muhammad Nourizad ( محمد نوری زاد ) and `Ali Asghar Gharavi (علیاصغر غروی) of the Nationalist-religious coalition (Melli-Madhabi), which brings together a number of smaller parties, political activists, writers and intellectual figures. Mr Gharavi has been in the news more recently for an article in which he distinguished Imam `Ali’s role as religious leader from his role as a political leader. During this interview, Mr Nourizad asked him whether he would like to eat something that had been cooked by a Christian or a Bahai. This question goes directly to the superstitions about the clean and unclean which play such a strong role in Iranian culture and the teachings of most Shiah religious leaders today. Mr. Gharavi replies that he would eat food from a Christian or non-Christian (he cannot quite bring himself to say the word “Bahai”) providing his hands are not dirty. He cites Quran 5:6: “The food of the People of the Book is lawful to you, and yours is lawful to them.” And he adds: “the case of the Bahais is similar.”
The two pronouncements, from a religious leader and a leader in a reformist movement of religiously-committed laymen, suggest that the idea that Bahais are unclean is continuing to lose ground in Iran and in the Shiah world. Against this, a story has been circulating that Ayatollah Khamene’i has issued a new fatwa declaring the Bahais unclean and association with them to be religiously forbidden (haram), and that this might signal a new crackdown on the Bahais in Iran. I did not report that story here when it broke, because it appeared to me that it has been blown out of all proportion by the media. What actually happened was that a new collection of Khamene’is fatwas was issued, which is a regular event. This collection contained 493 fatwas on every subject under the sun, of which just one, number 260, stated that all forms of association with the deviant Bahai sect are to be avoided. This is not a new fatwa: Khamene’i had said it before, Khomeini said it in rather more detail, and Ayatollah Borujerdi before him. However a web site in the Gulf that is hostile to the Islamic Republic’s regime went through this collection and selected six opinions which were particularly easy to ridicule, such as opinions about wearing jeans and ties, and fatwa 260, and published an article in English whose purpose was to show how backward the Iranian regime was. Mohbat news recycled that, in English, mentioning only fatwa 260, and this article was recycled in organs such as the Huffington Post, and a number of Israeli organs, they highlighted the “new fatwa” about the Bahais. And so a story was born. In fact the message conveyed by the publication of the fatwas was not “we will get the Bahais” but rather “Khamene’i is a religious scholar” (he has credibility problems in that respect), and the he has a claim to be the source of imitation for Shiah everywhere (of which the less said the better). This is a good example of how a message can become distorted when it is read without its context, translated, and passed from hand to hand without referring back to the original evidence.
So are there signs of hope? Not in the behaviour of the government and its organs, but yes, where it really matters, in the hearts of the people of Iran, prejudices against other peoples are fading and archaic superstitions are being distinguished from the light of faith.
In the women’s wing at Evin: conditions have improved, but no leave for the Bahais
Rooz Online, November 3, 2013
Rooz Online has published an English translation of an article by the husband of one of the prisoners of conscience in Evin prison, Tehran. There are 21 women in the prisoner of conscience section, half the number that was normal until recently. This is partly because of transfers, and partly due to the release of prisoners held in connection with the post-election protests of 2009 or because they were affiliated with the “Green’ (democratic) movement. Many of the women prisoners who remain were charged with supporting the People’s Mojahedin organization, the MKO, and there is a group of Bahai women. Mahvash Shahreyari-Sabet (مهوش ثابت-شهریاری ) and Fariba Kamalabadi (فریبا کمال آبادی ) were “Yaran” (National facilitators for the Bahai community) and are serving twenty year sentences. Three others were arrested in connection with the Bahai online university. Lava Khanjani (لوا مباشر خانجانی) was arrested in connection with the 2009 post-election protests. Two other women prisoners in the wing are charged with espionage, and one with spreading Christianity.
Prison conditions have improved over the last 4 years. Prison officials have allowed the families of prisoners to provide for some of their needs. Their living space has been expanded slightly. But their access to family members remains limited. Telephone calls have been banned for over two years. Inmates are allowed weekly cabin meetings with their family members. Meetings in person are allowed only once a month.
Most of the prisoners are allowed some furlough from prison, but Bahai prisoners suffer from a double oppression. All have been deprived of any leave, none have been released (a number of political prisoners were released before President Rouhani’s speech at the United Nations), and there are no signs of flexibility regarding their situation. Mahvash Shahriyari and Fariba Kamalabadi have been in Evin for over five years each, but have not had a single prison leave, although they have health issues. Because of their age and health, they suffer more than others. Faran Hesami (فاران حسامی) whose husband is in Rajai Shahr prison in Karaj has a four-year old child who lives with her grandmother. She has not been allowed to visit her child outside prison. The family of these Bahai prisoners also suffer more difficult conditions For example, Fariba Kamalabadi’s daughter received very good university entrance test results, but was denied admission to any university because of her religious beliefs.
Although the women come from different backgrounds and ages, they get along well. They read books together and critique them jointly, despite their political differences. Faezeh Hashemi-Rafsanjani (فائزه هاشمی رفسنجانی), daughter of a former president and current head of the Expediency Council, was held in this wing. She has written that these women live with minimum tensions and have positive interactions.
Two prisoners from Marvdasht transferred to Adel Abad prison in Shiraz
HRANA, November 3, 2013
After 48 days in detention in Ministry of Intelligence detention facility 100 in Shiraz, Hassan Badhrafkan ( حسن بذرافکن ) and Vahid Taqvaju ( وحید تقواجو ) have been transferred to Adel Abad prison in Shiraz. They were among seven Bahais detained in Shiraz by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on September 11. Only one of these arrests, that of Mr. Badhrafkan, has been previously reported on this blog. Five of the seven were released after questioning. Mr. Badhrafkan was arrested in the street on September 11 and taken to his home, which was searched. The agents seized CDs, books, a flash drive and his car. The car was held for more than 20 days. Mr. Taqvaju was arrested at his home on March 1st, 2010, and released on bail a month later.
Anisa Dehqani begins her 6-month sentence
HRANA, November 3, 2013
Anisa Dehqani Mahmudi ( انیسا دهقانی محمدی ), a Bahai from Isfahan who was arrested in Mashhad on June 1, as she was visiting Bahai friends there, has presented herself at Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad to begin serving her sentence. She has been free on bail. She was initially sentenced to 18 months in prison on charges of propaganda against the regime in the form of teaching the Bahai Faith, and participation in Bahai activities. The court of review for Khorasan province reduced this to six months.
Bahai business closed in Tonekabon
HRANA, November 2, 2013
On October 5, security forces closed down a business run by three Bahais in Tonekabon. Their names are Soroush Gorshasebi, Sina Gorshasebi and Omid Qaderi ( سروش گرشاسبی، سینا گرشاسبی و امید قادری ). Mr. Gorshasebi was one of three Bahais arrested in Tonekabon on September 23 and taken to the Ministry of Intelligence detention facilities in Sari. He was freed on bail after 17 days in detention. In September 2011, Sina Gorshasebi, a Canadian citizen, was previously sentenced to six months in prison for leaving Iran without a permit. Omid Qaderi was previously arrested in October 2010, and the business he had at that time was closed down in February 2011, when he was fined about 300 euros. The reasons for the closure have not been announced. Because Bahais are believed to be “unlean” they are barred from selling food items to Muslims, but local authorities can extend this ban to cover numerous other items as well, as liquids are believed to convey “uncleanness” like a contagion. In some cases, florists shops run by Bahais have been closed on the argument that the plants are often wet when sold and could spread Bahai uncleanness.
Family of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani threatened
Sepidam blog, October 27
The family of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani ( عطاءالله رضوانی ), a well-known member of the Baha’i community in Bandar Abbas, who was martyred two months ago, have been threatened with consequences under “the honour system.” It would appear that they are being blamed for the harm which the murder of Mr Rezvani has done to the international image of Iran and its government. Sixty six days after the murder, police investigations appear to have stalled. No clues regarding the murderers have been found. The investigating judge is holding to the unfounded supposition that Mr Rezvani must have shot himself in the back of the head and disposed of the weapon and bullet casing before dying. He has been vigorously interviewing the family and friends to gather evidence of his suicide theory. Mr. Rezvani was murdered in his car. The windows were closed and the air conditioning was running. Police have not found a “bullet” [sic ~ presumably, they have not found the shell of the bullet] which would give a clue as to the murder weapon. It would appear that the murder was carried out by professionals.
Navid Khanjani hospitalized briefly, still no medical leave allowed
PCED (facebook), October 17, 2013
Navid Khanjani ( نوید خانجانی ), a Bahai civil rights activist who founded the PCED, an activists’ organisation which seeks to end discrimination in Iran’s education system, was taken from Raja’i Shahr prison to hospital, where he remained for some hours. He suffers from a number of chronic conditions, and a spinal disk herniation. The prison doctor has said that he needed three weeks of home rest without stress, to prevent the disk problem worsening to the point that surgery would be required. His condition worsened on October 21. He also suffers from a colon condition which requires surgery, and he is receiving medication for a heart condition.
Navid Khanjani was arrested in March 2010 and spent about 2 months in prison before being released on bail. He was one of the 35 social activists who were arrested while bring aid to the victims of the 2011 Azerbaijan earthquake, but was later acquitted in that case. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison on charges of spreading propaganda, disturbing public opinion, propaganda against the regime in the reports and interviews of foreign media, membership of the central committee of the CHRR (Committee of Human Rights Reporters), and founding the PCED. He began serving this sentence, in Rajai Shahr prison, in September 2012. In March 2013 he was severely beaten by prison officers at Tehran’s Evin prison, where he had been taken for a court hearing.
Passing of Dr. Ahang Rabbani
Editorial, October 27, 2013
Dr. Ahang Rabbani, a celebrated and prolific Bahai scholar, died in Texas, at 5.30 am on October 26, 2013, following a long battle with cancer. A more fitting obituary will follow: his contributions to the Bahai community are so broad that a good deal of research is required.
We dare not, in this Day, lift the veil that concealeth the exalted station which every true believer can attain, for the joy which such a revelation must provoke might well cause a few to faint away and die…. By the righteousness of the one true God! The very breath of these souls is in itself richer than all the treasures of the earth. Happy is the man that hath attained thereunto, and woe betide the heedless. (Gleanings, VI, pp. 9-10)
“Bahais in Iran enjoy all citizenship rights and are not expelled from universities”
Report of the Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, October 2013
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, has issued his annual report, which as usual catalogues numerous abuses against diverse groups in Iranian society, and against the population as a whole. The report states that “[Iran’s] culturally relativistic positions on human rights result in broad restrictions on fundamental rights and limit who can enjoy those rights on the basis of gender, ethnicity, ideology, political opinion, religion or culture.” In a break with the past, the Iranian government has responded to a draft version of this report, and the Special Rapporteur has incorporated these responses in his final report.
In the section on the oppression of the Bahai community in Iran, the rapporteur notes “an escalating
pattern of systematic human rights violations targeting members of the Baha’i community, who face arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, national security charges for active involvement in religious affairs, restrictions on religious practice, denial of higher education, obstacles to State employment and abuses within schools.”
The Iranian government responds that “Baha’is enjoy all citizenship rights and … they are not expelled from universities or otherwise deprived of their rights on the basis of their beliefs.”
Nasim Baqeri sentenced to 4 years in prison
PCED, October 24 2013 +
Nazim Baqeri, a Bahai from Tehran who was associated with the Bahai open university BIHE, has been sentenced to four years in prison. She was tried on October 8 on charges of endangering national security by membership of the BIHE. Security forces raided the homes of many Bahais associated with the online university on May 22, 2011, and the following days, and arrested many of them. The university’s premises were closed, and many of the teachers and administrators have been given heavy sentences and are in prison.
Fuller details of recent raids in Abadeh
Azadi Qalam (blog), October 22
As previously reported, on the morning of Sunday October 13, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence searched Bahai homes in and around the town of Abadeh, in Fars province, seizing religious books, PCs, photographs and personal effects and summoning Bahais to the Ministry of Intelligence. The homes that were searched belonged to Behnam Jannati, Hedayat Golshan, Thani Sadeqi, Dhekrullah Sadaqat, Seyyed Jawad Dana, Mahmud Seyadat, Firuz Rastegar, Rahmatullah Golshan, Farshid Rastegar, Nasr Muvaffaq, `Ali Baqari, Fatemeh Kan`ani-Faruzan, Rezaqoli Rastegar and Sorush Ranjebar ( بهنام جنتی، هدایت گلشن، ثانی صادقی، ذکرالله صداقت، سید جواد دانا، محمود سیادت، فیروز رستگار، رحمت الله گلشن، فرشید رستگار، ناصر موفق، علی باقری، فاطمه کنعانی(فروزان)، رضاقلی رستگار و سروش رنجبر ).
Then one or more Bahais from each family were summoned for questioning, and asked to sign a pledge not to participate in illegal activities or to participate in Bahai activities except for the 19th-day Feast (the regular Bahai meeting for worship and community affairs). In addition, two young Bahais received special attention from the agents. Mr. Afshin Bulbulan (افشین بلبلان) has been travelling to Abadeh for some years, to care for his grandfather, who is not well, while Mehrzad Feruzan (مهرزاد فروزان) travels intermittently to Abadeh to see his mother. Mr. Bulbulan was asked to sign a pledge not to come to Abadeh to see his family any more. In addition to the raids on Bahai homes, a workshop belonging to Esma`il Feruzan (اسماعیل فروزان), which is the second floor of the home of his mother, Fatemeh Kan`ani, was sealed by the authorities. However it was not in use as Mr. Feruzan is seeking to move his work to another city. The government not only excludes Bahais from higher education, it makes it very difficult for them to find workplaces, or obtain licenses for small businesses.
Update, November 11: The Bahai World News Service adds that:
During questioning, several Baha’is were told that local residents “don’t like you” and that “when you are on the street, they might attack you and your children with knives.” Ms. Ala’i [a representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations] said, however, that not only is there no evidence that the people of Abadeh themselves are against the Baha’is but that the experience of the Baha’is says the opposite is true. “The real story is that the government is the culprit behind such threats and attacks,” said Ms. Ala’i. “The people of Abadeh have nothing against Baha’is and many love to associate with them freely.
One arrest in Isfahan
Daneshjoo News, October 22, 2013
Elham Mauqen (الهام موقن), a Bahai from Isfahan, was arrested in recent days following a raid by security forces on his home. The agents seized his personal computer, many books, and a large volume of handwritten notes. It is not known where he is being held.
Update, October 29: Mellun reports that “clashes” (presumably, raids on Bahai homes) took place in other parts of the city at the time of Elham Maugen’s arrest. There is still no word of where he is being held.
Ministry of Intelligence questions a Bahai visiting Iran from Australia
HRANA, October 21, 2013
The Ministry of Intelligence in Tonekabon has summoned and questioned an Iranian-born Bahai who is now an Australian national, and who had returned to Tonekabon after an absence of 30 years to see his (or her) mother, who is unwell. The name of the Bahai concerned has been withheld by HRANA. He or she was summoned to the Ministry on October 20, questioned from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., and pressured to sign an undertaking to do unspecified tasks for the Ministry of Intelligence. He or she refused to sign the document.
Nasim Ashrafi’s sentence reduced to one year
HRANA, October 19
Nasim Ashrafi ( نسیم اشرفی ), a Bahai from Tehran who was arrested in a wave of detentions of Bahais in Tehran, Mashhad and Shiraz in early July, 2012, has had her sentence reduced to one year. She was originally sentenced to 3 years in prison, in June 2013. She was charged with propaganda against the regime. She has been free on bail (set at one million tumans (300 euros, $US400)) since the end of July, 2012.
Sentences confirmed for 5 Bahais in Mashhad, 5 acquitted, one fined
HRANA, October 16
In February 2012, a number of mainly young Bahais participated in a handcraft exhibition in Mashhad to raise funds for the disadvantaged. They were arrested and eventually charged with propaganda against the regime in the form of teaching the Bahai Faith, and membership of the Bahai community. The review court for Khorasan province has now confirmed the 6-month sentences handed down to five of the eleven. Their names are Negar Mulkzadeh ( نگار ملک زاده ), Houriyyeh Mohsani (حوریه محسنی), Negin Ahmadiyan ( نگین احمدیان ), Behnaz Hodadzadeh ( بهناز حدادزاده ) and Arman Mukhtari ( آرمان مختاری ). The last three of these were arrested at the handcraft exhibition itself, the others were arrested in the following days. Of the six other Bahais who were sentenced to six months in prison in this case, one has been fined 300,000 tumans (88 euros, 120 US$) and the other five acquitted. Their names are Fattaneh Hajipour( فتانه حاجیپور ), Navid Nabili ( نوید نبیلی ), Mr. Azatollah Ahmadiyan ( عزت الله احمدیان ), Shahzad Khalili ( شهزاد خلیلی ), Noghmeh Dhabiheyan-Esami ( نغمه ذبیحیان ) and Shayan Tafazzoli ( شایان تفضلی ).
Raids on Bahai homes in Abadeh: one arrest
Azadi-ye Qalam (Blog), October 14, 2013
On Sunday October 13, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence searched at least ten Bahai homes in and around the town of Abadeh, in Fars province, seizing religious books, PCs and personal effects. An unspecified number of Bahais were summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence, and Mr. Afshin Bulbulan (افشین بلبلان) was arrested. In the area around Abadeh, house searches were made in the villages of Kushkek and Najaf Abad.
Abadeh has a substantial Bahai population. The Bahais there elected their first Local Spiritual Assembly in 1911. Abadeh, Kushkek and Najaf Abad were the scene for an anti-Bahai pogrom in 1901. In 1947-50, when Ayatollah Borojurdi was prioritizing anti-Bahai activities, he sent a number of representatives to the Abadeh area to instigate a systematic and sustained anti-Bahai campaign there, even authorising the murder of Bahais. In July 2007 there was an unusually widespread campaign of anti-Bahai graffiti and vandalism of Bahai-owned property in Abadeh, and in February 2011, billboards around the town carried anti-Bahai posters.
Sentencing for 4 Bahai youth in Semnan: father awaits sentence
Yaran Iran (facebook), October 13, 2013
Following their trials on August 21, 2013, Ardeshir Fena’eyan (اردشیر فناییان) has been sentenced to one year in prison. Golrokh Firuzeyan ( گلرخ فیروزیان ) and Shidrokh Firuzeyan ( شیدرخ فیروزیان ) have been sentenced to 9 months in prison. All three were arrested in Semnan in February and March this year, and they have been free on bail since April. They were charged with various offences, but eventually sentenced for “propaganda against the regime.”
Mr Hadjbar Firuzeyan (هژبر فیروزیان), the father of Golrock and Shidrok Firuzeyan, who had complained of the physical abuse (ie torture) of his children by the Ministry of Intelligence interrogators, is still awaiting sentence on a charge of spreading lies.
Behfar Khanjani ( بهفر خانجانی ), a Bahai from Semnan who has served three years of a four-year prison sentence for membership of illegal Bahai groups and attending Bahai prayer meetings and the 19th-day ‘Feast’ has been interrogated by the Ministry of Intelligence in Semnan prison, and his sentence has been extended by one year for “propaganda against the regime.” Mr. Khanjani suffers from an incurable medical condition which is at an advanced stage, and his condition is fragile. He was arrested on January 6 2010, after a search of his home by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence. He has also been the target of two arson attacks on his home using Molotov cocktails. He was among the Bahais who were pressured by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence for more than four hours on December 4, 2012, to give “interviews” for television. While he has been in prison, his sister and wife have also been interrogated.
Delegation of Egyptian Bahais meets the head of the constitutional committee
Akhbarak, October 
Amr Moussa (عمرو موسى), Chairman of the Committee of Fifty which is charged with drafting a new constitution for Egypt, and the writer Mohammad Salmawy (محمد سلماوى), media spokesman for the committee, met a delegation of Egyptian Bahais at the headquarters of the Shura Council to listen to their vision of suggested amendments to the Constitution. The meeting lasted almost an hour and half hour. The Bahai delegation consisted of Dr. Basma Moussa (بسمة موسى), a well-know activist for human rights, Dr. Rauf Hindi (رؤوف هندي), official representative of the Egyptian Bahais, Dr. Labib Hanna (لبيب حنا) and Dr. Sawsan Hosni (سوسن حسنـي). The delegation stressed that the new Constitution should embody the hopes of all Egyptians without distinction of colour, gender or creed, as the Constitution is a social contract and not an ideological programme. The role of the state is not to choose the beliefs of its citizens, in fact the main duty of the state is to preserve the freedom of thought and belief of every Egyptian, who should all be able to see the Constitution as theirs. The Bahais asked that international treaties and conventions regarding individual freedom and human rights should be one of the sources of legislation, and they stressed that the State must be required in writing to provide identification papers for every Egyptian. The asked for a law to forbid discrimination against Egypt’s minorities, and an independent body to monitor compliance. Dr. Rauf Hindi deplored the association of the Bahai name with Satanism and fire worship and equally astonishing things, by certain people. He said that the Bahais were not seeking a change in article III of the Constitution, but rather the inclusion of other clauses which would guarantee freedom of religion and the right to indentity papers for all Egyptians. The Baha’i delegation expressed confidence that the committee of 50 would be able to establish a new constitution that reflects the hopes and aspirations and highest principles of humanity.
[Article 3 of the suspended constitution specified for the first time that matters of personal status (marriage, divorce, inheritance) for Christians and Jews would be governed by legislation based on the Christian and Jewish religious laws. One proposal (which Dr. Hindi does not support) has been to apply this also to “other non-Muslims,” which would mean Bahais could be governed by their own laws of personal status. ~ Sen]
Arrest, and long detention, in Marvdasht county
HRANA, October 11, 2013
On September 11, 2013, Hassan Badhrafkan ( حسن بذرافکن ), a Bahai resident of Marvdasht country (in Fars Province), was arrested by security agents. The agents searched his home and seized a computer and religious books, and took him to the Ministry of Intelligence detention facility 100 in Shiraz. His temporary detention has since been extended three times, and he has been detained for more than four weeks. However his family have still received no indication of the reasons for his detention, except to say that his file is being examined.
In Khuzestan, authorities again try to isolate Bahais
HRANA, October 6, 2013
In recent days, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Sarbandar and Bandar-e Mahshahr, in the South West of Iran, have summoned many citizens and required a written promise from them that they will have no friendly contact or business dealings with Bahais. Last year the Ministry ran a similar campaign to stop contacts with the Bahais in other cities in Khuzestan.
In a separate development, Hadi Khamene’i, the brother of the beloved leader, has been photographed socializing with Bahai prisoners who are in hospital, and with their young visitors.
Investigating judge suggests Ataollah Rezvani death was suicide
A well-known member of the Iranian Baha’i community, Mr. Ataollah Rezvani ( عطاءالله رضوانی ), was killed in a religiously-motivated attack in Bandar Abbas, in Southern Iran on August 24. He was shot in the back of the head. Now the victim’s cousin, Navid Aghdasi, has reported that the judge assigned to the case has suggested suicide as a cause of death. Navid Aghdasi also said that the last person who saw Ataollah Rezvani alive has been missing for several days. “An Afghan labourer by the name of Karim was the last person who saw Mr. Rezvani alive. Karim worked at the home of a Bandar Abbas Bahai family who were out of the country, and Mr. Rezvani used to check on the house occasionally. That night he had gone there and had given a ride to Karim in his car. Unfortunately, for the past 12 days no one has heard about this labourer.”
Dr. Albert Lincoln steps down as Secretary-General of the Baha’i International Community
Bahai World News Service, September 30, 2013
The Bahai International Community, or BIC, is an international non-governmental organization representing the members of the Bahai Faith to the world. It could be called the external affairs organisation for the Bahais around the world. One of its most important branches is the United Nations Office. Dr. Albert Lincoln, a former lawyer, has been its Secretary-General since 1994, representing the Baha’i community in international fora and interactions with Government representatives, diplomats, high officials and leaders of thought from many parts of the world. Today, September 30, the Bahai International Community announced that he is to step down.
Dr. Lincoln was born in the United States in 1945. He received a J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School and during his professional career worked as a lawyer in four countries (France, Central African Republic, Cameroon and Cote d’Ivoire), three languages, and many different fields of law, ranging from human rights, intellectual property and natural resources to torts and criminal law.
Court orders destruction of Bahai Cemetery in Sanandaj
Mohbat News, August 19, 2013
On October 30, 2011, I reported that efforts had been made over recent months to seize the Bahai cemetery in Sanandaj, the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan Province. First the Ministry of Intelligence, and then the city’s department for the environment, pressured the Bahais to hand over the land. Bahais with businesses were also told they must close them. Earlier that year, the Bahais of Sanandaj were summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence and warned they should not participate in the Bahai “Feast” (a religious meeting, held once every 19 days), or work with non-Bahais.
Now the Revolutionary Court of Sanandaj has issued an order for the destruction of the Bahai cemetery near the medical school in that city. According to the Kurdistan News Agency, Jamal Ha’eri, a Bahai from Sanandaj who is currently in Australia, told the agency by telephone, “This cemetery (the Jawid Cemetery) is the resting place of over 40 Baha’is, most recently my mother, who was buried there four years ago.” He said that the Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj issued an order for the destruction of the Bahai cemetery and this was confirmed by the court of review on August 3, 2013.
“In the past, and during the presidency of Mr. Ahmadinejad, unknown individuals had shown disrespect to the Bahais through graffiti and breaking the gravestones,” Haeri added. He said that the cemetery land had already been sold to an individual and the cemetery is expected to be destroyed soon.
There are more than 40 Bahai families in the city of Sanandaj. On December 19, 2012, a number of Bahai homes were raided by Ministry of Intelligence officers. Samim Zara’i (صمیم زارعی) a Bahai from Sanandaj, was arrested on July 6, 2013, when security agents raided his home. He was later freed on bail, set at 200 million tumans (123,000 euros, $US 162,000).
Three arrests, and violence, in Tonekabon
Yaran-e Iran (facebook), September 24, 2013
Yesterday, three Bahai men were transferred from Tonekabon to the Ministry of Intelligence detention facilities in Sari, 225 kilometers to the East. Both cities are on the coastal plain of the Caspian Sea, in the north of Iran. Those arrested are Zayullah Qadri (ضیاءالله قادری), Soroush Gorshasebi (سروش گرشاسبی) and Faramarz Lotfi ( فرامرز لطفی). The report does not indicate when they were arrested, but implies it was on the same day. When Mr. Qadri’s wife, son, daughter and daughter-in-law entered the offices of Ministry of Intelligence to find out what had happened, and why, they were brutally assaulted by officials. When the family tried to stand up to them, the officials tried to drag the daughter-in-law outside by beating her and kicking her in the side, and when that failed, by pointing a gun at her. When she still refused to leave, tear gas and a pepper spray in their faces were used to eject her and her husband.
Mohammad Nourizad calls for mass rejection of the ‘unclean’ superstition
Iran Press Watch, September 23, 2013
On July 15, I reported the visit of Mohammad Nourizad to the home of the Rahimiyan family, where he ate fruit handed to him by a Bahai, and kissed the feet of a Bahai child. This was a demonstrative rejection of anti-Bahaism. According to the anti-Bahai ideology, Bahais are unclean, practice incest, and are agents of foreign powers. Mr. Nourizad’s photo album on facebook shows that he has continued to visit Bahais and seek reconciliation. Now Iran Press Watch has posted a translation of a call raised by Mr. Nourizad in a facebook posting on September 9. He roundly criticizes the senior Shiah clerics, known as “sources of imitation,” for propagating the idea that pagans, communists, Baha’is, and atheists are “unclean” and should be avoided. Then he calls Iranians to take mass non-violent action, through what Bahais will recognize as home visits:
As an individual or as a group go on visits to the homes of Baha’is and atheists, and associate with them in love and harmony. Bring them gifts as expressions of repentence and shame for having made them subjects of maltreatment and persecution. Eat food together with them. The next day after your visit, directly or indirectly distribute news about your visit through uncensored media and social networking tools. There is no solution except for the separation of our practices and principles from those misunderstandings of the Sources of Imitation. We should demonstrate that in our human and religious consciousness, all humans have been created clean, good, and noble, and an inclination towards any particular belief system can never make anyone dirty or unclean.
He calls for them to “eliminate the filth of [the idea of] untouchables from the face of humanity, from faith, from Islam and from Shia Islam. You can “like” this idea by visiting his facebook page.
The full text is available on Iran Press Watch
Heated discussion on freedom of religion in Egypt
Editorial, September 23, 2013
(Ahram) On Monday, Mohamed Salmawy, the media spokesperson for the 50-member committee drafting Egypt’s new constitution said that the new constitution must allow followers of religions other than Islam, Christianity and Judaism to worship freely. The 2012 constitution, drafted by an Islamist-dominated constituent assembly, stated that “the right to exercise one’s religious rites and establish places of worship is guaranteed for the three heavenly religions only: Islam, Christianity and Judaism.” Salmawy argued that the wording must be changed because it violates international conventions on human rights. He also noted that a lot of Muslims live in countries where the official religion is not Islam or Christianity.
“It is quite problematic to ask non-Muslim countries to give freedom to Muslims living on their land while Muslim countries refrain from doing the same to non-Muslims or people who do not believe in the world’s three heavenly religions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism.”
He said that the committee would look for a compromise that would raintain Islam as the official religion of the state but also ensure freedom for followers of all world religions. However an important subcommittee has decided to retain an article that states that “for Egyptian Christians and Jews, the principles of their religious law will be the main source in regulating their personal status laws, matters pertaining to their religion, and the selection of their spiritual leadership.” Mr. Salmawy’s proposal would require this to be enlarged to include all religious minorities who have ‘personal status’ laws (i.e., religious rules regarding marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc. that apply within a religious community). Mr. Salmawy’s proposal would potentially allow the Bahais to regulate their own personal status matters, rather than falling under a shariah court. However a Bahai religious court would first have to be established. The Egyptian NSA prepared “The Bahá’í Laws affecting Matters of Personal Status,” in the 1940′s, and Shoghi Effendi made the establishment of a religious court in Egypt, “circumstances permitting” one of the goals of his message to the African Intercontinental Conference in 1953.
On Wednesday, Egypt Daily News reported opposition to these suggestions from the Grand Mufti, Shawky Allam, who said it would lead to a disruption of public order. Next day it reported that the Al-Jamaa Al-Islamiya party rejected the proposal, which “allows those who belong to different religions to practice incest and homosexual marriage … It also allows atheists to have their own laws, which govern their personal affairs.” In fact, atheists were not included in Mr. Salmawy’s proposal. The reference to incest in the party’s statement points to the Bahais: there is a widespread belief in the Middle East that Bahais practice incest. Yasser Borhami, deputy leader of the Salafist Call, said that the proposed amendment would allow the proliferation of “non-Abrahamic religions,” such as Baha’i, Buddhism and Satan worship. Mr. Salmawy in response has denied that the committee is attempting to draft an anti-Islami constitution. He said that the constitution will preserve the freedom of practicing different religious rituals.
Former Rector of Tehran University apologises
Enqalab-e Islami, September 31. 2013
Dr. Muhammad Maleki ( محمد ملکی ), the former Rector of Tehran University, has met with one of the Bahai students excluded from tertiary education in Iran, and apologized to her. He was accompanied by film director Mohammad Nourizad, who has reported the meeting. The gesture has implications that are wider than Dr. Maleki’s rejection of religious discrimination in education, as he went to the home of one of the Bahai students, drank tea with her, and allowed himself to be photographed giving her a (chaste) kiss. This amounts to a forthright rejection of the belief that Bahais are unclean, which, with the beliefs that Bahais practice incest and are agents of foreign powers, is one of the three pillars of anti-Bahaism in the Middle East. This follows the earlier visit of Mr. Nourizad to the home of the Rahimiyan family, where he ate fruit handed to him by a Bahai, and kissed the feet of a Bahai child.
Dr. Maleki, met with Taraneh Ta’efi ( ترانه ی طائفی ), a 17-year-old Bahai student who has been excluded from tertiary education with the “incomplete file” excuse. He asked her where her mother was, and she told him her mother was serving five and a half years in prison, for having taught psychology in the Bahai Open University (BIHE), and had been denied any prison furlough. In his astonishment, Dr. Maleki jumped from his seat and embraced her, kissing her head, with tears in his eyes. [The injustices suffered by Bahais and other minorities in Iran are not reported in the Iranian media, and blocking of the internet makes it difficult for people in Iran to obtain objective news ~ Sen] He then apologized to her, on behalf of all those who did not understand [the Bahai Faith] and who in their ignorance impose limitations on the Bahais. He asked her to tell her mother, “The first Rector of Tehran University, now aged 81, came to our home and bowed in recognition of the injustice we and others like us have suffered.
Mr. Nourizad and Dr. Maleki then went to the home of Afaq [Rahimian] whose husband was executed by the post-revolutionary regime, while her two sons and daughter-in-law are now in prison for teaching psychology at the Bahai Open University. [This must refer to Keyvan and Kamran Rahimian ( کامران رحیمیان : کیوان رحیمیان ) and Faran Hesami (فاران حسامی )]. Dr. Maleki shook hands with her and said, “Madame, I am an academic, a Muslim, a Shiah, and I swear by God that studying and teaching are not a crime for any human being, because Islam teaches that everyone should be learning, from the cradle to the grave. It is a religious duty.”
Aged Bahai man beaten at provincial government offices
HRANA, September 22, 2013
Behzad Shokuhi ( بهزاد شکوهی ), who is 75 years old, worked for the Ministry of Argiculture before the 1979 revolution. Like other Bahais in the civil service he was fired and banned from any further work for the government. He has been preparing a petition to the Ministry of Agriculture [presumably in relation to his pension rights: the pension funds of Bahais who were dismissed were also confiscated], and in connection with that, he was summoned to the Provincial Government Offices for Tehran province. When he went there, he was beaten up and insulted.
3-year sentences confirmed for Hamid Eslami and Rahman Vafa’i
Keyhan-e Novin blog, September 16, 2013
The review court has confirmed the 3-year sentences hand down to Hamid Eslami ( حمید اسلامی ) and Rahman Vafa’i (رحمان وفائی ). They were arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Shiraz on July 14, 2012, and were charged with “membership of, and propaganda for, illegal groups” and “endangering national security.” However they are held in Adel Abad prison in the section for religious prisoners, not as security or political prisoners. The review court considered their files on August 22, 2013, with the lawyer for the defendants present. On September 14, their lawyer was informed that the sentences had been confirmed. Mr. Vafayi, who is 59 years old, suffers from heart complications and his family fears the effects of imprisonment on his health.
Bahai students in Iran again excluded from university entrance exam
Daneshjoo News, September 11, 2013
As the results of this year’s University Entrance examinations in Iran are announced on the web site of the Assessment Department, many Bahai aspirants are finding the error message “incomplete file.” An example is Faraz Rouhani ( فراز روحانی ). HRANA reports that be participated in the University Entrance examination this year, and got as far as the first stage of admission to a study programme, but on September 11, as he was entering his personal data in the site of the Department of Assessments, he was confronted with the error message “file incomplete.” For the past seven years, the “incomplete file” error message has been used to exclude known Bahai students from entering a university. However Ja`far Towfiqi (جعفر توفیقی), who was Minister of Science in President Khatami’s cabinet from 2003 to 2005. and who has been serving as acting Minister of Science, Research and Technology since August 17, 2013, has recently announced a programme of improvements and political opening for the universities. He has said that those excluded from education in recent years and who feel their rights have been infringed should take their cases to the Ministry of Science. President Rouhani has also promised, during the Presidential elections, that the problem of some people being excluded from higher education would be solved. The Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, on the other hand, has stated that only Muslims, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians are entitled to higher education.
PCED, September 13
The author and film maker Muhammad Nourizad ( محمد نوری زاد ), who was once a writer for the hard-line Keyhan newspaper, has written a letter protesting the exclusion of Bahai students using the “incomplete file” ruse. He states that an official from the Ministry of Science had told him that the Ministry of Intelligence had recently caused the exclusion of about 30 eligible Bahai students.
Updates on Bahai prisoners in Semnan
Zendani Bahai (facebook), September 3
“Zendani Bahai” has published a review of the past year’s events for the Bahai prisoners in Semnan, which includes some information not previously reported here.
Elham Ruzbehi (الهام روزبهی), a Bahai from Isfahan who began serving her 2 year sentence in Semnan prison, with her baby, on April 27, 2013, was later transferred to Isfahan prison.
The trial of Mrs. Golrokh Firuzeyan ( گلرخ فیروزیان ), who was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence in Semnan on March 12, and released on bail on April 25, was held about August 21.
Shidrokh Firuzeyan ( شیدرخ فیروزیان ) who was arrested on February 12, 2013, was later freed on bail (not previously reported here), and her trial was also held about August 21.
Sho`eleh Nurani ( شعله نورانی ), a Semnan Bahai whose case has not previously been reported, is said to be living in exile. Internal exile from one’s home province is sometimes imposed in Iran, following a prison sentence.
`Erfan Ehsani ( عرفان احسانی ) from Sangsar in Semnan province, who began serving his one-year sentence on October 30, 2012, was later been freed on parole.
Mr. Nader Kaza’i ( نادر کسائی ), whose arrest and detention have not previously been reported, was freed in August.
The trial of Ardeshir Fena’eyan (اردشیر فناییان), who was arrested in Semnan on February 12, and released on bail on April 10, was held about August 21.
Mr. `Ali Ehsani (علی احسانی), who entered Semnan prison in September 2010, has apparently completed his term since he is reported to be living in exile. This was previously reported by the CHRR but not on Sen’s Daily. Mr. Ehsani was sentenced to two years in prison, two year’s exile in another city, and a fine of 5 million rials (about 333 euros).
There are presently eight Bahai men, three women and two babies in Semnan prison. It appears that the harsh restrictions on the Bahai prisoners have been somewhat alleviated, but their telephone contacts are still restricted, and they have no access to professional and technical training. Prison officials blame this on the the regulations of the Semnan organisation for professional and technical training [presumably, the organisation does not allow its teachers to have contact with "unclean" people ~Sen]. Also, prison furlough for aged and ill prisoners has been denied to some of the Bahais, and furlough which should have been granted under new prison regulations has been denied without reason.
Earthquake aid workers acquitted
PCED, September 4, 2013
The review court in Tabriz has acquitted all of the social activists who were arrested while bring aid to the victims of the the 2011 Azerbaijan earthquake. Of the 35 who were originally arrested, five were Bahais. They were charged with assembly and collusion to commit crimes against national security, endangering public health and insulting Iran’s Supreme Leader. The last of these accusations was also made against the lawyer acting for the group, Farid Ruhani ( فرید روحانی ), but appears to have been dropped (he has not been officially notified of it). The five Bahais concerned are Navid Khanjani, Shayan Vahdati, Mithaq Afshar, Farid Ruhani and Vahid Khalus ( نوید خانجانی، شایان وحدتی، میثاق افشار، فرید روحانی و واحد خلوصی ).
Emanullah Mostaqim free on furlough
HRANA, September 4, 2013
Emanullah Mostaqim ( امانالله مستقیم ), one of the staff of the Bahai Open University (BIHE) in Iran who is serving a 5-year sentence in Raja’i Shahr prison, has been released on medical furlough for treatment for a heart failure and diabetes.
Didar Ra’ufi on furlough
HRANA, September 4, 2013
On January 27, 2013, I reported that Didar Ra’ufi ( دیدار رئوفی ) had been freed after serving his sentence. This was incorrect: his release was apparently a conditional release for medical reasons, and he was later recalled to prison. He was again granted leave, apparently for medical reasons, on August 31. He is serving a three year sentence for membership of the Bahai community and teaching the Bahai Faith. He was held in section 350 of Tehran’s Evin prison until he was transferred to Raja’i Shahr on August 5, 2011. A report from the time of his arrest suggests he had an unspecified medical condition before his imprisonment began.
Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani speaks with, and for, the Bahais
Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, September 4, 2013
A number of Bahai activists met with Ayatollah Abdolhamid Masumi Tehrani, a dissident Shia cleric, in his office yesterday following the murder last week of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani, a Bahi, in Bandar Abbas. Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani expressed his sorrow regarding Mr. Rezvani’s murder, and criticized the violation of the civil rights of Iran’s Bahai community. Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani is one of the few clerics who has defended the Bahais in Iran in the past.
In remarks published on his website, and which he was reported to have expressed in the meeting, Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani said, “We do not have the right to limit or deny the personal and social rights of any individual who has not interfered with another person’s life, property, honor or reputation. In today’s world, personal and social rights, or in other words, an individual’s civil rights, are not defined by his or her religion, sect, ethnicity or gender. A human being, on account of being a human, is entitled to human rights without any consideration of belief, ethnicity or gender, and no one has the right to limit these rights for a person who has not violated others’ rights. Every government is responsible for defending the personal and social rights of all citizens without any exceptions and in an impartial manner, and to prosecute anyone who violates the rights of others for any reason or due to subscribing to any opinion.”
Contradicting most other Shia clerics, Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani stated that arguing about the legitimacy of religions and sects has proved fruitless throughout history, and that such arguments have resulted in humans killing their own kind. At the end of his comments, Ayatollah Masumi Tehrani expressed optimism regarding the respect for human rights of all Iranian citizens in the future and said, “ I hope that one day in this country Shias, Sunnis, Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews, Bahaís and even atheists will have equal rights and be accorded the same respect. It is in such a society that talents flourish and the country is strengthened. Thankfully this positive development is spreading in Iranian society, and it is becoming institutionalized. Hopefully this trend will continue.”
Muhammad Hussein Nakh`i meets family in US
Chicago Tribune, September 2, 2013
An 86-year-old man jailed last year in his native Iran because of his Bahai beliefs spent the weekend at a Baha’i sponsored conference in Schaumburg, Illinois, with friends and relatives he hadn’t seen in years. Muhammad Hussein Nakh`i ( محمد حسین نخعی ) was sentenced to one year in prison and a fine of 6 million rials by the revolutionary court of Birjand: he began his sentence in May, 2012, and was released in April, 2013. He was then reunited with his wife in Italy and has since moved with her into a home in Vernon Hills, Illinois to be near his daughter, Nasrin.
Three Bahais arrested in Isfahan area
HRANA, August 21, 2013
On August 15, agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, accompanied by police officers, raided the home of an elderly Bahai in the village of Helab, Isfahan, where a number of Bahais from the Najafabad and Vilashahr areas had gathered to say prayers and read Bahai books. The agents seized religious books and questioned the residents and arrested three people: Bunafsha Ferdowsian, Afrouz Rouhi (pictured), and Mas`ud Wajdani ( بنفشهفردوسیان، افروز روحی و مسعود وجدانی ). Bunafsha Ferdowsian was later released on bail.
Bahai martyred in Bandar Abbas
A well-known member of the Iranian Baha’i community, Mr. Ataollah Rezvani ( عطاءالله رضوانی ), was killed in a religiously-motivated attack in Bandar Abbas, in Southern Iran on August 24. His body was found in his car near the railway station on the outskirts of the city: he had been shot in the back of the head. It appears that his assailants may have forced him to drive to the place he was shot.
Mr. Rezvani was well-known as a Baha’i. For three years he was one of the three Bahais who served as local facilitators (Khademin) for the Bahais in the area, which would have involved interactions with local authorities on behalf of the Bahais. His life had previously been threatened by fanatical elements within the city administration, by the office of the Imam Jam`eh and by the Ministry of Intelligence. He was loved and respected by the people of Bandar Abbas for his honesty and helpfulness. As a young man, he was expelled from his engineering studies at university because he was a Baha’i. He nonetheless came to be regarded as an expert in water purification, and his work took him to other cities. Recently, owing to pressure and threats from agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, he was dismissed from his work and had to resort to selling water purification equipment. These agents had also been bringing pressure to bear on him to leave the city. More recently, he had begun receiving menacing telephone calls from unknown persons. On several occasions in the past few years senior local clerics have attempted to incite the population through incendiary sermons against the Bahais of the city. Some years ago, two Bahai men, Mi`ad Afshar and Dr. Meydani ( میعاد افشار و دکتر میدانی ) were stabbed by ‘enforcers’ retained by the Imam Jam`eh, and on an earlier incident, Mr. Iraj Mahdinezhad (ایرج مهدی نژاد) was stabbed by what is described in my sources as “a Muslim mob” [with apologies to true Muslims who will rightly consider this a misuse of the term Muslim ~ Sen.]
In a message dated August 27, the Universal House of Justice, the international head of the Bahai community, writes, “he gave up his life and quaffed the cup of martyrdom.”
Mr. Rezvani’s sister, Sahba Rezvani ( صهبا رضوانی ), has served three and a half years in prison in Semnan and Tehran.
Siamak Iqani released
PCED, August 9, 2013
Siamak Iqani (سیامک ایقانی ), a Bahai from Semnan, has been released from prison at the end of this three-year sentence for “propaganda against the regime and Bahai propaganda. He was sentenced on July 11, 2009, and began his sentence in Semnan prison on November 6, 2009. [So he has actually served 3 years and 9 months ~ Sen]. He suffered three respiratory attacks in prison, and was hospitalised in February 2011. During his term in prison he had 10 days of prison furlough, in June 2011. His wife, Anisa Fana’eyan (انیسا فنائیان ) was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months on charges of adherence to and teaching the Bahai Faith, reduced by the review court to 22 months in prison. She began her sentence on January 19, 2013. The couple have two young children, who were taken from them when Anisa Fana’eyan began her sentence. Their business in Semnan has also been closed down.
Navid Khanjani transferred to hospital
HRANA, August 7, 2013
Navid Khanjani (نوید خانجانی ), a Bahai human rights activist and a founding member of the PCED (Campaign against Educational Discrimination), was transferred from Raja’i Shahr prison to a hospital in Tehran on August 3, in relation to problems with his heart, breathing and lower back. He is serving a 12-year sentence, on charges of spreading propaganda (an activity which the IRI itself engages in), disturbing public opinion, propaganda against the regime in the reports and interviews of foreign media, membership of the central committee of the CHRR (Committee of Human Rights Reporters), and founding the PCED.
Sa`id Reza’i sent to prison from hospital despite needing aftercare
HRANA, August 8, 2013
Sa`id Reza’i (سعید رضائی ) one of the seven ‘Yaran’ (facilitators for the Bahais in Iran) who have served over 5 years of their 20-year sentences,
was hospitalized two weeks ago due to a gastrointestinal disorder, and was transferred back to Rajai Shahr prison on August 7. During his treatment, tests revealed that he also has a 70% blockage in his coronary artery. He underwent emergency heart surgery. Doctors ordered one month of after care in a quiet and suitable location. Ignoring the doctor’s orders for post-op care, officials returned him to Raja’i Shahr prison.
Sentences of the Khalusi sisters go to review
HRANA, August 8, 2013
The files of Nika and Nava Khalusi (نیکا و نوا خلوصی ), Bahais from Mashhad, were sent to the review court for the province of Khorosan on August 7. Their trial was held on May 12. Nika was sentenced to six years in prison, and Nava to four and a half years, on charges of membership of the Bahai organisation, participation in illegal Bahai activities, and propaganda in favour of the Bahais and against the regime of the Islamic Republic. The bail was exceptionally high.
Samim Zara’i free on bail
PCED, August 2, 2013
Samim Zara’i (صمیم زارعی) a Bahai from Sanandaj who was arrested during a raid on his home on July 6, has been freed on bail, set at 200 million tumans (123,000 euros, $US 162,000)
“THE GARDENER” wins another award /h3>
Makhmalbaf.com, July 31, 2013
The Sixteenth Motovun Film Festival in Croatia has granted its Special Maverick Award (Independent Art) to the film “THE GARDENER” by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Mohsen Makhmalbaf was present as a guest of honour at the festival, where they held a retrospective some of his works. While receiving the award he said:
“I hope this award could be used as a key in unlocking the doors of cultural and political prisons.
With this hope in my mind, I dedicate this award to that eighty-year-old Baha’i man who has been sentenced to twenty years of prison and is passing the last years of his life in one cell with his grandson.
I dedicate this award to that Baha’i mother from Semnan who is in prison accompanied by her infant child.
I dedicate this award to all the 130 Baha’i prisoners who are in Iran’s political prisons only because they have adopted a different religion or because they have taught Baha’i youth at their homes while the government of Iran has deprived these youth from entering Iranian universities. …”
Full report here
One arrest in Qorveh
PCED facebook page, July 29, 2013
Behnam Eqdamian (بهنام اقدامیان), a Bahai from Qorveh, was arrested at his workplace there on July 23, 2013. Security agents came with a judicial warrant. He was apparently transferred to the custody of the Ministry of Intelligence, since on July 27, 2013, he was transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence detention facilities in Sanandaj. There has been no word about the reason for his detention or his condition.
Manizheh Nasrollahi released from prison
Iran Green Voice, July 26, 2013
Manizheh Nasrollahi (منیژه نصراللهی), a 60-year-old Bahai from Semnan who has been serving a sentence of three years in Evin prison, was released on July 26, at the end of her sentence. She was arrested during a raid on her house on June 17, 2009, and taken to Semnan prison, where she was held for about 6 weeks before being released on bail. She was initially sentenced to three and a half years [or three years and 8 months: reports vary], on charges of propaganda against the regime and membership of the Bahai community. This was reduced to three years by the review court. She began her sentence in Semnan prison on February 27, 2010, and was transferred to Evin prison in Tehran on March 11, 2010. While she was in prison in Tehran, her aged husband had to travel back and forth to meet her and take care of administrative matters.
Passing of Dr. Amin Banani
Baha’is of Santa Monica, July 28, 2013
Professor Amin Banani, a scholar of Persian and of the Bahai Faith, author and translator, Knight of Baha’u’llah and son of Hand of the Cause Musa Banani, passed away Sunday, July 28, 2013. A selection of his works can be seen on his web page.
Zhinous Rahimi begins 1-year sentence
PCED, July 20, 2013
Zhinous Rahimi (ژینوس رحیمی ) a Bahai from Tehran who has been sentenced to one year in prison, reported to Evin prison on July 20 to begin serving her sentence. She was one of almost 20 Bahai arrested in July 2012, in Tehran, Shiraz, and Mashhad. After being held for about 3 weeks, she was released on bail. She was initially sentenced to three years in prison, reduced to one year by the review court.
Destruction of the House of Baha’u’llah: update
Messages from the Bahai World Centre, July 17, 2013
In a message addressed to the Bahais of the world, the Universal House of Justice has stated:
“… it was with utter shock and desolating grief that the Baha’is in Baghdad discovered on 26 June that the “most holy habitation” of Baha’u’llah had been razed almost to the ground to make way for the construction of a mosque. It has now been confirmed that the work was undertaken without a legal permit. The destruction of the property, it emerges, had been planned for some time, but the largest part of the operation was carried out over just three days and nights, from 24 to 26 June, using heavy machinery. We understand that the Department of Antiquities, which had previously been preparing to renovate the property, is already taking steps to establish precisely what led to the demolition, to attempt to halt any construction on the same spot, and to bring to account those responsible. …Baha’u’llah foresaw that the Most Great House would be subjected to terrible indignities, but He also stated that, no matter what adversities might arise, the Cause was divinely protected. Let every believer take heart. In a moving apostrophe addressed to that House, the Ancient Beauty asserted: “God hath, in the world of creation, adorned thee with the jewel of His remembrance. Such an ornament no man can, at any time, profane.” He gave a promise, too, that, notwithstanding all that would befall the Blessed House, the future glory of that sanctified place was assured: “In the fullness of time, the Lord shall, by the power of truth, exalt it in the eyes of all men. He shall cause it to become the Standard of His Kingdom, the Shrine round which will circle the concourse of the faithful.”
Demonstrative rejection of anti-Bahaism from Mohammad Nourizad
HRANA, July 15, 2013
On July 15, the prominent Iranian file director Mohammad Nourizad visited the home of the Rahimiyan family. Kamran Rahimiyan ( کامران رحیمیان ) and his wife Faran Hesami ( فاران حسامی ) are both serving 4-year prison sentences for their work as teachers at the Bahai Open University (BIHE). Mr. Rahimiyan is in Raja’i Shahr prison, in Karaj, about 50 kilometres from Tehran, and his wife is in Evin prison, in Tehran. Their son Artin (آرتین) is in the care of his grandmother. His grandfather was martyred for his Faith some years ago.
On his web site, Mr. Nourizad has published a photograph showing him kissing the feet of Artin, and writes “Today I went to see a small Bahai family: small in the sense that only the grandmother and her four-year-old grandson remain. I seated Artin, the four-year-old, on a chair and, on behalf of all the arrogant Shiah [sic], I asked his forgiveness, and I kissed his little feet. … Today, I am not fasting [for Ramadan], because I am ill. Artin brought me water, and I drank, he brought me fruit, and I ate.”
Mr. Nourizad’s act, and posting the photograph on his blog, is a demonstrative rejection of both the ideology of the Islamic Republic, which has made anti-Bahaism a feature of its version of Iranian identity, and of the Othering of Bahais in Iranian culture, which is much older than the Islamic Republic. Bahais are popularly regarded as unclean, and this has been confirmed by religious authorities in numerous fatwas since the Revolution. Bahais are therefore not allowed to work in food industries in Iran. To visit a Bahai home and accept food and drink creates a potent symbolic image, showing an alternative Iranian identity which would be free of bigotry and discrimination. It is also a gesture of reconciliation, and for a man living in Iran, an act of courage. He was jailed in 2009 after criticizing the crackdown on protesters challenging the reelection of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.
Nourizad suggested that by kissing the boy’s feet, he was following the example of Pope Francis, who earlier this year kissed the feet of a young female Muslim prisoner: “When the Pope, the leader of the world’s Catholics, bends, washes, and kisses the feet of a Muslim prisoner, why shouldn’t I kiss your feet as a representative of the office of [Iran's Supreme leader Ali Khamenei] and the Shi’ite sources of emulation?”
“Little Artin meets [his parents] every Sunday. He goes to Karaj to meet his father and uncle and to Evin prison to meet his mother. Artin’s parents have not committed any crime, except that they are Baha’i.”
Shamim Ettahadi sentenced: 5 years
HRANA, July 14, 2013
Shamim Ettahadi (شمیم اتحادی), a Bahai from Yazd who was arrested during a raid on his home on March 14, has been sentenced to 5 years in prison, on charges of acting against national security and propaganda against the regime. The charges relate to his supposed responsibility for a video documenting the destruction of the Bahai cemetery in Yazd, which was shown on the Persian-language television network Manoto. He was previously arrested in August 2011, along with three other Bahai youths, who had gone walking in a mountainous area. He was sentenced to 91 days in prison, on charges of propaganda against the regime, which the review court changed to 3 years probation.
Concerns for the health of Rahman Vafa’i, imprisoned in Shiraz
PCED, July 13, 2013
Rahman Vafa’i (رحمان وفائی ), a 59-year old Bahai serving a three-year sentence in Adel Abad prison in Shiraz, is in poor physical health and has been denied prison furlough. He suffers from high blood pressure and experiences severe pain from a sciatic nerve. He was receiving medical treatment before his imprisonment, but it has not been possible to continue this in prison. His family send medicines to the prison, but they are not always passed to him by the prison. Although he needs surgery for his sciatic problem, as he has lost all feeling in his left foot, the prison doctor has not recognized that this is necessary. He was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence in Shiraz on July 14, 2012, and after almost 9 months in detention was sentenced, in May 2013, on the charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “membership in Baha’i organizations.”
Nura Fallah interrogated, released
PCED, July 10
Nura Samitra Fallah [نورا (سمیترا) فلاح], a Bahai from Shiraz, received telephone calls summoning her to the Ministry of Intelligence on July 8. When she presented herself, she was detained and interrogated for hours. It was previously reported here that she had been arrested.
Leva Khanjani gets leave from prison
CHRR, July 10, 2013
Leva Khanjani ( لوا خانجانی، ), a Bahai student excluded from education, and the granddaughter of the imprisoned Bahai facilitator Jamaloddin Khanjani, was granted 4 days of prison furlough beginning on July 10. She has served 11 months of a two-year sentence in Evin prison in Tehran. She was arrested on January 3, 2010, along with her husband Babak Mobasher ( بابک مبشر). They were among 12 Tehran Bahais blamed for the Ashura protests in late 2009. Her brother Fu’ad Khanjani (فواد خانجانی), another student excluded from education, is serving a 4-years sentence in Raja’i Shahr prison.
Bahai student expelled in Shiraz
HRANA, July 10
Aida Bandi (آیدا بندی ), a Bahai in the second semester of a degree in English language and literature at the Payam-e Nour University in Shiraz, has been barred from continuing her studies. University officials told her she should either become a Muslim, or continue her studies outside the country like the other Bahais.
Two arrests in Sanandaj
HRANA, July 9, 2013
Samim Zara’i (صمیم زارعی) a Bahai from Sanandaj, the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan Province, was arrested on July 6, when security agents raided his home. HRANA reports that this follows the arrest of Sama Ra’ufi (سما رئوفی) in Sanandaj “within the last two months.” This is presumably a different person to the Sama Ra’ufi, also a Bahai, who was arrested in Arak on February 20, as previously reported.
One arrest in Shiraz
HRANA, July 8
Nura Samitra Fallah [نورا (سمیترا) فلاح], a Bahai from Shiraz, received telephone calls summoning her to the Ministry of Intelligence on July 8, and was arrested when she presented herself. It is not known where she is being held, or what the reason may be. On February 4, 2012, she was one of those detained in the course of communal arrests of Bahais in Shiraz. She was held in Detention Centre 100 in Shiraz. [I do not know when she was released ~Sen]
BBC Persian service, July 6, 2013
The Iranian film-maker Mohsen Makhmalbaf is being honored as a special guest at the Jerusalem Film Festival, July 4 – 13. A number of his films will be shown, including “The Gardener,” which is about the Bahai Faith and was shot largely in the Bahai Gardens in Haifa and Akka. The Gardener (Persian: باغبان Baghban) is a poetic documentary film that Mohsen Makhmalbaf co-directed with his son Maysam Makhmalbaf. It is about an Iranian filmmaker and his son who travel to Israel to learn about the role of religion in the world. While the son goes out to the Wailing Wall, the Golden Mosque and Christian sites, the father stays at the Baha’i gardens to learn about a faith that came out of his own country – Iran. While the film is an exploration of the Baha’i Faith, it is also the story of two generations of Iranians debating the positive and negative aspects of religions. Makhmalbaf argues that it is very important for the world to have religion since it is such a powerful force, while his son disagrees, pointing to examples of the corruption of religion. The film is similar to Gabbeh and The Silence in style. At the Beirut International Film Festival in 2012, the The Gardener won the Gold Aleph for best documentary, and Times of India placed it in the top 10 filems of 2012 at the Mumbai International Film Festival.
According to one report, Makhmalbaf made this film in Israel “just to provoke the fundamentalist elements in my country.”
Bahai memorial service raided in Tenakbon
Azadi Qalam, July 5, 2013
Yesterday, security forces in Tenakbon raided a Bahai meeting marking one year since the death of Mrs Layli Sobhani ( لیلی سبحانی ), disrupting the ceremony and insulting those present. Seven to eight security officers entered the home where lunch was being served for about 80 people and alarmed those present with loud shouting, such as “You members of the deviant Bahai cult … you really have no right to meet, you have no right to protest, you don’t even have a right to have a picnic.” Nobody was arrested: the raid appeared to be aimed only at spoiling the day.
Guilty verdict in the murder of John Veira in Suriname
DWT online, July 4, 2013 :
Sergio Brank has been found guilty of the murder of John Veira, a prominent member of the Bahai community in Suriname and the Director of Civil Aviation there. Mr. Veira was assassinated in front of his house in Commewijne on the night of April 21, 2010 (the First Day of Ridavan). Two men on a motorcycle arrived, called to him, and shot him three times in the chest when he came out. He died on the spot. He was 59 years old. The motives for the murder have not been clarified. The court has found that Brank was the shooter, and has sentenced him to 18 years in prison. Three other men have been found guilty of assisting in destroying evidence.
The son of the deceased, Jeewan Veira, has stated that he thinks he knows who paid for the murder, but will not speak in public. As regards the motive, he says, “My father had integrity. He was in the way for people engaged in shady dealing. Even if you put a bag of dollars in front of him, he wouldn’t take it. The only way those people could get past him was by clearing him completely out of the way.”
Update, July 10: the man convicted of the murder, who has maintained his innocence. is to appeal his conviction.
Universal House of Justice Message to the Youth Conferences
Editorial, July 3, 2013
I have placed the text of the Universal House of Justice’s message to the participants at the 114 youth conferences in the Documents Archive section of my Bahai Studies blog.
House of Baha’u’llah in Baghdad destroyed
Universal Hosue of Justice, June 27
TO: All National Spiritual Assemblies DATE: 27 June 2013
With shattered hearts, we have received news of the destruction of the Most Great House–the House of Baha’u’llah in Baghdad. While the precise circumstances attending this outrageous violation are as yet unclear, its immediate consequence is without doubt, and must be emphatically stated: The peoples of the world have been robbed of a sanctuary of incalculable sacredness.
So deplorable an act, coming on the eve of the unprecedented worldwide convocation of Baha’u’llah’s young followers and their friends, calls to mind that mysterious interplay of crisis and victory through which His indestructible, irrepressible, inexorable purpose will finally be consummated.
We supplicate the Blessed Beauty to confer upon His faithful followers throughout the world fortitude and resolve in the face of this grievous blow. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
The Universal House of Justice
Hushang Fana’ayan freed
PCED, June 27, 2013
Hushang Fana’ayan ( هوشنگ فنائیان ), a Bahai from Amol who has been imprisoned in Babol, was released on parole yesterday. He was arrested on March 14, 2011, and charged with participation in the 19th-day feast and membership of the Bahai community. He was separately charged with propaganda against the regime. Initially he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison (on May 24, 2011) which was reduced by the review court to 4 years: three years for being a Bahai and one year for propaganda against the regime. He was held in Amol prison for one year before being transferred to Babol. He suffered from health problems and very poor conditions during his detention, and was denied the usual prison furlough.
Ramin Aidalkhani transferred to Meshginshahr prison
HRANA, June 15, 2013
Ramin Aidalkhani ( رامین ایدلخانی ), a Bahai from the city of Parsabad in Ardabil province (the extreme northern tip of Iran, on the Azerbaijan bordr), had been transferred unexpectedly from Parsabad prison to Meshginshahr prison, in a town some 200 kilometres south of Parsabad. Mr. Aidalkhani is serving a two-year sentence on charges of propaganda against the regime and insulting the Beloved Leader, to be followed by a 5-year exile from Ardabil province. He and his wife `Ahdieh Rashediyyehrad ( عهدیه راشدی راد ) were arrested on May 5, 2010. He was sentenced in Aradabil on September 20, 2011, and began his sentence on August 21, 2012.
New Zealand “Supreme Commitment Award” for the prisoner Aziz Samandari
Dominion Post, June 17
Azizullah Samandari ( عزیزالله سمندری ), a 40 year-old Baha’i IT specialist who is serving a 5-year prison sentence in Raja’i Shahr prison, has been selected for the New Zealand Parliament’s “Supreme Commitment Award.” Mr. Samandari took part in the 2010 Global Enterprise Experience (GEE), which is supported by Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. He received the award in absentia at Parliament last week. The charges against him included communicating with foreigners, a possible reference to his participation in the competition. However the only question he was asked at his trial was whether he belonged to the Baha’i community. The very short judgment – which was read out but not handed over – spoke of his “active membership in the misguided Baha’i sect” and his association with the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education.
GEE founder Deb Gilbertson said Mr Samandari’s school in Iran indicated his participation in the business competition was not the only reason for his arrest, but was probably a factor. “The Supreme Commitment Award is to recognise the exceptional sacrifice he is making to pursue higher education and global communication,” Mrs Gilbertson said.
This year 12 Baha’i students took part in the competition from Iran through the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE). The institute is run secretly out of homes because the Iranian government does not allow Baha’is entry to public universities. Mr Samandari’s father, a founding member of the BIHE, was executed in 1992.
Kasem Samanadri, who lives in France, said his nephew’s trial had lasted less than ten minutes. “It is not like what we have here in the West. “The verdict had been prepared in advance and executed immediately.” Mr Samandari is confined to a 2×3 metre cell with two, at times three, other people.
“We, as his family are extremely proud of Aziz for what he has done to help innocent young Baha’i boys and girls. We are grateful to the New Zealand Government and Parliament for recognising his courage and distinguishing him with this honour.”
The Iranian Embassy’s public relations officer said groups like the Baha’i did not respect Islam and, therefore, could not expect to participate in normal Iranian life. “We recognise them as humans but do not recognise their beliefs as they are 100 per cent anti-Islam. It is just like how Singapore does not recognise gays.”
Ramez Rowhani, who attended the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education with Mr Samandari, spent three months in a different Iranian jail in 1995 after also being charged with communicating with foreigners. He was released without a trial and fled to New Zealand in 2000. Mr Rowhani said the only time he was removed from his 2×1 metre cell was for the “usual” physical and psychological interrogation handed out to Baha’is in prison.
Mr Rowhani, who is now an IT consultant in Wellington, said since then the conditions inside Iranian jails had worsened, with mothers and their infants in jails with horrendous hygiene and overcrowding conditions. “It is difficult to understand how human beings can do these sorts of things to another human being, let alone their own countrymen.”
Amnesty International New Zealand activism manager Margaret Taylor said what had been happening to the Baha’i in Iran was a serious breach of human rights. “The persecution has intensified quite recently. The Iranian government is demonising the Baha’i people and using the state-run media to push this demonisation to their people.”
[The Dominion Post report incorrectly states that Mr. Samandari is being held in Evin Prison in Tehran. This is no longer correct, was transferred from Evin to Raja’i Shahr prison in August, 2012. He was also tried twice: at the first trial he was acquitted of all charges, and the case was re-opened with new accusations in 27 Oct 2011. This may explain why there are differing accounts of what he was charged with. ~ Sen]
Kamran Rahimiyan and Foad Khanjani meet family in Evin prison
HRANA, June 18
Kamran Rahimiyan ( کامران رحیمیان ) and Fu’ad Khanjani (فواد خانجانی), two Bahai prisoners in Raja’i Shahr prison, near Tehran, have been allowed to meet family members who are imprisoned in Evin prison in Tehran. Kamran Rahimiyan and his wife
Faran Hesami ( فاران حسامی ) are both serving 4-year prison sentences for their work as teachers at the Bahai Open University (BIHE). On June 17 Mr. Rahimiyan was moved to Evin prison and was allowed to see his wife. It is six months since the couple last met. The couple have a son, Artin (آرتین), who is four years old, and has been badly affected by the imprisonment of his parents.
Fu’ad Khanjani, who was a student of industrial management in Isfahan until his expulsion, is also serving a 4-year sentence in Raja’i Shahr prison, while his sister Leava Khanjani ( لواء خانجانی ) is serving a 2-year sentence in Evin prison. Mr. Khanjani was transfered to Evin prison to meet his sister. They last met briefly in prison on December 4, 2012.
However Farzad Madadzadeh (فرزاد مددزاده) and Muhammad Banazadeh Amirkhizi(محمد بنازاده امیرخیزی), two political prisoners held in Raja’i Shahr, who have a sisters in Evin prison, have not been permitted to meet them for some time.
Rozita Vaseghi denied medical treatment
HRANA, June 16
Rozita Vaseghi ( رزیتا واثقی ), a Bahai who is serving two five-year sentences in Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad, is in need of immediate medical attention, but the authorities are against it. Since the (Persian) week of May 22-29, she has suffered (according to the prison doctor’s diagnosis) from swollen and painful gums requiring immediate surgery. However, the Prosecutor for Mashhad, the judge overseeing prison and the Mashhad branch of the Ministry of Intelligence have opposed this treatment. Rozita Vaseghi has also been deprived of the right to furlough, although she has now served almost three years of her sentences. This is not the only case in which Bahai prisoners in Mashhad have been deprived of their legally established rights. [See the report of February 21, 2013, that Bahai prisoners in Mashhad have been denied the normal furlough, because of opposition from the Ministry of Intelligence.]
Overview of Iranian Bahai university students’ attendance & expulsion
IOPHR, June 12, 2013
A report from a students’ rights group in Iran presents a useful overview of how, for a period, some Bahai students came to be at university there, despite a government policy to hamper the development of the community by limiting Bahais’ rights to employment and education, and of how they have been expelled. The report also covers restrictions on the right of women to education, and the expulsion of “starred” (outspoken) students. As regards the Bahais it says:
Religious Minorities Banned From Education
According to the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council, university students must be Muslim or follow one of the accepted religions stipulated in the country’s constitution (Zoroastrian, Jewish or Christian). Due to this law, after the Revolution of 1979, citizens following the Baha’i faith have been prohibited from attending the country’s universities. According to statistics shared by the Baha’i International Community (BIC) with publishers of this report, before 2006 no follower of the Baha’i faith attended university in Iran due to a line in the exam registration form that asked the applicant to state their religion. After 2006 when the question of religion was removed from the forms, 800 followers of the Baha’i faith took part in the national exams; 480 students passed the first application process and 289 were accepted to universities. Since then, over half of the accepted students have been expelled after it was revealed that they were Baha’i.
In the academic year 2007-08, of the 1,000 Baha’i citizens who took part in the national exams, 800 were not issued their test results. The reason given was an “incomplete file” but when the citizens attempted to pursue the reason for this, it was to no avail. Of the 200 citizens who received test results, 121 individuals were accepted to universities and over 50 of them have since been expelled.
In the academic year 2008-09, on the Internet webpage that announces test results, every citizen that had previously been marked as Baha’i (in their secondary schools or other places) was marked with an “incomplete file” and none of them were able to enroll in a university. Today there are very few Baha’i citizens who have been accepted and attend universities in Iran. Appendix 5 of this report details the accounts of about 100 of the banned or expelled Baha’i students in the years 2005-2012. Moreover, during this academic year numerous Baha’i students have been expelled from universities across the country because of their religion.
Election time shenanigans in Iran
Editorial, June 4
Iranian media in English are reporting the exposure of a spy ring affiliated with the “enemies of Iran and Islam.” The story (probably 100% fiction) says that the head of the ring was recruited several years ago by an Arab intelligence service that is close to Israel. He was put in touch with Mossad and sent to Israel for intelligence and military training, before going to Iran to spy for Mossad. Then he went to the Indian subcontinent and “met with two heads of the Zionist espionage operation, the Baha’is” and established contacts and coordinated with them. His next step was supposed to be to arrange terrorist attacks on June 14, election day. What a great way for a spy to stay undercover.
So why did have to go to India to contact Bahais? Are there no Bahais left in Iran? If he as trained in Israel, couldn’t he just hop on the train to Haifa and ring the bell?
`Adnan Rahmat-Penah remains in limbo
Azadi Qalam (blog), June 2
`Adnan Rahmat-Penah ( عدنان رحمتپناه ) has been held in limbo in `Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz for almost 6 months now. On May 23 it was announced that the Branch 3 of the revolutionary court would determine his status, but when his family went there, as in the three previous cases, the court official said that because of a heavy workload he had not yet read the file. Finally, they were told, “I am not the official responsible for this file, it belongs in Branch 1 of the revolutionary court.” This was a delaying tactic to gain time to deal with the file.
See previous reports of the four previous occasions on which Mr. Rahmat-Penah’s trial was scheduled, on April 16, 17, 29 and 30.
Review court confirms many sentences, reveals some new information
A number of Bahais are among the cases reviewed by Iran’s national review court in Tehran in the past year. No conviction are overturned, one sentence was reduced, and in most cases the sentence and information is identical to what has previously been published on Sen’s Daily (based largely on the work of the indefatigable and courageous human rights reporters who gather information in Iran). However this report states that Ayeh Anvari (آیه انوری) was fined 20 million Rials by the revolutionary court of Razavi Khorasan on September 1, 2012. This would be a reduction on her previous sentence (reported March 10, 2012) of 18 months in prison. She was arrested in Isfahan on June 27, 2011.
According to this report, Taraneh Torabi ( ترانه ترابی ) of Semnan was sentenced to 20 months in prison, whereas previous reports had been of a 30-month sentence.
Anisa Dehqani (انیسا دهقانی) is reported to have been sentenced to six months in prison by the revolutionary court of Razavi Khorasan on September 16, 2012. Her arrest in Mashhad had previously been reported, but not her sentence.
Keyvan Dehqani (کیوان دهقانی), is reported to have been sentenced to six months in prison by the revolutionary court of Razavi Khorasan on September 16, 2012. His arrest and release on bail had previously been reported, but not his sentence.
The cases for which this report from the review court simply confirms previous information regarding Bahai prisoners are as follows:
Bashir Ehsani ( بشیر احسانی ), sentenced to two years in prison, suspended three years in prison by the revolutionary court of Tehran on April 1, 2012.
Sonya Ahmadi ( سونیا احمدی ), sentenced to five year in prison by the revolutionary court of Razavi Khorasan on June 1, 2013.
Taher Eskandariyan ( طاهر اسکندریان ), sentenced to three years in prison by the revolutionary court of Semnan on October 1, 2012.
Shohreh Azemi ( شهره اعظمی ), sentenced to eight months in prison by the revolutionary court of Semnan on June 22, 2012.
Puya Tabiyaniyan ( پویتبیانیانا ), sentenced to six and a half years in prison by the revolutionary court of Semnan on October 1, 2012.
Sanaz Tafazzoli ( ساناز تفضلی ), sentenced to six months in prison by the revolutionary court of Razavi Khorasan on September 16, 2012.
Elham Ruzbehi (الهام روزبهی) and baby, sentenced to 24 months in prison by the revolutionary court of Semnan on July 1, 2012.
Afrasayab Sobhani ( افراسیاب سبحانی ), sentenced to one year in prison by the revolutionary court of Semnan on October 1, 2012.
Anisa Fana’ayan ( انیسا فناییان ), sentenced to 22 months in prison by the revolutionary court of Semnan on October 1, 2012.
Faramarz Firuzeyan ( فرامرز فیروزیان ), sentenced to one year in prison by the revolutionary court of Semnan on January 1, 2013.
Noora Nabilzadeh ( نورا نبیلزاده), sentenced to five years in prison by the revolutionary court of Razavi Khorasan on June 1, 2012.
Muhammad Hussein Nakh`i ( محمد حسین نخعی ), sentenced to one year in prison (released on completion) and a fine of 6 million rials by the revolutionary court of Birjand on February 1, 2013. [The date refers to the decision of the provincial review court to lower his sentence to one year in prison, by which time he had already been in prison from May, 2012.]
Zohreh Nik-A’in ( زهره نیک آئین ) and baby, sentenced to 23 months in prison by the revolutionary court of Semnan on June 22, 2012.
Two Bahais sentenced in Shiraz
Radio Zamaneh, May 31
Hamid Eslami ( حمید اسلامی ) and Rahman Vafa’i (رحمان وفائی ), who were arrested in Shiraz on July 14, 2012, have been sentenced to three years in prison. They are charged with with “propaganda against the regime” and “membership in Baha’i organizations.” Mr. Vafayi, who is 59 years old, suffers from heart complications and his family fears the effects of imprisonment on his health.
Emanullah Mostaqim transferred to Raja’i Shahr prison
HRANA, May 31
On the evening of May 30, Emanullah Mostaqim ( امانالله مستقیم ), one of the staff of the Bahai Open University (BIHE) in Iran, was transferred to Raja’i Shahr prison in Kharaj, near Tehran. He reported to Evin prison in Tehran on May 20, to begin serving his 5-year sentence for “membership of the Bahai community” and supporting the University. He has recently had open heart surgery, and suffers from diabetes. His doctors have said that prison conditions will be difficult and perhaps dangerous for him.
Four Bahais sentenced in Mashhad
Zendani Bahai (Facebook group), May 30
Sentences have been announced for four Bahais from Mashhad: Nika Khalusi, Nava Khalusi, Adib Sho`a`i and Mahsa Mahdavi ( نیکا خلوصی، نوا خلوصی، ادیب شعاعی و مهسا مهدوی ). They are accused of teaching the Bahai Faith, propaganda against the regime and membership of Bahai organisations. Their sentences are: Nika Khalusi, 6 years; Nava Khalusi, four and a half years; Adib Sho`a`i, 18 months; Mahsa Mahdavi, 8 months.
Government representative addresses Vietnam’s national Bahai convention
Voice of Vietnam, May 28
A report originating from the Vietnam News Agency, and carried in several English-language publications based in vietnam, notes the national Bahai convention, held in Ho Chi Minh city, and states,
Addressing the event, a representative of the Government’s Committee for Religious Affairs praised the community’s contributions over the past years. The committee’s representative suggested that in the next tenure, Baha’i dignitaries should focus on instructing followers to implement the Government’s policies, and consolidating the great national unity bloc and unity with other religions.
According to the report, there are more than 7,000 Bahais in 43 localities in Vietnam, mostly in central and southern regions.
Semnan province attorney blocks leave for Bahai prisoners
100 letters for freedom (blog, editorial opinion), May 25
There are numerous Bahais in prison in Semnan, including women with small babies and. in the men’s wing, some Bahais who have serious illnesses. Despite the help given by the General Manager of prisons in Semnan province, Mr. Arab, and the promise that prison furloughs would be granted to prisoners without regard to their personal beliefs, and despite the cooperation of the head of Semnan’s central prison and other prison authorities there, to allow prison furloughs for Bahai prisoners, Mr. Haydar Asyabi ( حیدر آسیابی ), the Provincial Attorney, has refused to allow it. He has even refused Bahais early release at the end of their prison terms. At the Now Ruz holidays, even Bahai prisoners whose medical records were presented, with a recommendation for therapeutic furlough, were denied any leave. In each case, reference is made to the Medical Officer for the prison, Mr. Shateri ( شاطری ) who has knowingly contributed to the oppression of the Bahai community in Semnan. He is responsible for treating all the illnesses in the prison, and the Attorney has relied on his opinion in refusing leave to the prisoners. However the prison regulations specify that it is the Provincial Attorney who is responsible. In some cases, the medical conditions of Bahai prisoners have been exacerbated by lack of timely treatment. The Provincial Attorney’s duties and freedom to act are very broad, and prison regulations and the criminal procedure stress the importance of the physical and mental health of prisoners, which raises the question of why Mr. Asyabi has not used this power to grant leave to the Bahai prisoners? Why has he participated in the oppression of the Bahais, without regard for the rules and principles of Human Rights?
32 agents raid the home of one 85-year old lady
PCED, May 25
On May 23, 32 agents from the Ministry of “intelligence” in Semnan raided the home of Maryam Khanjani ( مریم خانجانی ) in Semnan. They searched the house and cursed and insulted those present. Mrs. Khanjani’s daughter, Golbanu Khanjani ( گلبانو خانجانی ), lost consciousness as a result. The agents departed when an ambulance arrived for her. Maryam Khanjani is the sister of Mr. Khanjani, one of the seven ‘Yaran’ (national facilitators for the Bahai community in Iran) who are serving 20-year sentences as prisoners of conscience in Raja’i Shahr prison. Mrs. Golbanu Khanjani is the mother of Omid Firuzeyan ( امید فیروزیان ), who is serving a sentence of four and a half years in Semnan prison.
All 32 agents are reported to have emerged from the day’s action without injury, except to their manhood.
Petty harassment of Nika and Nava Khalusi
Azadi Qalam, May 24
Nika and Nava Khalusi ( نیکا و نوا خلوصی ), who were tried recently on charges of membership of the Bahai organisation, participation in illegal Bahai activities, and propaganda in favour of the Bahais and against the regime of the Islamic Republic, are free on bail in Mashhad, and awaiting their sentences. Actually, they are waiting for the verdict, but this is Iran and they are Bahais, so in fact the question is, how long will they be in prison? A four-day flower and shrub exhibition was held in Mashhad from May 15, and the two sisters took part. They were assigned a booth, but on the first night of the exhibition the management cut off their electricity. Initially the reason given was “bad hejab,” but when they followed up on this they were told the orders had come from “above” (meaning the Army or Ministry of Intelligence), but they were not given any judicial order or written evidence of the decision. They were later asked to withdraw from the exhibition, which they refused. They continued their work, using candles and the light from neighbouring stalls. At the end of the exhibition, the management agreed to refund half of their exhibition fee.
On a lighter note: the PCED reports that Navid Khanjani (نوید خانجانی) has been allowed to meet his family for 20 minutes.
Sentinel Project launches visualization of persecution of Baha’is in Iran
Bahai News (US), May 22
The Sentinel Project, an independent Toronto-based NGO that focuses on genocide prevention, has recently launched a visualization of the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran. The Sentinel Project has deemed the situation of the Iranian Baha’is to be a “Situation of Concern.” It has previously expressed the need to continue to watch the situation in Iran closely. The visualization show the number of incidents over time (fairly constant in recent months) and the geographical spread (which appears to this layman to roughly follow the distribution of the urbanised population). The article includes links to two previous reports on the genocide risk facing the Bahais in Iran. I am gratified to see that many of the micro-history reports translated on Sen’s Daily have been entered in the database and assembled into an overall picture.
Heavy sentences for seven Bahais from Gorgan
100 letters for freedom (blog), May 22
The sentences have been announced for seven Bahai men from Gorgan, who were tried in Tehran on April 24. Fahrmand Sana’i, Kamal Kashani, Payam Markazi, Siamak Sadri, Fu’ad Fahandezh and Kourush Ziari ( فرهمند سنایی، کمال کاشانی، پیام مرکزی، سیامک صدری، فواد فهندژ و کوروش زیاری) were sentenced to five years each, while Farhad Fahandezh (فرهاد فهندژ) was sentenced to 10 years in prison. The charges were “organising and running an illegal organisation, membership of an illegal organisation, and propaganda against the regime.” They were among about 20 Bahais who were detained in a wave of arrests on about October 17. (Kourush Ziari is from Gonbad-e Qabus, where he was arrested and later transferred to Gorgan). After some weeks in detention in Gorgan, all seven were transferred to Evin prison in Tehran for interrogation, after which they were sent to Raja’i Shahr prison.
Didar Ra’ufi reports back to prison
HRANA, May 21
Didar Ra’ufi (دیدار رئوفی ) who was reported to have been released from Raja’i Shahr prison on January 27, 2013, having served a three year sentence for membership of the Bahai community and teaching the Bahai Faith, is listed today among the prisoners of conscience on leave, who have been told to return to Raja’i Shahr prison. He was arrested on January 4, 2010, but was free on bail from October 16, 2011 to January 13, 2012 (3 months), and had 5 days of furlough at Now Ruz, 2012. Thus at the time of his release on January 27, he still had about 6 weeks of his sentence to serve.
Husayn Runaqi-Mulki goes to Evin
PCED, May 21
Husayn Runaqi-Mulki ( حسین رونقی ملکی ), who was yesterday reported to have been sentenced to 5 months in prison for his part in assisting victims of the Azerbaijan earthquake, has begun his sentence in Evin prison. Mr. Runaqi is not, so far as reports indicate, a Bahai, but one of a progressive younger generation of intellectuals and activists who are prepared to work with people of all religions and none, for the betterment of Iran. In addition to his work for the earthquake victims he is a blog writer and human rights activist. He was serving a 15-year sentence as a political prisoner until, in autumn last year, he was released for medical treatment. He suffers from prostrate, bladder, kidney and other disorders. He has now been recalled to prison. Reports indicate that many other political prisoners on leave have also been recalled to prison, in relation to the forthcoming elections in Iran.
Emanullah Mostaqim begins his 5-year sentence
Yaran Iran (facebook group), May 20
Emanullah Mostaqim ( امانالله مستقیم ), one of the staff of the Bahai Open University (BIHE) in Iran, reported to Evin prison in Tehran on May 20, to begin serving his 5-year sentence for “membership of the Bahai community” and supporting the University. He has recently had open heart surgery, and suffers from diabetes. His doctors have said that prison conditions will be difficult and perhaps dangerous for him.
Two Bahai aid workers sentenced to five months
PCED, May 20
The general court in Tabriz has sentenced Husayn Runaqi-Mulki and Navid Khanjani (حسین رونقی و نوید خانجانی) to five months in prison, and has fined a number of other voluntary aid workers 5 million rials (320 euros, $US 400 ). They organized a relief camp following a major earthquake in the Azerbaijan region in January 2011. The charge was failure to follow the instructions of the police. These sentences are in addition to previous sentences on other charges. They were acquitted on charges of endangering public health.
Father and daughter freed in Semnan
HRANA, May 16
Gudarz Bidaqi ( گودرز بیدقی ) and his daughter Roufiya Bidaqi ( روفیا بیدقی ) have been freed from prison in Semnan, after completing their one-year sentences. Mr. Bidaqi was arrested in March, 2011, and sentenced in September 2011 to one year in prison and two years of exile from the province, on the charge of “propaganda against the regime through teaching the Bahai Faith.” His exile is expected to begin soon. Mr. Bidaqi is in his sixties, and has already served one term in prison for his beliefs, after the 1979 revolution. His daughter, Roufiya Bidaqi ( روفیا بیدقی ) was sentenced to one year in prison, on charges of propaganda against the regime and participation in Bahai activities. The family’s business has also been closed by the authorities.
House of Baha’u’llah in Tehran features in Iran’s pre-election polemics
FARS, May 15
The house in Tehran where Baha’u’llah was born was added to the register of historic buildings in December 2006 and is to be restored. In recent days, reports of this, with numerous photographs of the exterior of the house, have been carried in the conservative FARS news agency and copied by many other publications. This is being used to embarrass Isfandiyar Rahim Masha’i ( اسفندیار رحیم مشایی ), a close ally and relative of President Ahmadinezhad and one of the proposed presidential candidates. FARS claims that there are hundreds of old houses in Tehran with a similar architectural and cultural value, which the provincial authority for Cultural Heritage has not registered. The report lists the homes of princes and prominent clerics of the period that have not been registered, and describes the importance of the house in Bahai history (with the bias one would expect). It was previously owned by an organisation for the propagation of Islam, and purchased by the present owner in 2005, in order to prevent its demolition. This owner has registered it as a historic building and intends to restore it using his own funds. However the ‘transparency” magazine has claimed that it was bought by the Cultural Heritage foundation, at a time when Mr. Masha’i was the head of that organisation.
Nika and Nava Khalusi charged and tried
HRANA, May 16
The third sitting of the trial of Nika and Nava Khalusi ( نیکا و نوا خلوصی ) took place in Mashhad on May 6. They were charged with membership of the Bahai organisation, participation in illegal Bahai activities, and propaganda in favour of the Bahais and against the regime of the Islamic Republic. The two sisters have been free on bail pending the trial. They were arrested on September 26, 2012, and were held for 57 days in solitary confinement, followed by 4 months in Vakil Abad prison, before being released on bail.
Iranian prisoners of conscience protest the detention of BIHE staff
HRANA, May 17
On the second anniversary of the arrest and detention of a number of teachers and administrators in the Bahai Open University (BIHE), 12 prisoners of conscience in one wing of Raja’i Shahr prison have signed an open letter addressed to their compatriots, protesting the imprisonment of Bahais “whose only crime was spreading knowledge and science.”
Appointment of members to the International Teachings Centre
Universal House of Justice, May 15
The members of the International Teaching Centre for the five-year term beginning 23 May 2013 are:
Uransaikhan Baatar: female, re-appointed
Ramchand Coonjul: male, he was appointed Counsellor (Africa) in 2010
Antonella Demonte: female, she was appointed Counsellor (Europe) in 2010
Andrej Donoval: male, he appointed Counsellor (Europe) in 2010
Praveen Mallik: male, re-appointed
Alison Milston: female, she was appointed Counsellor (Americas) in 2010
Juan Mora: male, re-appointed
Rachel Ndegwa: female, re-appointed
Mehranguiz Farid Tehrani: male, he was appointed Counsellor (Asia) in 2010
[Thanks to Steve Marshall for the biographical research ~Sen]
Former members Joan Lincoln, Zenaida Ramirez and Penelope Walker are thanked for their services. Former members Chuungu Malitonga, and Ayman Rouhani are now serving on the Universal House of Justice.
A copy of the letter announcing these changes has been placed in the documents archive of my Bahai Studies blog.
Shop goods confiscated in Bojnurd
HRANA, May 11 ~
In recent days, security forces went to the shop of Houshmand Sana’i ( هوشمند ثنایی ) in Bojnurd and seized the entires stock of toiletries and beauty products. several months ago the shop was closed by local body officials, on instructions from the Ministry of Intelligence. No reason was given. Last year, Mr. Sana’i, his wife Sho`eleh Shahidi ( شعله شهیدی ) and their son Shayan Sana’i ( شایان ثنایی ) were arrested and hald for a time by the Ministry of Intelligence in Bojnurd.
Fu’ad Moqaddam begins 5-year sentence
Yaran Iran (facebook group), May 11
Dr. Fu’ad Moqaddam ( فواد مقدم ), a Bahai from Isfahan and one of the teachers of the Bahai online university, the BIHE, began his 5-year sentence at Evin Prison in Tehran this morning. He was arrested in Isfahan in May 2012 in the course of the raids that targeted the BIHE, and was tried on June 23. One of the charges against him was “membership of the Bahai community.” He was freed on bail on June 15, 2012.
One arrest in Gorgan, two Bahais sought
HRANA, May 9
Parisa Shahidi ( پریسا شهیدی ), a Bahai from Gorgan, was arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence, who first searched her home, on May 8. She is the wife of Kamal Kashani ( کمال کاشانی ), one of five Bahais from Gorgan who have been held without trial for more than 6 months in Raja’i Shahr prison, near Tehran. On the same day, agents from the Ministry of intelligence tried to arrest two other Bahais in Gorgan, Mazhdeh Zahuri and Mona Farahani ( مژده ظهوری (فهندژ) و مونا فراهانی (نیکونژاد)), but found neither at home. Mazhdeh Zahuri is the wife of Farhad Fahandezh ( فرهاد فهندژ ), another of the Bahais from Gorgan held in Raja’i Shahr prison.
`Adnan Rahmat-Penah’s trial again a farce
Azadi Qalam, May 2
After several false starts on April 16 and 17 (reported earlier), the trial of `Adnan Rahmat-Penah ( عدنان رحمتپناه ), a Bahai from Shiraz, was rescheduled for April 29. When he arrived at the court, Judge Sadati postponed the trial for four hours. At 1 p.m. the judge entered the court, just as the call to prayer sounded, so he left again to attend attend the prayers. After the prayers, the judge told Mr. Rahmat-Penah’s lawyer that there was not sufficient time to deal with the case that day, so the trial would be delayed until the following day. It was notable that, when Mr. Rahmat-Penah and a political prisoner entered the courtroom, the judge — who was under the impression that they were Christian converts — began to insult them. Mr. Rahmat-Penah’s lawyer pointed out that the charges against them were quite different.
On April 30 Mr. Rahmat-Penah appeared in court at 11:30. The judge insulted his religious beliefs, directly and indirectly, and said he was “unclean,” according to the Quran, and told his lawyer that one should not shake hands with them. The lawyer responded that Bahais are human too, and added, “To me, humanity is important.” The judge replied, “Although this matter has been mentioned, we will judge everyone equally.” However the judge continued with his insults, directed not only at the defendant but at all the Bahais, saying, “You Bahais are all animals, only Muslims have the correct beliefs, and then only the twelver Shiahs.” After two hours, the judge finally turned to the case, and finding that Mr. Rahmat-Penah was one of 15 people arrested two years previously, whose cases were being handled by another judge, in courtroom 3, he sent the case there. That trail is not scheduled until late July. Mr. Rahmat-Penah and his family are left in suspense again.
Three women and a baby freed in Semnan
Zendani Bahai (FB group), May 4
Three of the Bahai women imprisoned in Semnan have been set free. Zhinous Nourani ( ژینوس نورانی ) was freed on April 30, after serving a one-year sentence. Neda Majidi ( ندا مجیدی ) was released on the same day. She was sentenced to a fine of 40 million 40 rials (2,600 euros; 3200 US dollars) or a six-month sentence. Apparently she was not able to pay the fine. At the time of her arrest she had a nursing child. She has been released one month early because of the poor health of her baby, Sourna ( سورنا). Shohreh Azimi ( شهره اعظمی ) was released on April 28, about 50 days before the end of her 8-month sentence for membership of the Bahai community.
For older news, see the “old news” archive