September – December 2013
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.