Two months in the morgue: the unburied Bahai of Ahwaz
BWNS, December 29, 2014.
The body of a Bahai has been held in the morgue for nearly two months in the large southern Iranian city of Ahvaz because local officials have refused to allow his burial. Shamel Bina passed away on 28 October but remains unburied, despite numerous appeals from his family and others, who have appealed to numerous officials from the governor general to the city’s Friday prayer leader. The family’s agony is compounded by the fact that, earlier this year, the Bahai cemetery here was closed by authorities. The door to the walled compound was welded shut and bricked up.
The episode is the latest in a series of incidents in recent months where Iranian officials have blocked or interfered with the burial of Baha’is – or sanctioned the destruction of their cemeteries – apparently as part of a campaign to force Baha’is to deny their own religious identity.
In another city, Semnan, the Baha’is were told that in order to be issued a permit to bury their deceased relatives, they must sign an undertaking. In this form, they are asked to have no marking on the graves except the names and dates of birth and death and not to create green space in the cemetery since that is considered a promotion of their faith. Similar orders were issued earlier this year for the Baha’i cemetery of Sangsar. [Full report in English and in Persian.]
`Adnan Rahmat-Penah granted medical leave
HRANA, December 25.
On December 22, I reported that
`Adnan Rahmat-Penah ( عدنان رحمتپناه ), who is serving a one-year sentence in Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz, had been denied necessary medical treatment.
The Ministry of Intelligence withheld permission, but after two weeks, as his condition worsened, prison officials sent him for treatment without the permission from the Ministry of Intelligence. He requires treatment by experts in infectious diseases, ear and nose conditions and back conditions, and the prison does not have this expertise.
Susan Tabyaniyan begins another prison sentence
Fariba Kamalabadi (facebook page), December 25.
Susan Tabyaniyan (سوسن تبیانیان), a Bahai from Semnan, has been summoned to begin serving a one-year sentence. This is her second prison sentence: in May 2010 she was sentenced to 18 months in prison on charges of propaganda against the regime and membership of a Bahai organisation. After serving almost 14 months in Evin prison, she was one of the prisoners granted clemency to mark Eid al-Fitr, on August 27, 2011. She was arrested again on May 31, 2014, released on bail on July 15, and sentenced to one year in prison on September 11.
Bahais banned from the optometry sector in Tehran
HRANA, December 22, 2014.
The Association of Optometry Manufacturers and Sellers in Tehran held its eighth trade fair, the Optics Exhibition, in Wessal Avenue on December 16 to 19. Eighty business took part. Not only were Bahai-run optometry importers and sellers barred from the exhibition, participants were also told to dismiss any Bahai employees they might have. A few years ago the Association stopped issuing licences to open optometry shops to Bahais, and stated that this instruction had come from the Ministry of Intelligence. Iran has an apartheid system that banns Bahais from higher education, receiving many state benefits, and employment in various sectors, but the rules are largely unwritten, and vary from time to time and in different localities.
Bahai summoned and warned in Salmas
NISAN news, December 24, 2014.
Mansour Lahiji (منصور لاهیجی), a Bahai from Kerman province who settled in Salmas (West Azerbaijan province) with his family three years ago, was summoned by the Ministry of Intelligence in the city this morning. He was warned there should not be any kind of religious meeting in the city [sic: meaning that he should not organise Bahai meetings]. He had planned to organise a night of poetry, which would include poems in praise of Baha’u’llah, read by himself and his wife. He was warned that if there were poems in praise of the Bahai Faith or its central figures, he would be charged with “war against God” — a charge that carries the death penalty.
Authorities end investigation of the murder of Ataollah Rezvani
Editorial, December 23, 2104.
On October 17 this year, I reported that authorities were moving to close the file on the murder of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani ( عطاءالله رضوانی ), a well-known member of the Bahai community in Bandar Abbas, who was killed on August 24, 2013. Latest reports in Persian indicate that the investigation has in fact been closed.
`Adnan Rahmat-Penah denied medical leave
i-CNN, December 22, 2014.
`Adnan Rahmat-Penah ( عدنان رحمتپناه ), a Bahai from Shiraz who began a one-year sentence in Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz on November 11, 2014, caught a cold some days ago and his physical condition has deteriorated due to poor conditions, especially the heating system. Adnan’s ears have also become infected, but prison officials demanded that his family to pay 20,000 Tomans (about 7 dollars) for an examination by a special doctor.
His request for medical release was barred by the Ministry of Intelligence, although his doctor and the court have accepted that he needs medical attention. It is also reported that the water has been shut off in Youth Green ward of Adel-Abad prison from Friday to Monday. Prisoners complained of receiver smaller quantities of food and that they must buy additional food from the prison store, which often charges greatly inflated prices.
`Adnan Rahmat-Penah was arrested during a raid on his home on December 12, 2012, and taken to the Ministry of Intelligence’s Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz. He was held for 186 days without trial, before being freed on bail. He was later sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime,” and the review court confirmed this sentence on May 22, 2014.
The local Mashriqu’l-Adhkar: a new letter from the Universal House of Justice
Editorial, December 21, 2014.
The Universal House of Justice, the elected body that heads the Bahai community around the world, has written a letter in Persian, addressed to the Bahais in Iran, regarding devotional meetings and the institution of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar (Bahai houses of worship). The message, dated December 18, 2014, is not yet available in English, so far as I know. The Persian text is available here.
The letter begins by noting the progress that is being made in constructing eight new houses of worship around the world, each of them a sign of the steady development of the Bahai community internationally. The House of Justice recalls that the Bahais of Iran began using local places of worship soon after they became aware of the contents of Baha’u’llah’s Kitab-e Aqdas, which commends the building of places of worship “throughout the lands” and “in every village.” However the Bahais of Iran faced severe constraints at that time [as they do now]. The Bahais of Iran supported the construction of the House of Worship in Eshqabad and in other places outside of Iran. These houses and their ancillary philanthropic institutions are built in the spirit of service to all people. In Iran, they established local houses of worship, in accordance with Abdu’l-Baha’s instruction:
This is a matter of the utmost significance. If the erection of the House of Worship in a public place would arouse the hostility of evil-doers, then the meeting must, in every locality, be held in some hidden place. Even in every hamlet, a place must be set aside as the Mashriqu’l-Adhkár, and even though it be underground.
Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 95
In the Bahai Writings, the term Mashriqu’l-Adhkar is used in various ways, such as gatherings for morning prayer, any building where the verses of revelation are recited “in pleasing tones,” and a ‘complete’ [purpose-built] House of Worship and its attendant philanthropic institutions. The latter is usually known as the “House of Worship” or “Bahai Temple.” All these different forms of Mashriqu’l-Adhkar can be seen as aspects of the institution, or stages in its development. In this way, Baha’u’llah’s command in the Aqdas is gradually being implemented.
The letter continues to stress the importance of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar in society, for it is open to men and women of every faith and belief, and its attendant institutions and activities include educational, scientific, cultural and charitable activities. Thus the institution embodies the ideals of social progress and moral excellence. As Shoghi Effendi has written:
Baha’i worship, however exalted in its conception, however passionate in fervor, can never hope to achieve beyond the meagre and often transitory results produced by the contemplations of the ascetic or the communion of the passive worshiper. It cannot afford lasting satisfaction and benefit to the worshiper himself, much less to humanity in general, unless and until translated and transfused into that dynamic and disinterested service to the cause of humanity which it is the supreme privilege of the Dependencies of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar to facilitate and promote. Nor will the exertions, no matter how disinterested and strenuous, of those who within the precincts of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar will be engaged in administering the affairs of the future Baha’i Commonwealth, fructify and prosper unless they are brought into close and daily communion with those spiritual agencies centering in and radiating from the central Shrine of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar. (Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, p. 185)
The Bab and Baha’u’llah both stressed the importance of prayer, describing it as conversation between the human spirit and its creator. Prayers stengthens one’s spiritual life, and motivates sincere service to humanity. So it can shape a society and a nation. Finally [and I have skipped a great deal ~Sen], the letter calls on the Bahais in Iran to establish devotional meetings in every city, town and village, so far as possible, so as to sow the seeds of future Mashriqu’l-Adhkars, as thousands upon thousands of candles in the darkness of oppression.
[Note: The concept of the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar as a meeting for worship, a community that worships, the building itself and a social centre that includes activities and institutions for social service, is outlined in the 1997 compilation “The Mashriqu’l-Adhkar Handbook, available as a pdf file online here. The compilation also discusses the relationship between local houses of worship, which might for example be underground (see the letter from Abdu’l-Baha quoted above), and the complete or perfected Mashriqu’l-Adhkar, which has nine sides and (for the present) a dome, and is made “as perfect as possible.” ]
Another Iranian leader reiterates: no civil rights possible for Bahais
NCRI, December 19, 2014.
Mohammad Mousavi-Bodjnordi, who heads Iran’s civil rights watchdog and is considered close to President Hassan Rouhani,told the state-run Fars News agency that Iran’s Baha’is minority have no civil rights in the regime because their beliefs are contrary to Islam. “The Baha’i belief is contrary to Islam. In Iran, Baha’is have no civil rights and in particular, they do not have the right to study.” Civil rights are defined as in line with the beliefs of Ayatollah Khomeini, Mousavi-Bodjnordi said.
Mohammad Mousavi-Bodjnordi is a member of “combatant clergy” a clerical body that descibes itself as ‘moderate’. Hassan Rohani appointed him to the group tasked with defining “civil rights.” Earlier this month, a senior regime cleric also called for all Baha’is to be expelled from the southern city of Rafsanjan because they are ‘unclean’ and doing business with them is ‘forbidden.’
The Iranian regime has stepped up suppression of Baha’is in recent months with frequent arrests and interrogations. Read full report (in English).
Four Bahais sentenced, and four summoned for questioning, in Mashhad
HRANA, December 17, 2014.
On December 17, the Revolutionary Court in Mashhad sentenced Mey Khalousi (می خلوصی), Dari Amri (دری امری), Saqi Feda’i (ساقی فدایی) and Shayan Tafazzoli (شایان تفضلی) They were charged with propaganda against the regime in the form of teaching the Bahai Faith. They have been free on bail for the past month. The length of their sentences will be announced in the coming days.
On December 14, Negar Nadafi (نگار ندافی), Afshin Nik-A’in (افشین نیک آیین), Parvaneh Rafi`i (پروانه رفیعی) and Setareh Feda’i (ستاره فدایی) were summoned to the court in Mashhad and questioned for several hours before being released.
Neda Farsatipour and Farahnaz Moqadam begin their prison sentences
HRANA, December 14, 2014.
On December 10, Mrs. Farahnaz Moqadam (فرحناز مقدم) responded to a summons to the Revolutionary Court in Urumiyyeh (Urmia) and was taken to the city’s central prison to begin serving her three-year sentence. On December 4, her husband Fardin Aghsani (فردین اغصانی) begin serving his own three-year sentence.
Neda Farsatipour (ندا فرصتیپور), another Bahai from Urumiyyeh, also began her sentence in the past week. She has been sentenced to 6 months in prison. In all, six Bahais have begun serving their sentences in recent weeks.
Peyman Kashfi released from prison
HRANA, December 11, 2014.
Peyman Kashfi Nejafabadi (پیمان کشفی نجفآبادی), a Baha’i prisoner of conscience from Tehran who has served a four-year sentence in Evin and Raja`i Shahr prisons, has been released at the end of his sentence. He was summoned and arrested in Tehran on October 19, 2009, and held incommunicado in section 209 of Evin Prison for two months. He was later granted bail. In July 2010, Judge Muhammad Maqiseh (محمد مقیسه), presiding over branch 28 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, sentenced him to 4 years in prison on a charge of being part of an illegal assembly. When the written sentence was handed down, the charges had been changed to establishing a group seeking to disturb security. [This means that he was sentenced on a charge that he was not told about, and given no chance to see the evidence or provide a defence ~Sen] This sentence was upheld by the review court. He began his sentence on February 14, 2011, first in Evin prison and then, from August 5, 2012, in block 12 at Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj, just west of Tehran, where most of the Yaran (Baha’i national facilitators), and a number of teachers from the Bahai Open University are also held.
Egypt’s Ministry of Endowments warns against Baha’i threat
Daily News Egypt, December 11, 2014.
Egypt’s Ministry of Endowments organised a workshop on Wednesday and Thursday to raise awareness amongst imams on the “growing dangers of the spread of Baha’ism,” the Ministry said. According to the Ministry, this workshop comes in the context of “maintaining the Islamic constants and foundations in the face of deviant thoughts that destroy the minds of young people”.
The Baha’i faith is not recognised as a “heavenly religion,” in the Egyptian constitution as Islam, Christianity, and Judaism are. Article 64 – the constitution’s “freedom of belief” article – dictates that “practicing rituals and establishing places of worship for the followers of heavenly religions is organised by law”- an article that activists claim marginalises groups like the Baha’i.
The workshop, held in Abasseya’s Al-Nour Mosque, is also intended to maintain “national security and stability” as Baha’i thought “threatens Islam specifically and Egyptian society in general,” according to the Ministry. The workshop also aims to teach young imams how to respond to Baha’i thoughts and arguments.
The Baha’i faith is a monotheistic religion originating in 19th century Persia. Recent estimates suggest there may be between 500-3,000 Baha’is living in Egypt. On a number of occasions, including 2009 and 2011, Baha’is in Sohag were attacked and their homes were burned.
5-year sentence of Hassan Momtazi confirmed
Campaign to stop harassment of Bahais (facebook), December 9, 2014.
Hassan Momtazi (حسن ممتازی) reports, on December 8, that he has heard via his lawyer that the review court has confirmed his five-year sentence for educational activities with the Bahai Open University (BIHE). He was one of ten Bahais associated with the BIHE who were heard at the Public Prosecutor’s office in Tehran on March 12, 2013. His sentence was handed down in Tehran Revolutionary Court branch 28 by Judge Maqiseh (مقیسه) on February 25, 2014, but was not communicated to his lawyer until April 2.
Bahai home and business searched in Rasht
HRANA, December 7, 2014.
On the morning of November 17, one agent from the Ministry of Intelligence, accompanied by two staff members from the Revolutionary Court pretended that they were from the Post Office, to enter a Bahai home in Rasht. The house is home to four Bahais: Foad Yazdani (فواد یزدانی), Peyman Yazdani (پیمان یزدانی), Navid Yazdani (نوید یزدانی) and Nima Najafai (نیما نجفی). The intruders had a “search warrant” which proved to be a handwritten note without a judicial seal from the Court. The searched the house thoroughly and seized all the books, CDs, flash drives and any paper with handwriting on it. They then required the four Bahais to accompany them to their place of work, although the search warrant only referred to the home address. The business was searched, and items that included cutsomers’ appliances waiting to be repaired were seized. The officers then went to those non-Bahai customers whose contact information had been recorded, and interrogated them.
Detention and questioning of a Bahai girl in Tabriz
HRANA, December 6, 2014.
On December 4, unidentified individuals claiming to represent the “Basij” voluntary militia forced a 19-year-old Bahai girl, Ilka Mithaqi (الکا میثاقی) to get into a car, on a street in Tabriz, and took her for a ride around the streets lasting several hours, during which they questioned her. She was then released, in another part of the city. Ms. Mithaqi has previously been harassed by agents from other government agencies. An informed source said that this is the first time that a Bahai in Tabriz has been abducted and interrogated in this irregular fashion.
Fardin Aghsani begins 3-year sentence
Campaign to stop harassment of Bahais (facebook), December 4, 2014.
Fardin Aghsani (فردین اغصانی), a Bahai from Urumiyyeh (Urmia) who was taken prisoner during the Iran-Iraq war, and held in Iraq for two and a half years, reported to the central prison in Urumiyyeh today to begin serving a 3-year sentence. His wife Farahnaz Moqadam (فرحناز مقدم), who has also been sentenced to three years in prison, is expected to begin her sentence in the next few days. The couple were among seven Bahais in Urumiyyeh who, in July this year, were given sentences ranging from six months to six years for teaching the Bahai Faith and propaganda against the Islamic Republic through hosting regular teaching classes in their homes, teaching minors and attracting Muslims. They were also charged with assembly and collusion in the form of membership of a Bahai Assembly, and having links to the Universal House of Justice (the elected body that heads the international Bahai community).
Friday Prayer Leader in Rafsanjan proposes expelling all Bahais
FARS news agency, December 2, 2914.
In a December 2 meeting with provincial officials, the Friday Prayer leader of Rafsanjan, Hojjat-al-Islam Abbas Ramadanipour (حجتالاسلام عباس رمضانیپور) said that there were a number of “sects” in the province, and because people were ignorant they were able to live and work among ordinary people, without being recognized. He said that a number of Jews were also working in the city bazaar, but the difference between them and the Bahais was, that the Bahais are “unclean.” After outlining the history of the Shaykhi, Babi and Bahai religions, and claiming that the latter had Russian support, he repeated that the Bahais are “unclean” and business dealings with them are religiously forbidden (haram), and said “this sect has established many activities and programmes in our city, and the people’s legitimate demand that they should not be in the city should be implemented.”
Adib Sho`a`i begins a 6-month sentence in Mashhad
HRANA, November 30, 2014.
Adib Sho`a`i has reported to Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad to begin serving his six-month sentence. He was arrested in his home on October 9, 2012, and released on bail on November 11 that year. He is one of four Bahais arrested at that time in Mashhad, who 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. He was at first sentenced to 18 months in prison but in February 2014 this was reduced to 6 months by the review court.
Soheila Aqdasi and Noushin Mithaqi begin 6-month sentences
HRANA, December 1, 2014.
On November 30th, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence arrested Noushin Mithaqi (نوشین میثاقی) and Soheila Aqdasi (سهیلا اقدسی), Bahai women living in Urumiyyeh (Urmia), in Iran’s Azerbaijan province, and took them to Urumiyyeh prison to begin their 6-month sentences. Ms. Mithaqi’s name has also been reported as Noushin Aqdasi (نوشین اقدسی). They were accused of “propaganda against the regime.” Not long ago they received telephone calls saying they should report to the prison, but did not do so as no official summons followed. They are among seven Bahais in Urumiyyeh who were sentenced early in July this year to terms ranging from six months to six years, on charges that included teaching the Bahai Faith, propaganda against the Islamic Republic, hosting teaching classes in their homes, teaching minors, attracting Muslims, membership of a Bahai Assembly, and having links to the Universal House of Justice (the elected body that heads the international Bahai community).
Fariba Kamalabadi denied leave to attend daughter’s wedding
HRANA, November 25, 2014.
Fariba Kamalabadi (فریبا کمال آبادی ) one of the seven “Yaran” (National facilitators for the Bahai community) who are serving twenty-year prison sentences as prisoners of conscience, has been denied leave from prison to attend the wedding of her daughter. She is held in Evin prison in Tehran, and has now been imprisoned for seven years without any furlough. The prison authorities and the judicial authorities agreed to give her leave for the wedding, but state security officials not only prevented this, they also broke the custom of the prison service by refusing to allow Mrs. Kalamabadi to meet with her daughter, or for the wedding to be held in the prison.
It is said that God does not overlook the deeds of any oppressor.
Home raids and closures in Najafabad and Vila Shahr
HRANA, November 24, 2014.
[Corrected, Dec. 4: the Vila Shahr in this report is not in Mazandaran, but a few kilomters from Najafabad.]
On November 22, agents in plain clothes staged simultaneous raids on the homes of several Bahais in the city of Najafabad, in Iran’s Isfahan province, and the nearby town of Vila Shahr. They seized laptops, computers, and religious books, images and CDs. They also went to a mushroom-growing facility in Vila Shahr, belonging to one of the Bahais there, Mr. Haqiri(حقیری), where they broke some windows, turned off the heaters, and sealed the doors. The business provided work for a number of Bahais. A message was left on the door, saying it had been closed because of unsanitary conditions. Agents also went to the home of Mr. Piruzmandi (پیروزمندی) in Vila Shahr and seized leather bags, leather, and leather-working tools. No reason was given for that action.
HRANA also reports that two more Bahai-owned shops in Nashtarud have been closed by authorities, because they were closed on Muharram 1 and 2 this year (this year, for the last time, Bahais in Iran celebrated the Births of the Bab and Baha’u’llah on these days. Calendar changes mean that it will be many years before the Bahai Holy Days again fall in the first days of Muharram). The officers said that the instructions to close these businesses came “from elswhere” and that local authorities had objected, but were told to close the Bahai-run businesses. The failure to open the shops on Muharram 1 and 2 is treated as a breach of local commerce laws, although those laws allow every trade to close for 15 days during the year, in addition to Fridays.
The two closures in Vila Shahr, and two more in Nashtarud, in addition to the four previous closures reported in that town, and the closures of 79 Bahai-run businesses in the southern region of Kerman, Rafsanjan, and Jiroft, on October 25, mean that close to 90 Bahai-run business have been closed in the space of four weeks, and at least as many Bahai households have lost their means of livelihood. ~~~~~
Indian Bahais continue process of gaining minority status
Indian Express, November 22, 2014.
On August 22, delegations representing the Bahais and Kashmiri Pandits met the Minority Affairs Minister of India, Mrs. Najma Heptullah, in New Delhi to ask that they be accorded minority status, which has been so far given to Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists and Jains. Following that meeting, the Minister referred the matter to the National Commission for Minorities. The matter was taken up by the NCM in several meetings in September and October, but the Commission felt that it did not have enough data on the socio-economic condition of the community to make a concrete recommendation. “We had asked for more information from the community and they did submit some … But, that was not enough for the commission,” said a source in the NCM. It is now up to the Ministry of Minority Affairs to take a call.
A spokesperson for the Bahai community, meanwhile, maintains that minority status is a matter of recognition, and the community is not looking for scholarships and other support from the government. “The Bahai community does not accept money from others. That is why we do not charge an entry fee at Lotus Temple where we get 16,000 visitors a day… Even Jains [who were granted this status in January 2014]] did not require the government support but they were granted the status,” said Nilakshi Rajkhowa, an official at the office of public affairs in the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais.
One Bahai arrested in Hamadan
HRANA, November 21, 2014.
On the morning of November 20, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Hamadan arrested Atta Rajabi (عطاء رجبی), in his home. His present whereabouts are unknown.
Four Bahai shops closed in Nashtarud, more closures expected
HRANA, November 18, 2014.
Early in the morning of November 18, the local officials who supervise public places closed four Bahai-run shops in Nashtarud, a district centre on Iran’s Caspian coast. There was no written explanation or prior notice. The four businesses were owned by two Bahais, Mr. Abu-Alfazli (ابوالفضلی) and Mr. Mohsennezhad (محسننژاد). A witness said that the agents told him that businesses belonging to another 16 Bahais were to be closed during the day, and that they had been to close them, but the owners were already present and demanded that the officials should present written orders. Mr. Mohsennezhad and Mr. Abu-Alfazli had not yet arrived to open their shops.
The closures of Bahai businesses in Nashtarud follow the closures of 79 Bahai-run businesses in the southern region of Kerman, Rafsanjan, and Jiroft, on October 25.
Faran Hessami gets 3-day leave
Campaign to stop harassment of Bahais (facebook), November 17, 2014.
Faran Hessami ( فاران حسامی ), who is serving a four-year sentence for educational activities with the Bahai Open University (BIHE), has been granted a 3-day furlough. She began serving her sentence on July 15, 2012. Her husband Kamran Rahimiyan (کامران رحیمیان) is also serving a four-year sentence for educational activities, in Raja’i Shahr prison. The couple have a son, Artin, who is now four years old. On September 10, 2014, it was reported that the brothers Kamran and Kayvan Rahimiyan and Faran Hessami had been refused prison furlough unless they recant their Bahai beliefs and promise not to teach students at the Open University. The report does not state that this condition has been rescinded.
Two Bahais sentenced in Yazd
HRANA, November 17, 2014.
Ms. Tannaz Mohammedi and Mr. Iraj Lohrasb (طناز محمدی و ایرج لهراسب), who were arrested in their homes in Yazd on June 29, 2014, have been sentenced by the revolutionary court in Yazd, after more than four months in detention. Ms. Mohammedi was sentenced to one year in prison, and Mr. Lohrasb to two years. They were charged with reporting human rights violations using the facebook network.
Arson destroys Bahai-owned houses in rural Hamadan
HRANA, November 16, 2014.
On November 3, which coincided with the day of Ashura on Muharram 10, a mob gathered at a cottage belonging to the Hemmati (همتی) family in the mountain village of Auj Tappeh (اوج تپه), which lies to the south of Qazvin. The cottage is used only seasonally, in relation to agricultural activities. The mob broke the windows, and spread oil on a balcony and in the yard, and set fire to the house, destroying it. When the fire had died down, they wrote anti-Bahai slogans on the walls [which were presumably of stone ~Sen], and departed.
On November 7, in the small town of Amzajerd (امزاجرد), which lies about 20km north of the city of Hamadan, and well south of Auj Tappeh, a house and agricultural buildings belonging to the Aqdasi (اقدسی) family were destroyed by arson. Many possessions, furnishing, and documents were destroyed, along with agricultural materials and some cash. A report by the fire and security services has found that the fire was caused by arson. The family were in Hamadan city at the time of the fire.
Mahna Samandari and Narges Khatounbarqi buried in Miandoab
HRANA, November 15, 2014.
Mahna Samandari (مهنا سمندری) and Narges Khatounbarqi (نرگس خاتون برقی), two Bahais from Tabriz whose burial in the city has been blocked because of their religious beliefs, have been taken to Miandoab by local officials and buried in the Bahai cemetery there, without informing the families of the deceased. The burial took place on November 13. Mahna’s body had been held in a mortuary in Tabriz for 24 days, while the body of Mrs. Khatounbarqi had been held for 5 days. Bahai burials in Tabriz have been limited since early this year, and officials have been burying the bodies in Miandoab and Urmia (Urumiyyeh) without informing the families.
House of Justice announces purchase of a property in Haifa
Universal House of Justice, November 12, 2014.
The Universal House of Justice has announced the purchase of a major property adjacent to the main terrace of the Shrine of the Bab, at the Bahai World Centre in Haifa, Israel. The building, a three-story school just west of the Shrine, stands on over 2,600 square metres of land (0.64 acres). It has been purchased from the Haifa Municipal government. The text of the announcement in in the documents archive of my Bahai Studies blog. ~Sen
Bahais join demonstration in support of Nasrin Sotoudeh
HRANA, November 11, 2014.
On November 10, Bahai students who have been excluded from tertiary education joined the Iranian civil rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh (نسرین ستوده) in her three-week-old demonstration in front of the Bar Association building in Tehran. She is claiming the right to be reinstated by the Bar Association as a practicing lawyer, having been excluded from practicing for three years. She has been joined by a number of human rights activists, including the prominent Iranian film director Mohammad Nourizad. Mr. Nourizad reported on his face book page that a group of Bahai students who have been excluded from tertiary education had joined the protest.
`Adnan Rahmat-Penah begins one-year sentence in Shiraz
HRANA, November 11, 2014.
`Adnan Rahmat-Penah ( عدنان رحمتپناه ), a Bahai from Shiraz, reported to Adel-Abad prison on November 11, to begin serving a one-year sentence. he was arrested during a raid on his home on December 12, 2012, and taken to the Ministry of Intelligence’s Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz. He was held for 186 days without trial, before being freed on bail. He was sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the regime,” and the review court confirmed this sentence on May 22, 2014.
Another Bahai denied burial in Tabriz
HRANA, November 9, 2014.
The family of Narges Khatounbarqi (نرگس خاتون برقی), an 85-year old Bahai who died in her home on November 7, have been barred from burying her in the general cemetery in Tabriz, the ‘Valley of Mercy’ cemetery. The family took Mrs. Khatounbarqi’s body to the cemetery on the day after her death, but the officials at the cemetery balked because she was a Bahai, saying she could only be buried there in accordance with Muslim rites. Otherwise, the body would be kept in the mortuary until Tuesday (November 11), and then would be taken for burial in Miandoab, along with the body of twelve-year-old Mahna Samandari (مهنا سمندری), which has been held in the mortuary for the past three weeks. The officials justified their decision first by reference to regulations and then on the basis of Islamic law and the wishes of the Shiahs. Yet two sisters of the deceased are Shiah Muslims, and they requested that their sister be buried in the “Valley of Mercy’ cemetery.
Bahai student expelled in Miandoab
Campaign to stop harassment of Bahai citizens (facebook), November 9, 2014,
On October 7, a Bahai student whose name is variously given as Faran or Farab Jabari Adhar (فاراب( فاران) جباری آذر) was told verbally that he had been expelled from the Miandoab campus of the Payam-e Nour University because of his Bahai beliefs. He had completed four semesters of a degree in hydraulic and soil engineering. His family’s efforts to obtain written evidence of his expulsion have been fruitless, although there was a verbal announcement that his expulsion was on account of his being a Bahai.
Indonesia to issue ID cards for Bahais and other minorities,
Following the July announcement of Indonesia’s Religious Affairs Minster Lukman Hakim Saifuddin that “Baha’i is a religion, not a sect,” the Home Affairs Minister Tjahjo Kumolo said on Thursday that he intended to allow the followers of religions not formally recognized by the state to leave the religion field on their identity cards blank. Previously, Baha’is and followers of local and tribal beliefs had to enter one of Indonesia’s six recognized faiths if they wanted to receive an ID card. Indonesia recognizes only Buddhism, Catholicism, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam and Protestantism. The Home Affairs Minister also said he will summon regional leaders whose administrations continue to ignore cases of injustice against people from minority faiths, and will work with Police authorities to seek a permanent end to religious discrimination. He had previously called for the scrapping of local ordinances used to justify discrimination against minority groups.
“Indonesia is not a country based on any one religion. It is a country that is founded on the 1945 Constitution, which recognizes and protects all faiths,” Tjahjo said during a meeting with representatives of minority groups, including the Bahais, at his office in Central Jakarta, on Wednesday. Speaking after the meeting, Sheila Soraya from the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly said she was convinced that Baha’is as well as members of religious minorities in the country could soon see an easing of their plight. “He [Tjahjo] was very attentive in listening to our stories. He was not defensive. That’s the most important thing,” Sheila told The Jakarta Post. She hopes that the new government will soon guarantee the civil rights of members of the Baha’i community, who still struggle to access basic social services.
“Birth certificates register our children as having been born out of wedlock. It only mentions the name of the mother and not the father. This has put us in a difficult situation when we have to register our children at school,” Sheila said.
Tjahjo’s position that the “religion” section may be left blank is a workaround that could allow practitioners of minority faiths to receive documentation without having to lie about their beliefs. But if Lukman and Tjahjo continue to advocate a looser policy on religious recognition, they could be on a collision course with some of Indonesia’s powerful Sunni Muslim organizations. Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) deputy secretary Amirsyah Tambunan has previously said that the Baha’i should not be granted official status, and few of the archipelago’s Islamic scholars have given any indication that they would accept recognition of the Ahmadiyah, whose Indonesian followers have been repeatedly subject to discrimination and, on occasion, murder by rampaging mobs. [The Shiah Muslims, not mentioned here, also suffer discrimination ~Sen]
A report in Kompas said that the Director General of Civil Registrations at the Home Affairs Ministry had opened discussions with the MUI and the country’s largest Islamic organization, Nahdlatul Ulama, on the issue of official recognition for other religions.
Sentence of Susan Tabyaniyan confirmed
HRANA, November 5, 2014.
The review court has confirmed the sentence of Susan Tabyaniyan (سوسن تبیانیان), a Bahai from Semnan who was arrested on May 31, 2014. She was sentenced to one year in prison and the confiscation of all possessions connected to the Bahai Faith by Judge Amiri, sitting in Bench 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Semnan.
Susan Tabyaniyan (سوسن تبیانیان), a Bahai from Semnan who was arrested on May 31, 2014, has been sentenced to one year in prison. Her trial took place on August 7. After her arrest she was held for 45 days before being released on bail.
Mrs. Tabyaniyan had a shop in Semnan until her arrest in April, 2009. In May 2010 she was sentenced to 18 months in prison on charges of propaganda against the regime and membership of a Bahai organisation. After serving almost 14 months in Evin prison (some of them in the methadone user’s wing), she was one of the prisoners granted clemency to mark Eid al-Fitr, on August 27, 2011. She was rearrested on May 31, 2014, and released on bail 6 weeks later.
Amir Maboudi begins 6-month sentence in Urumiyyeh
HRANA, November 2, 2014.
Mr. Amir Maboudi (امیر معبودی) began serving a 6-month prison sentence in Urumiyyeh (Urmia) in Iran’s Azerbaijan province, on October 9. He was charged with “propaganda against the regime in the form of propagating the Bahai Faith.” Instead of summoning him to the prison to begin his sentence, the authorities informed the guarantor of his bail that he must go to prison. Mr. Maboudi and six other Bahais were sentenced in July this year, to terms ranging from six months to six years. Mr. Fardin A`za’i (Aghsani) and Mrs. Farahnaz Moqadam and Ms. Gisou Sheikh-Hasan-Abadi (فردین اعضایی (اغصانی)، فرحناز مقدم و گیسو شیخحسنآبادی) were sentenced to six years in prison. They were sentenced to one year for teaching the Bahai Faith and propaganda against the Islamic Republic through hosting regular teaching classes in their homes, teaching minors and attracting Muslims, and to another five years for assembly and collusion in the form of membership of a Bahai Assembly, and having links to the Universal House of Justice (the elected body that heads the international Bahai community). Another four Bahais, including Mr. Maboudi, were sentenced to six months in prison.
No word of a Bahai arrested 11 days ago in Hamadan
HRANA, November 2, 2014.
Hamid Azizi (حمید عزیزی), a Bahai from Hamadan, was arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence who came to his home on October 21. They searched his home for several hours and seized a computer, a laptop computer, and Bahai books and pamphlets. Mr. Azizi was taken away, and there has been no news since as to his condition and where he is being held, although his family has made enquiries at the offices of the Ministry of Intelligence. His home has been searched again during his absence. His son was summoned from school to go to the Ministry of Intelligence, where he was interrogated, and his wife and brother have also been summoned and interrogated.
Deceased Bahai girl denied burial in Tabriz
ARAM, 1 November, 2014.
Over a week has passed since twelve-year-old Mahna Samandari died from an illness, on October 21, but her parents have not been allowed to bury her. Mahna’s parents, who suffer from physical handicaps, are not only grieving the loss of their daughter but are devastated by “regulations” that deny them the right to bury their child in the local cemetery of Tabriz. In a Persian report, HRANA attributes the refusal to pressure exerted by the Ministry of Intelligence. After her death in hospital, her parents wanted to take the body home for the ritual washing and Bahai prayers, but when the ambulance driver heard that she was a Bahai, he stopped the vehicle and insisted that she could only be taken to the Wadi Rahmat cemetery in Tabriz [where Bahai rites would be impossible ~ Sen]. Eventually he relented and took the body to her parents’ home. After the body had been washed and wrapped in a shroud, and the prayer for the dead read, in accordance with Bahai rites, it was taken to Wadi Rahmat cemetery [the Bahai cemetery in Tabriz having been confiscated, and barred to Bahais – Sen] and placed in the mortuary, where it remains.
Before the Islamic revolution the Bahai community in Tabriz acquired a cemetery that was later confiscated by government authorities. The community was able to bury their dead in the cemetery until August 2011, when the authorities announced that they no longer allow Bahai interments. In the past three years at least twenty Bahais have been denied burial in this cemetery. As an alternative, authorities are suggesting a burial ground in Urumia or Miandoab, located more than one hour from Tabriz. Common sense and Bahai religious laws prohibit remote burial grounds, and this is especially impractical for the Samandaris, who are physically disabled.
Mahna suffered from a form of paralysis that impaired the use of her hands. Despite her handicap, she pursued her passion for art and painted with her mouth. A gifted artist with determination, Mahna obtained the first prize in art in a national competition.
Fifty businesses closed down following Bahai Holy Day observances
HRANA, October 27, 2014.
Over fifty Bahai-run businesses in Iran were shut down on October 26, in Bandar Abbas, Kerman, Rajsanjan, and Jiroft (the city formerly known as Sabzevaran). These cities all lie in the South-east of Iran. October 25 and 26 this year corresponded to the first and second day of Muharram in the Islamic lunar calendar — days on which Bahais in the Islamic world celebrated the births of the Bab and Baha’u’llah. Those Bahais who were able would have closed their businesses for these Holy Days. Bahais in the rest of the world have used dates in the Gregorian calendar for these Holy days. However the international head of the Bahai community (the Universal House of Justice) announced on July 10, 2014, that from 2015 these Holy Days will be celebrated “on the first and the second day following the occurrence of the eighth new moon after Naw-Ruz.” These dates fall between mid-October and mid-November.
Updated, November 2: In an interview with Diane Ala’i, Radio Farda links the current closures to several cases of arson against Bahai businesses in Rafsanjan, and reports that some of the Bahais in Rafsanjan recently received letters stating that they are forbidden to have any contact with Muslims.
Farhad Eqbali transferred to Raja’i Shahr prison
HRANA, October 21, 2014.
Farhad Eqbali ( فرهاد اقبالی ), a Bahai prisoner of conscience from Gorgan, has been transferred to Raja’i Shahr prison near Tehran, where he is currently in the quarantine unit. Mr. Eqbali was one of about twenty Bahais, and some Muslims accused of associating with Bahais, who were arrested in Gorgan in November, 2012. His 5-year sentence was confirmed by the court of review on August 27, and he began his sentence in Gorgan on the same day. At some stage he was transferred to Evin prison, in Tehran, and now to Raja’i Shahr prison.
Jamaleddin Khanjani and Ali Salanpour transferred for medical treatment
HRANA, October 21, 2014.
As previous reported, on September 27, 2014, Jamaleddin Khanjani (جمالدین خانجانی), an 81-year old Bahai prisoner of conscience aged 81, and Ali Salanpour (علی سلانپور), another prisoner of conscience, were transferred to a medical centre outside Raj’i Shahr prison but returned to prison without treatment, apparently because officials demanded money from them. It is now reported that on October 20 they were both transferred to medical centres outside the prison. Mr. Khanjani, one of seven Bahai ‘Yaran’ (national facilitators for the Bahais in Iran), suffers from diverse ailments connected to his age. Mr. Salanpour has problems with his neck, back and testicles due to severe torture in prison.
Four Bahais free on bail in Shiraz
Fariba Kamalabadi (public figure facebook page), October 21, 2014.
Mr. Farhad Sarafraz (فرهاد سرافراز), , Mr. Sa`id `Ebadi (سعید عابدی), Mr. Shahram Mansour ( شهرام منصور) and Mr. Adib Haqqpazhouh (ادیب حق پژوه) were freed on bail on October 21. They are the last of the recent detainees to be released. Adib Haqqpazhouh and Sa`id `Ebadi were among those arrested on August 5. Shahram Mansour and Farhad Sarafraz were detained in Shiraz on September 1.
Judiciary moves to close the file on the killing of Ataollah Rezvani
HRANA, October 17, 2014.
Thirteen months after the execution-style killing of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani ( عطاءالله رضوانی ), a well-known member of the Bahai community in Bandar Abbas (on August 24, 2013), the judicial authorities are pressing the Rezvani family to accept the ending of the investigation. On October 14, the Rezvani family and the lawyer handling this case were summoned to a Revolutionary Court in Bandar Abbas where Judge Emani, the investigating magistrate, told them that thus far no clues had been found regarding the circumstances of Mr. Rezvani’s murder, so the investigation could go no further. He recommended that the Rezvani family should accept compensation from public funds so that the case could be closed. Under Iranian law, if a body is found in a street or public place and the killer or killers cannot be found, the family are entitled to compensation from a public fund. The Rezvani family did not accept this proposal, and insisted that the murder should be investigated. The investigating magistrate responded that, if they had evidence that Mr. Rezvani was killed by one or more persons, they should make a complaint. Otherwise, he would not be able to pursue the matter. He also referred to one ‘Karim,’ the last person known to have seen Mr. Rezvani alive. Karim was an Afghan labourer who worked at the home of a Bahai family who were out of the country, and Mr. Rezvani used to check on their house in Bandar Abbas occasionally. On the night of the murder, he had gone there and had given a ride to Karim in his car. “Karim” had not been heard of for the past eleven months, but Judge Emani said that he had been intercepted by Iranian border guards while trying to get to Syria [Iran and Syria do not have a border ~ Sen] and had been sent to Afghanistan. This contradicts a recent statement made by Mr. Reza’i, the officer in charge of the file, who told the Rezvani family that Karim had been seen in Shiraz and would be arrested once a warrant had been issued. Judge Emani asked the Rezvani family to sign a statement that they had no complaint against Karim: the family refused.
The following day, October 15, the family received a letter from the Court asking that Koroush Rezvani, the son of the murdered man who is registered as the “complainant” in this case, should provide any evidence regarding the murder of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani to the court, within one week.
Bahai youth sentenced in Shiraz
HRANA, October 10, 2014.
Farhud Yazdani (فرهود یزدانی), an 18-year-old Bahai living in Shiraz, has been sentenced to one year in prison, for participating in social networks used to plan a mass water-fight in Be`sat Park in Shiraz. His arrest had not previously been reported on Sen’s Daily. The background to this is the use of social networks, last July, to organise water fights in Be`sat Park and Aram Park in Shiraz, and in other cities in Iran. The photograph below is from an event in Tehran. The water fight in Aram Park was cancelled when the security forces threatened to disrupt it, but the event in Be`sat Park led to clashes with security forces.
Farhud Yazdani, according to a relative, was not an organizer of these events, but was one of those invited to join in. His home was searched and he was arrested on July 15. He was taken to the Ministry of Intelligence’s Facility 100 in Shiraz, where he was held until August 9, when he was transferred to Adel Abad prison. In the meantime his family had been seeking his release, and he was eventually released on bail, 10 days before his ‘trial.’ Judge Sadati (ساداتی ), who sits in Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz and is head of the Revolutionary Courts in Shiraz, issued a verbal finding condemning Mr. Yazdani to one year in prison. According to a relative, the Judge told Mr. Yazdani that, if the did not protest his treatment, he would be freed on bail after four months in prison. The relative felt that Mr. Yazdani was treated in this way only because he was a Bahai. [The report implies that other participants were not sentenced ~Sen]
Passing of Dr. Kamran Ekbal
Editorial, November 8, 2014.
I am very sorry to have to pass on this message from the family of Dr. Kamran Ekbal.
My dear husband and our beloved father, Dr. Kamran Ekbal, passed yesterday, 6.10.2014, after a prolonged struggle of more than eight years against his deadly disease to the Abha Kingdom and the realms high above. The disease devoured his body but his brains remained untouched and active almost till the last moment, allowing him to continue his scholarly works without interruption.
He will live everlasting in our thoughts and memories.
Huda Baghdadi-Ekbal and his three sons Basil Omid, Ramez Adib and Cyrus Navid
Dr. Kamran Ekbal was Director of the Section for Middle Eastern Studies at the Department of History, Ruhr University of Bochum (Germany), from 1979 till his retirement in April 2011. Born in Beirut 1946, he studied at the universities of Hamburg, Cambridge and Kiel, where he received his PhD. in Islamic and Iranian Studies in 1976 with a dissertation on the Russian-Persian War of 1826-1828. He taught Arabic at the University of Hamburg as well as Arabic and Persian at the University of Kiel and was visiting professor for extra-European history at the University of Essen. He has many publications on Iranian and Middle Eastern topics, as well as on Bahai themes and at the time of his death was editing the Tablets of Baha’u’llah and Abdu’l-Baha to Muhammad Mustafa Baghdadi as well as Dr. Zia Baghdad’s memoirs of his travels.
Dr. Ekbal has made a considerable contribution to Bahai studies in several languages, notably by his willingness to look squarely at difficulties in the received understandings of historical and doctrinal questions, and by bringing an Arab and Arabic perspective to a field in which Persian perspectives have been more common. He was of course fluent in both languages, and made scholarly contributions to fields such as Qajar social and political history, and Arabic studies. He often co-authored or contributed to the work of other scholars, in the fields of Bahai history and the translation of Bahai texts. I can confirm his family’s words about his activity during his final illness, as he helped me in the last few months in confirming an error that had crept into the Persian text of A Traveller’s Narrative. He was capable, daring, accessible and helpful, and a precise and punctilious scholar.
I am sorry to say that I had no thought that his death might be imminent, and have not prepared a fitting obituary or survey of his published works. If the friends will contribute what they can through the comments section below, I will edit the information into a preliminary obituary.
Detention orders of three Bahais in Mashhad extended
HRANA, October 6, 2014.
The temporary detention of three Bahais from Mashhad who have been held without trial since June 1 has been extended for another month. Mey Khalusi (می خلوصی), Dari Amri (دری امری) and Shayan Tafazoli (شایان تفضلی) were arrested in the home of May Khalusi, and were at first held in Ministry of Intelligence interrogation facilities in Mashhad. They were transferred to Vakilabad prison on August 2. Thus far the authorities have not given any specific reason for extending their detention. It would appear that Dari Amri and Shayan Tafazoli were initially arrested by accident, as there was no warrant for them, but after their arrest they were accused of “propaganda against the regime.”