July to December, 2016: in reverse choronological order
2016: not a good year for the Bahais in Iran
Bahai News (Persian), December 29, 2016.
Bahai News has published an overview of incidents affecting the human rights and civil rights of Bahais in Iran in 2016. The figures, which are ikely to be incomplete, since the Bahais in Iran do not have membership rolls or community organizations, show the the human rights situation for Bahais in Iran has deteriorated under President Roughani. The report lists:
72 prisoners released
12 Bahai prisoners allowed prison furlough
9 trials (presumably this means trials of groups of Bahais ~ Sen)
140 Bahai-run businesses closed down
3 cases of refusal to allow the burial of Bahais
5 Bahai cemeteries destroyed
2 cases of high school students expelled for Bahai beliefs
1 martyrdom, that of Farhang Amiri (فرهنگ امیری) in Yazd.
Seven detainees bailed in Zahedan and Shiraz
Bahai News (Persian), December 31, 2016.
Four Bahais from Zahedan have been released on bail after being held by the Ministry of Intelligence for 35 days. They are Heyda Yazdan (هیدا یزدان), Bahram Ruhani (بهرام روحانی), Mehroush Ramedanizadeh (مهرنوش رمضانی زاده) and Siavash Rahimi (سیاوش رحیمی). Mr. Ruhani was arrested on November 25, and the others on the following morning. They were released on December 31. All were arrested in their homes, which were searched.
Three other Bahais who were arrested recently in Zahedan have already been freed on bail. They are Farshid Dadvar, Amelia Hokiman and her 19-year old daughter Tabsim Hosseini (امیلیا حکیمان، تبسم حسینی و فرشید دادور).
In Shiraz, Lala Salehi (لالا صالحی), Nasim Kashaninejad (نسیم کاشانی نژاد) and Rezvan Yazdani (رضوان یزدانی) have been freed on bail of 200 million tumans (59,000 euros; $US 62,000). They were arrested in Shiraz on the evening of November 22, along with Parisa Sepehri (پریسا سپهری) and Thamar Ashna’i (ثمر آشنایی). Mrs. Sepehri, who is pregnant, was released the following day, and Thamar Ashna’i was freed on bail of 250 million tumans on December 27. All five were arrested in their homes, which were searched, and held for interrogation at “Facility 100,” run by the Ministry of Intelligence, until just before their release. They were then transferred to Adel Abad prison, where bail was arranged.
Home raid and arrest in Kerman
Bahai News (Persian), December 31, 2016.
On December 30, security agents in Kerman raided the home of Samir Khalousi (سمیر خلوصی) and arrested him. Five agents entered his home by breaking down the door. They searched it throughly and seized a laptop, hard drive, smart phone and books. The raid is described as very violent: Mr. Khalousi was subject to two hours of interrogation and beating in his home, and was taken in handcuffs to the detention facilities operated by the Ministry of Intelligence. His home was left in disorder.
At previously reported, on the morning of December 21, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Kerman raided the home of Amrullah Khalqiyan (امرالله خالقیان) and his wife Fariba Rouhani (فریبا روحانی), seizing personal effects, a computer, a laptop and Bahai books, and arrested the couple. In that case, the behaviour of the agents is reported to have been perfectly respectful. Mrs Rouhani was released after a few hours’ questioning, but Mr. Khalqiyan has now been detained for 10 days.
Yekta Fahandezh’s sentence reduced to 2 years
Bahai News (Persian), December 29, 2016.
Yekta Fahandezh-Sa`adi (یکتافهندژسعدی), a Bahai from Shiraz, has had her sentence reduced by the Review Court, from 5 years in prison to two years in prison plus a three-year suspended sentence.
Miss Fahandezh-Sa`adi was one of fifteen Bahais arrested in Shiraz in 2010. On February 3, 2012, she was again arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and spent 82 days in Detention Facility 100. She was released on bail and later charged with propaganda against the regime and undermining national security. She was given a five-year suspended sentence, but was later acquitted by the Court of Review.
However she was arrested again by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on March 16, 2014. The agents searched her home and seized books, a laptop and personal effects. She was transferred to Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz, and was detained for two months. On June 16, 2016 she was again tried and sentenced by Judge Doctor Sadati (دکتر ساداتی) to five years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “collusion.” A month later, while waiting to begin serving this 5-year sentence, she was arrested again, and held for over 80 days in the Ministry of Intelligence’s detention facilities in Shiraz, before her release on bail on October 4. This 5-year sentence has now been reduced to two years in prison and a three-year suspended sentence, but one informed source indicates that yet a third case against her is being prepared by the Ministry of Intelligence.
Another Bahai student expelled
Bahai News (Persian), December 29, 2016.
Peygah Dehqani-Mohammadi (پگاه دهقانی محمدی) has been expelled from Al-Taha Institute of Higher Education in Tehran because of her Bahai beliefs. She was in the first semester of a degree, and preparing for examinations. On December 29, officials left a telephone message at her home saying that, since she was a Bahai, the Institute could not accept her and she need not go to the Institute any more. However she does intend to return to the Institute on December 31, to follow up on the matter. She lives in Eslamshahr, in Tehran Province, and was taking an applied science degree in computer software.
Bahai student expelled from university in Birjand
Bahai News (Persian), December 28, 2016.
Farinarz Mokhtari (فریناز مختاری) was expelled from the Birjand Women’s Technical Institute on December 26 because of her Bahai beliefs. She was contacted on December 25, and told to report to the Chancellor to receive documents relating to a letter from the Department of Education. Next day, she reported to the Chancellor’s office, and was told she had been barred from tertiary education. In the current academic year, at least 129 Bahai students who have passed the University Entrance examination have been barred from tertiary institutions because of the religious beliefs.
Bahai student expelled in Yazd
Iran Press Watch, November 29, 2016.
Raha Sedaghat (رها صداقت), a Bahai from Yazd, has been expelled from university because of her religion.
According to reports and Raha herself: “After participating in my collage entry exam, I was told my academic record had deficiencies, like other Bahai students. However, a few days later, I received a message from the State University of Yazd to register, and so I began my studies at Yazd University, until the day I went for my midterm exams and was unable to find my name or seat number in the student roster. The next day, when I inquired about this, I was told that they had received an urgent and confidential letter from the national University Assessment authorities for my immediate expulsion, as well as three other students. At the end of the meeting, they took my student ID and expelled me.”
Expulsion of Bahai High School student
Iran Press Watch, December 5, 2016.
Bardia Rouhu’l-Fada (بردیا روح الفدا), a 15-year-old Bahai boy, has been expelled from Komayl boys high school in Rasht because of his belief in the Bahai Faith. [It would appear that this happened early in September, during the re-enrollment process. Secondary education in Iran is divided into 3 years of lower secondary school followed by up to 3 years of upper secondary schooling, beginning at about 15 years. The school (incorrectly identified in one report) appears to be an orthodox religious school, the Dabiristan Shahid Komayl ~Sen] Two other high schools in Rasht also refused to register him. He is currently being home-schooled.
A source close to his family stated that: “Bardia’s father was asked by the Principal of the high school to fill out the registration form again. When he came to the religion section of the form, the Principal asked him not to mention that he is a Bahai, although Bardia’s father had previously mentioned that his son is a Bahai. The Principal told him that this high school is one of the exemplary public schools, and so he had to expel his son.”
His father then went to the Education Department, but officials there refused to give him a document that would state that being a Bahai was the reason for his son’s expulsion. According to this source, “Sanayeh Poushesh High School told his father that they did not have room for his son; Mulla Sadra and Shahid Raja’i High Schools recommended that his father not state that he is a Bahai. Contesting this, Bardia’s father said, “You mean I have to lie?” And they replied, “Yes, you have to lie. Otherwise, your son cannot continue his education.”
After Bardia was expelled from high school, his classmates were upset about his expulsion, and they gave him a standing ovation as he was leaving the school.
Within the past month, more than two-thousand Bahai citizens have written to Hasan Rohani, and have asked for the improvement of educational conditions for the Bahais in Iran. From the Islamic Revolution in Iran to date, more than one hundred thousand Bahais have been prevented from continuing their education in Universities and Technical Institutes (Tertiary education). In recent years, a number of Bahais or those born into Bahai families have also been denied education in elementary, middle school and high school. This has been based on a Resolution of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution dated February 25, 1991, under which Bahais are exluded from tertiary education or employment in government bodies. According to this text, “The government’s dealings with them must be such that their progress and development are blocked.” “They can be enrolled in schools provided they have not identified themselves as Bahais. Preferably, they should be enrolled in schools which have a strong and imposing religious ideology.”
The last two clauses are contradictory: Bahai children are required to identify themselves so that they can be directed to enrol especially in schools that emphasise religious orthodoxy, but having identified themselves as Bahais they should be excluded from school! This appears to be the issue here: in accordance with government policy the Bahai family has registered with an orthodox religious school, but these are just the schools that do not want Bahai students.
Thamar Ashna’i released on bail in Shiraz
Bahai News (Persian), December 27, 2016.
Thamar Ashanai (ثمر آشنایی) was released from Adel Abad prison in Shiraz on December 27 after posting bail of 200 million tumans (59,000 euros ; $US 62,000). She was one of five Bahais living in Shiraz who were arrested in their homes on the evening of November 22. At the same time, a number of other Bahai homes in Shiraz were raided by the security forces. Mrs. Ashanai was held in the Ministry of Intelligence’s Detention Facilty 100 in Shiraz for 34 days, and was then transferred to Adel Abad prison.
Student couple expelled from university for Bahai beliefs
Bahai News (Persian), December 23, 2016.
Azadeh Dhulfaqari (آزاده ذوالفقاری) and Masoud Qadirzadeh (مسعود قدیرزاده), a young Bahai couple studying in Yazd, have been expelled from the Payam-e Nour University because of their religious beliefs. On November 14, 2016, they enrolled in courses on medical engineering and accounting. Some time later, after they had chosen their units and paid the fees, it was noticed that the registration form, which they had not filled in themselves, said that they were Muslims. When they went to the University Rector [to correct this], the Rector consulted with the University’s security department [answering to the Ministry of Intelligence], and they were expelled.
One arrest in Qazvin
Bahai News (Persian), December 20, 2016 and one subsequent report.
On December 20, four security agents raided the home of Soheil Keshavarz (سهیل کشاورز) in Qazvin. They conducted a search and arrested Mr. Keshavarz. On December 24, agents raided the home of his father, Sohrab Keshavarz (سهراب کشاور) and seized Bahai books and personal effects. Then they took him with them to the home of Soheil Keshavarz, and searched it again.
Two arrested, one released, in Kerman
Bahai News (Persian), December 27, 2016 (and an earlier report).
On the morning of December 21, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Kerman Province raided the home of Amrullah Khalqiyan (امرالله خالقیان) and his wife Fariba Rouhani (فریبا روحانی), seizing personal effects, a computer, a laptop and Bahai books, and arrested the couple. Mrs Rouhani was released after a few hours’ questioning, but Mr. Khalqiyan is still being held, according to latest reports. The behaviour of the agents is reported to have been perfectly respectful. It is implied that the couple’s home is in Kerman city, but this is not specified.
On December 25, the agents returned and searched the couple’s home again, and also searched the home of Mr. Khalqani’s sister, in a downstairs appartment of the same building. The agents seized pictures and books relating to the Bahai Faith. It is reported that Mr. Khalqiyan is being investigated for undermining national security by having the wrong kind of pictures on his walls.
Elham Faramani, Bahai prisoner of conscience, hospitalized
Iran Press Watch, December 18, 2016.
Last week, Elham Farahani ( الهام فراهانی ), a Bahai prisoner in the women’s section of Evin Prison, was transferred to hospital and operated upon, after she lost her balance, fell and broke her right elbow. She was first transferred to Taleghani Hospital, but then taken back to prison, owing to the lack of specialists and adequate facilities at that hospital. After a few days and with follow-ups by her family, she was transferred from prison to Jam Hospital, and is currently being treated there. It is reported that two surgeries have been done on her arm but her condition has not improved due to the severity of her injuries. She suffers from severe arthritis in the arms and neck.
Elham Farahani was arrested by security agents on July 10, 2012, along with her husband Adel Na`imi (عادل نعیمی). Their son Shamim (شمیم) was also arrested, a few days after his parents. After two months of interrogation in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, she was released on 100 million tumans (equivalent then to 66,500 euro; 81,600 US dollars) bail. She was sentenced to four years imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court, and her son is serving a three-year sentence. They began their sentences on May 11, 2014. Her husband Adel Na`imi is serving a 10-year sentence. In December, 2015, Mrs. Farahani was allowed a 7 day prison furlough and was able to meet her husband and son in Rajai Shahr Prison.
Another Bahai-run business closed down in Bijar
Iran Press Watch, December 18, 2016.
The business premises of Nosrullah Takapu’i (نصراله تکاپوی) in the city of Bijar in Kurdestan province has been sealed by agents of the Office of Public Places. Mr. Takapu’i has 56 years experience in the dry cleaning business, but said the agents shut his shop because of his belief in the Bahai Faith. The agents who came to close the shop said that if the owner had the necessary permit, they would not have sealed the shop; yet the necessary permit, valid for five years, had been issued that very day. When shown the permit, they sealed the shop doors anyway.
Within the last two months, at least 140 Bahai-owned businesses have been sealed because they closed their shops on Bahai religious holidays.
Refusal to take Navid Khanjani to the Medical Examiner
Iran Press Watch, December 18, 2016.
According to HRANA, the Human Rights Activists in Iran news organization, on December 13 the Rajai Shahr prison authorities refused to allow Navid Khanjani (نوید خانجانی), a Bahai human rights activist detained in this prison, to be taken to the medical examiner, because of his refusal to wear “dirty prison clothes”, as well as his rejection of the use of handcuffs and shackles.
Mr. Khanjani, who is now spending his fourth year in captivity, has been hospitalized previously following severe weight loss and other health complications. He is the former head of the Committee on Education Rights of Human Rights Activists in Iran, a member of the Committee of Human Rights Reporters and a founder of the Society Against Educational Discrimination, who was arrested by security forces in March 2010 and spent about two months in prison. He was charged with spreading lies, disturbing minds and propaganda against the system by disseminating news, reports, and interviews with foreign radio and television, and membership in banned organizations. He was sentenced to 12 years in jail and fined four hundred thousand tumans (at present rates, 1185 euros; US$ 1240) in Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court, by Judge Pir Abbasi (پیرعباس). The sentence was upheld by the appeals court, but was later reduced to five years under the “aggregation rules” of Article 134 of the legal code.
Four Bahai detainees bailed in Shiraz and Zahedan
Bahai News (Persian), December 10, 2016.
Mahyar Safidi (مهیار سفیدی) and Sahba Maslahi (صهبا مصلحی), who were among the 17 Bahais arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on Bahai homes in Shiraz on September 28 and the following days, were released on bail on December 10. They were detained at the Ministry of Intelligence’s detention facility 100 for 74 days. Bail was set at 300 million tumans (87,000 euros; $US 93,000).
In a separate report, Bahai News announced today that Amelia Hokiman (امیلیا حکیمان) and Farshid Dadvar (فرشید دادور) have been released on bail in Zahedan. As previously reported, on November 6 agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Zahedan arrested them, and Mrs. Hokiman’s 19-year old daughter Tabsim Hosseini (تبسم حسینی). Tabsim Hosseini was released on November 22. Bail was set at 70 million tumans (20,000 euros; $US 21,700).
Bahai cemetery in Birjand confiscated and closed
Iran Press Watch, December 7, 2016.
Within the last two weeks government forces have “walled off” the grave sites from the surrounding buildings (which were previously confiscated), and on November 28, officials destroyed the building where bodies were washed before being wrapped for burial. A month earlier, officials told the Bahais of Birjand that they should leave the city and that they would have to take their dead for burial to Dastjerd, while the Bahais who live in the surrounding villages should bury their dead in their own villages, because this cemetery is close to the city.
As previously reported on Sen’s Daily, the Municipal office of Ardestan demolished the gate of the Bahai cemetery there on November 6.
Shayda Ta’id released in Babol
Bahai News (Persian), December 6, 2016.
Shayda Ta’id ( شیدا تائید ) has been released from prison in Babol, where she was serving a 1-year sentence for her Bahai beliefs. She was arrested in her home, along with her guest, Bayan Baba’i ( بیان بابایی ) from Qaemshahr, on January 21, 2013. They were taken to the Ministry of Intelligence in Sari, and three days later were allowed to contact their families. They were detained by the Ministry of Intelligence in Sari for a total of 25 days. She began serving her sentence on June 23, 2016 [meaning that she has served just half of her sentence].
Eleven Bahai-run businesses closed in Rasht
Iran Press Watch, November 29, 2016.
The Office of Public Places has sealed the business premises of eleven Bahais living in Rasht over the last few days. They are a haberdashery shop run by Faraj Farhangi (فرج فرهنگی), a clock sales & repair business run by Touraj Farhangi (تورج فرهنگی), a medical supplies business run by Mohammad Asadpour (محمد اسدپور), and unspecified businesses run by Foad Yazdani (فواد یزدانی), Mass`oud Razavian (مسعود رضویان), Siamak Abdulhamidi (سیامک عبدالحميدي), Sa`eed Abdulhamidi (سعید عبدالحميدي), Shehab Ta’eed (شهاب تائید), Homayoun Khanlari (همایون خانلری), Bashir Heravi (بشیر هروی), and Sa`adat Yegan (سعادت یگان). Moreover, the Office of Public Places in Lahijan sealed the business of Navid Rouhipour (نوید روحی پور) in that city on November 16. Lahijan and Rasht lie on Iran’s northern coast, on the Caspian Sea.
The businesses were closed by the authorities because their owners had observed Bahai Holy Days. In recent weeks, more than 120 Bahai-owned businesses have been sealed across Iran.
Yemen’s Baha’is keep the faith amid conflict and crackdown
Religion News Service, November 29, 2016.
For 11 days in August, Ruhiyeh Thabet al-Sakkaf and Nafheh Sanai al-Sakkaf say they were forced to share a jacket and a damp cell at Yemen’s National Security Bureau after armed officers stormed a multifaith youth event the sisters-in-law were facilitating and arrested 65 men, women and children.
“They raided us how they would raid a terrorist cell, with masked gunmen shouting, ‘Quiet! Sit down! Nobody move!’” Ruhiyeh said. Ruhiyeh and Nafheh are members of the Bahai Faith, which emphasizes peace, spiritual unity and service. Previous Yemeni regimes have been suspicious of the few thousand Baha’is who live in the overwhelmingly Muslim country.
Now, with conflicts raging across the region, members of the minority faith are facing new levels of discrimination and persecution from the Houthis, an Islamist group that rose to prominence after seizing control of Yemen’s northwest in 2014.
Ruhiyeh says that as a condition of their release, the young girls — most of them Muslim — who attended the event in early August were forced to sign pledges stating they would not communicate with Bahais or engage in any Bahai-inspired social work. Nafheh and Ruhiyeh signed similar pledges about social work when they were released, with an added clause that they would only practice their religion at home.They initially agreed not to speak to international media, in exchange for a pledge the authorities failed to keep.
“We promised to keep quiet, and they promised to release our husbands,” Nafheh said. “Three weeks after our release, the officers threatened to throw us back in prison, and our husbands were still in jail. That’s when we decided to break our silence.”
Ruhiyeh’s husband, Nadim al-Sakkaf, is the British Council’s country manager in Yemen. He and his brother Nader, who is Nafheh’s husband, were detained from Aug. 10 until their unexpected release Sunday (Nov. 27). Their friend Keyvan Qadari remains in custody.
The three Bahai men faced charges of relaying information to Israel (where the international governing council of the Bahai Faith is centered, and where a shrine to its leader, the Baha’u’llah, is based), converting people to the Bahai Faith and acting as spies for foreign countries. With the Houthi slogan, “God is great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory for Islam,” emblazoned on flags and walls across Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, the threatened charges are serious but completely baseless, their wives say.
International observers agree. In a statement published Nov. 23, Amnesty International referred to the men as arbitrarily detained prisoners of conscience.
Blindfolded and cuffed
Ruhiyeh recalls the agony of not being allowed to contact her children or the outside world in those first few days of imprisonment.
“We didn’t know our husbands were in prison until our fourth day there when my sister-in-law went to bathroom and came back crying, saying she had seen my husband blindfolded and cuffed,” Ruhiyeh said. “We thought they were outside at home with our children. We had not been allowed to call our family to tell them where we were.”
Nafheh says she suffered an emotional breakdown and was released after 11 days to care for her young children. Ruhiyeh was released 16 days later after a heavy airstrike disrupted operations at the National Security Bureau, where she was being detained. Sometime in the weeks thereafter the three men were moved to Sanaa’s Political Security Office, where Qadari remains.
While in custody, Ruhiyeh’s Excellence Foundation for Social Development was ransacked and the extended family’s homes were raided.
Ruhiyeh and Nafheh say fears about Baha’is stem from a complete misunderstanding of the faith.
“They think Bahais are spies of Israel and America, that we’re collaborating with Israel and trying to make people convert to our faith. That’s completely false,” Ruhiyeh said.
The Bahai Faith originated in the 19th century in Iran, where an estimated 300,000 Bahais still live and suffer intense discrimination.
Both women say the Aug. 10 youth event, where Baha’is were a minority, focused on empowering youth to serve their communities.
“The whole training focused on education, peace, unity and accepting everyone who lives in the country despite our different beliefs,” Ruhiyeh said. “We wanted to encourage the youth not to leave, to invest their energies developing the country and bring prosperity in this difficult time the country is going through.”
A greater cause
With their careers on hold — Ruhiyeh’s as a condition of her release and because of the raid on her Foundation, and Nafheh’s job as an English teacher gone amid Yemen’s ongoing conflicts and insecurity — the women shifted their focus to securing the release of their husbands and ensuring their faith community’s constitutionally guaranteed right to religious freedom.
“When we meet with National Security heads and the leadership of Ansar Allah (the Houthi religious and political group controlling much of the region), we don’t talk about religious minorities. We talk about citizens’ rights for all. We are Yemenis before we are Bahais,” Ruhiyeh said several days before the release of her husband and brother-in-law.
The women have also met with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
“They are impressive in terms of their advocacy for their husbands and their faith,” said Human Rights Watch’s Yemen and Kuwait researcher Kristine Beckerle. “It sounds like the situation really is quite tied to their religious beliefs: all of these informal negotiations, the women being threatened, making pledges they should not be forced to make.”
Ruhiyeh’s and Nafheh’s relentless advocacy over the past few months has often been met with threats to throw them back in jail.
“It’s so unpredictable. We don’t know what’s happening,” Ruhiyeh said. “I don’t know if we’ll be called in and arrested again. Every day, when I leave the house, I wear clothes to prepare myself for the fact that I could be arrested again at any second.”
Buoyed and guided by their faith, Ruhiyeh and Nafheh manage to persevere.
Ahdiyyeh Enayati, Bahareh Nowruzi and Parisa Sepehri free in Shiraz
Bahai News (Persian), November 27, 2016.
Ahdiyyeh Enayati (عهدیه عنایتی) and Bahareh Nowruzi (بهاره نوروزی) were released from Adel Abad prison in Shiraz on November 26, after posting bail of 200 million rials (5800 euros; 6,200 $US). They had been detained for interrogation by the Ministry of Intelligence for 58 and 52 days respectively, and were transferred to Adel Abad prison prior to their release.
They were among the 17 Bahais arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on Bahai homes in Shiraz on September 28 and the following days. Most have since been freed on bail, but I have heard no news so far of the release of Sahba Maslahi (صهبا مصلحی), Mahyar Safidi (مهیار سفیدی), Sahba Farabakhsh (صهبا فرحبخش) and Shadi Sadeq-Eqdam (شادی صادق اقدم). As previously reported, on the evening of November 22, five Bahais living in Shiraz were arrested in their homes by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence. One of these, Parisa Sepehri (پریسا سپهری), has been released for health reasons: she is in the first months of pregnancy.
Four more arrests in Zahedan
Bahai News (Persian), November 26, 2016.
On November 25, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence searched the home and workplace of Bahram Ruhani (بهرام روحانی) in Zahedan, seizing books, CDs, casette tapes, and a mobile telephone. On the following morning Mehroush Ramdani (مهرنوش رمضانی), Heyda Yazdan (هیدا یزدان) and Siavash Rahimi (سیاوش رحیمی) were arrested in their homes in the same way. As previously reported, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Zahedan arrested Farshid Dadvar, Amelia Hokiman and her 19-year old daughter Tabsim Hosseini (امیلیا حکیمان، تبسم حسینی و فرشید دادور) on November 6. Tabsim Hosseini was released on November 22.
Payam Wali free on bail
Bahai News (Persian), November 25, 2016.
Payam Wali (پیام ولی), a Bahai living in Karaj who was arrested on November 22, was released on bail on November 24. Ironically, the bail was his worthless business licence. His business was closed by the authorities some nine years ago, and he is still trying to get the closure reversed. He recently wrote an open letter to Iranian authorities, seeking an end to the closure of his business.
Five arrested in Shiraz, one in Karaj
Bahai News (Persian), November 22, 2016.
On the evening of November 22, five Bahais living in Shiraz were arrested in their homes by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence. Those arrested are Lala Salehi (لالا صالحی), Parisa Sepehri (پریسا سپهری), Thamar Ashna’i (ثمر آشنایی), Nasim Kashaninejad (نسیم کاشانی نژاد) and Rezvan Yazdani (رضوان یزدانی). At the same time, a number of other Bahai homes in Shiraz were raided by the security forces.
Lala Salehi and Parisa Sepehri were arrested in their shared home, which was searched. Books and a computer were seized, and they were taken to the Ministry of Intelligence’s Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz. There is no indication of the charges against them, but others who were present at the time of their arrests (being the relatives of other recent Bahai arrestees in Shiraz) were also questioned, and all their mobile phones and ID cards and other effects were confiscated. Parisa Sepehri is in the early months of pregnancy.
Thamar Ashna’i was arrested when he returned home at about 9 p.m., by security forces who had been waiting for him. They searched his home thoroughly and took him to Detention Facility 100.
In recent months over 20 Bahais have been arrested in Shiraz, on charges of teaching their Faith. Some have been released on bail after questioning, but a number are still detained, two months after their arrest.
Payam Wali (پیام ولی), a Bahai living in Karaj, was also arrested on November 22. He had recently written an open letter to Iranian authorities, seeking an end to the nine-year-old closure of his business. He had also written a letter to the Alborz Provincial Prosecutor about personal threats he has received, and an attempt by two persons to enter his appartment. He was present in court for a hearing when he was arrested, and taken to his home which was searched. He was taken to a detention centre. In 2009 he was detained on charges of undermining national security, and released on bail after two months of interrogation. On June 9, 1990, his brother, Afshin Wali (افشین ولی), was killed by religious fanatics in the village of Hussain Abad.
Three arrested, one released in Zahedan
Bahai News, November 21, 2016.
On November 6, agents from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence arrested Farshid Dadvar, Amelia Hokiman and her daughter Tabsim Hosseini (امیلیا حکیمان، تبسم حسینی و فرشید دادور), Bahais living in Zahedan. The agents went to the home of Farshid Dadvar, Amelia Hokiman and conducted a thorough search, confiscating books, a computer, mobile phones and other electronic devices, before arresting the three. On November 21, Tabsim Hosseini was released on bail from the Ministry of Intelligence jail. Mr. Dadvar, who is from Yazd, had previously been detained for two months after being arrested (with two other Bahais) in Zahedan on December 23, 2012. It would appear that on that ocassion no charges were laid against him.
Parviz and Neda Anvari free in Tehran
Bahai News (Persian), November 21, 2016.
Mr. Parviz Anvari (پرویز انواری) and his daughter Neda Anvari (ندا انواری), from Baba Salman, a village in Shahriar County, in Tehran Province, have been released after posting bail of 50 million tumans (14,700 euros; 15,600 $US). They were arrested, along with two other Bahais, on the evening of November 2 when agents from the Intelligence Protection Organization of the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (IRGC) raided a prayer meeting in their home. The other two Bahais, Farhad Maqarabi (فرهاد مقربی) and Rezwanullah Abdel-Hayy (رضوان الله عبداللهی) were released on the following morning. Mr. Anvari and his daughter were held for 21 days in a section of Evin prison run by the Intelligence Protection Organization.
Shamim Ruhani free in Ahvaz
Bahai News (Persian), November 20, 2016.
Shamim Ruhani (شمیم روحانی), a Bahai prisoner of conscience from Ahvaz (a city in Khuzestan Province, in the Iranian part of the delta of the Tigris and Euphrates), was released from prison on November 20, at the end of his sentence.
He was arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on November 5, 2013, along with a number of Bahais who were present in his home. The agents seized his religious books, documents, personal effects, mobile telephone and computer. All the detainees except for Mr. Ruhani were released three days later. Mr. Ruhani was held by the Ministry of Intelligence for several months before being released on bail. He was charged with propaganda against the regime and membership in Bahai organisations, and sentenced to one year in prison followed by banishment from the Province of Khuzestan for two years. He was held for a time before being released on bail, but on January 11, 2016 he was again stummoned to prison. During the period of his first arrest, his wife Mina Ruhani (مینا روحانی) was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence for questioning several times.
Court of Review slashes sentences for 22 Bahais in Golestan
Bahai News, November 2, 2016.
In January this year, a court in Gorgan which began hearing the cases of small groups of Bahais in April, 2015, issued sentences in 24 cases. These 24 Bahais have been free on bail, pending the ruling of the Review Court for Golestan Province, which reviewed the cases on September 18 and 29, and has now announced its decision on most of these cases.
Farah Tebyanian (فرح تبيانيان), Puna Sana’i ( پونه ثنایی), Mona Amri Hesari (مونا امري حصاري), Behnam Hassani (بهنام حسني), Parisa Shahidi ( پریسا شهیدی ), Mojdeh Zouhori (مژده ظهوري), Parivash Shoja`i ( پریوش شجاعی ), Tina Mauhabati ( تینا موهبتی ) and Hana Aqiqiyan (هنا عقیقیان), all from Gorgan; Shohreh Samimi (شهره صمیمی) from Minudasht; Bita Hedayati (بيتا هدايتي), Vesaq Sana’i ()وثاق سنايي and Hana Kushkabaghi ( هنا کوشکباغی ) from Gonbad-e Qabus had their prison sentences reduced from 9 years to one year and nine months.
Rufeya Pakzadan ( روفیا پاکزادان), Soudabeh Mehdinezhad ( سودابه مهدی نژاد ), Mitra Nouri ( میترا نوری ), Shiva Rouhani ( شیوا روحانی ), Houshmand Dehqan (هوشمند دهقان), Mariyam Dehqan (مريم دهقان) and Nazi Tahqiqi (نازي تحقیقی), all from Gorgan, along with Kamelia Bideli (کاملیا بیدلی) and Navid Moalem (نوید معلم) from Minudasht, had their sentences reduced from 6 years to 18 months.
The review court did not anounce its decision on the cases of Shahnam Jadhbani ( شهنام جذبانی ) from Minudasht and Shayda Qodousi (شيدا قدوسي) from Gorgan, who were sentenced to 11 years in prison.
The Bahais were charged with collaborating with hostile governments, effective activities to promote the goals of a sect and of anti-Islamic and anti-Shiah hostile governments, and with making propaganda in favour of the Bahai Faith and against the regime of the Islamic Republic, by participating in the ‘Ruhi program’ (Bahai catechism) in Golestan Province.
Three of the women mentioned above have husbands who are already in prison, and who have not been allowed any prison furlough. Their husbands were in a group of seven Bahai men from Gorgan who were sentenced in May 2013. Punah Sana’i is the sister, and Farah Sana’i is the wife, of Fahrmand Sana’i (فرهمند سنایی), who was sentenced to five years; Parisa Shahidi is the wife of Kamal Kashani (کمال کاشانی), also sentenced to five years; and Mojdeh Zouhori is the wife of Farhad Fahandezh (فرهاد فهندژ), who has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Among the 22 Bahais whose sentences have been reduced, Shohreh Samimi is the wife of Shahnam Jadhbani, while Kamelia Bideli is the wife of Navid Moalem (whose name was previously reported as Navid Moalemi (نوید معلمی)).
Five arrested at the Provincial Governor’s Office of Mazandaran
Iran Press Watch, November 12, 2016.
On the morning of November 8, at least five Bahais were arrested at the Mazandaran Provincial Governor’s Office, and a large number of Bahais were harshly treated in front of that office. According to a report by BahaiNews, at least five Bahais who had attended a day of “public interaction with officials” regarding the sealing of Bahai business premises in Mazandaran Province were arrested by security agents. An informed source told the BahaiNews reporter: “After a number of Bahais were permitted to enter the Provincial Governor’s Office, intelligence agents immediately arrested those who were inside the building. Moreover, those who were outside the door were videotaped and attacked by security agents.”
This informed source added: “The agents were shouting that these people receive instructions from Israel, and that they had come there to assemble, start a riot and set fire to the banks. They kept on shouting this. With respect to those who had been arrested, they said, ‘We have also arrested your leaders’ ‒ meaning those who had been arrested inside the building.”
According to this informed source, the people who had come to this public meeting with the officials were Bahais from the city of Qaemshahr. Based on the latest news received by BahaiNews, the names of some of those arrested are: Nima Nokhaah (نیما نوخواه), Aarshaam Golpour (آرشام گلپور), Sohayl Haqqdoust (سهیل حق دوست), Shahrouz Zamaani (شهروز زمانی) and Behnam Mirzai, who is named by the BBC as `Ala-addin Mirza’i (علاءالدین میرزایی).
Amrollah Hekmat-Sho’ar arrested in Karaj
Bahai News (Persian), November 7 and 10, 2016.
Amrollah Hekmat-Sho’ar (امرالله حکمت شعار), the father of 11-year-old ‘Aref Hekmat-Sho’ar (عارف حکمت شعار) who was expelled from school in Karaj last year because his parents are Bahais, was arrested in Karaj on November 7. In the preceding days he had been contacted by telephone with instructions to report to Raja’i Shahr prison, to which he replied that an arrest warrant should be sent according to formal procedures, and not via a telephone call. When agents from the Ministry of Intelligence arrested him near his home, they took him in handcuffs to his work place and his home, and searched both very thoroughly. They had a search warrant, and showed an arrest warrant that said he would be charged with undermining national security and propaganda against the regime. He was later released on bail, apparently on November 10. Bail was set at 50 million tumans (14,400 euros; $US 16,400). During his interrogation, he was asked about the exclusion of his son, then aged 10, from three schools in Karaj. Following ‘Aref’s third expulsion, from “the cradle of knowledge” (گهواره دانش ) school in the Mehrvila district of Karaj, a number of human rights activists intervened, and some of them, including Mohammad Nourizad (محمد نوری زاد), Doctor Maleki (دکترملکی) and Mr. Karim Bigi (کریم بیگی) travelled to Karaj to protest.
Shahin Negari, BIHE teacher, released from prison
Bahai News (Persian), November 14, 2016.
Shahin Negari ( شاهین نگاری), a faculty member of the Bahai Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), was released from Raja’i Shahr Prison on November 14, at the end of a four-year prison sentence. He was arrested at his home in Tehran in May 2011, but he was free on bail from June 28, 2011, to January 13, 2013, when he began his sentence.
The BIHE is a distance-learning institute which serves students who are excluded from tertiary study in Iran, because they are Bahais. Many staff and some students associated with the BIHE were arrested in late May, 2011, when their homes and BIHE premises were raided by security forces.
Bahai student Danial Kheradmand expelled from university
Iran Press Watch, November 12, 2016.
Danial Kheradmand (دانیال خردمند), a Bahai from Tehran, secured admission to the University of Sari on 10 September 2016 to study accounting. Classes began on the first of October. In the first week of November his name was removed from the student list because of his Bahai beliefs. After following up the case with the university administration, he was told that the university was asked to stop cooperating with him.
During the current year at least 129 Bahai students, after successfully passing the University Entrance Exam (Concours) in 2016, were prevented from continuing their education because they believe in the Bahai Faith. Some were allowed to commence their studies, but after being identified as Bahais they were expelled from their universities.
The exclusion of Bahais from higher education is based on a document, dated the 2nd of February 1991, approved by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. This document states that Bahais are not permitted to work in any government establishment, or to continue their education in higher institutions of learning.
Four arrests in Shahryar County, two released
Bahai News (Persian), November 3 (?), 2016.
Four Bahais were arrested on the evening of November 2 when agents from the Ministry of Intelligence raided a prayer meeting in a Bahai home in Baba Salman, a village in Shahriar County, in Tehran Province. The home belonged to Mr. Parviz Anvari (پرویز انواری), who was arrested along with his daughter Neda Anvari (ندا انواری), Farhad Maqarabi (فرهاد مقربی) and Rezwanullah Abdel-Hayy (رضوان الله عبداللهی). The latter two were released on the following morning.
Sahba Farabakhsh and Shadi Sadeq-Eqdam free on bail in Shiraz
Bahai News (Persian), November 6, 2016.
Another two recent Bahai detainees, Sahba Farabakhsh (صهبا فرحبخش) and Shadi Sadeq-Eqdam (شادی صادق اقدم) have been released from Adel Abad prison in Shiraz. Their bail amounts were set at 200 and 250 million tumans, respectively. 200 million tumans is roughly equivalent to 56,000 euros, or $US 63,000. They have been detained for 37 days in the Ministry of Intelligence’s detention facility 100, and were transferred to Adel Abad prison just before their release.
Three more prisoners in Shiraz free on bail, six still detained
Bahai News (Persian), November 5, 2016.
Shamim Ekhlaqi (شمیم اخلاقی), Varqa Kaviani (ورقا کاویانی), and Farbad Shadman (فربد شادمان), whose name was previously reported as Farid Shadman (فرید شادمان), have been released on bail of 200 million tumans (56,000 euros, $US 63,000). They were among the 14 Bahais arrested in coordinated raids by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on Bahai homes in Shiraz around 9pm on the evening of September 29. Another three Bahais were arrested after these raids. The three detainees who have been released have been held for 39 days, the first 37 days being their time of interrogation by the Ministry of Intelligence in detention facility 100 in Shiraz. They were then transferred to Adel Abad prison, from where they were released. This brings to ten the number of Shirazi Bahais released on bail, all for the same amount. At present four Bahais remain under interrogation in Detention Facility 100: Sahba Maslahi (صهبا مصلحی), Mahyar Safidi (مهیار سفیدی), Ahdiyyeh Enayati (عهدیه عنایتی) and Bahareh Nowruzi (بهاره نوروزی). The remaining two prisoners in this group, Sahba Farabakhsh (صهبا فرحبخش) and Shadi Sadeq-Eqdam (شادی صادق اقدم) have been transferred to Adel Abad prison.
Another Baha’i cemetery damaged
Iran Press Watch, November 3, 2016.
The Municipal office of Ardestan has demolished the gate of the Bahai cemetery. The report (on Gold News) does not indicate when this occurred. Because of restrictions on finding work and furthering their education, nearly all young and middle aged Bahais have moved to other cities; in particular to Isfahan. Some elderly women and men, along with a few middle-aged people, remain in the Bahai quarter, known as Bab ul Rahy, where they are deprived of basic municipal services such as garbage disposal.
In August 2014, the authorities in Semnan introduced new rules for Bahai burials, one of which was that no wall could be built around the Bahai cemetery. It is not clear whether the removal of the gates in Ardestan is another indication of a new policy to prevent the Bahais protecting the graves of their loved ones, or a random act of vandalism.
The full report on Iran Press Watch is available here.
Over 90 Bahai businesses sealed by authorities
Iran Press Watch, November 4, 2016.
According to Bahai News (Persian) and Gold News, security agents and agents from the Office of Public Places raided and shut down 8 Bahai-owned businesses in Karaj, 35 Bahai-owned businesses in Sari, 7 Bahai-owned businesses in Nowshahr, 6 Bahai-owned businesses in Tonekabon, 1 Bahai-owned business in Fereydunkenar, 1 Bahai-owned business in Amol, 2 Bahai-owned businesses in Bahnemir, 3 Bahai-owned businesses in Chalus, 5 Bahai-owned business in Bandar Abbas and 29 Bahai-owned businesses in Qaemshahr.
[The majority of the closures appear to relate to the observance of the Bahai holy days but the report includes the closure of eight Bahai-run optometry business in Karaj, which took place before the Holy Days.]
The names of the business owners along with the corresponding business are as follows:
Mansour and Manouchehr Enayati — Zeis store
Farshid Azarshab — Eyeglasses store
Koursoh Sharifzadeh — Sam Optics
Shahriar Rabbani — Lathe workshop, Eyeglasses
Kourosh Laghayee — Glasses repair shop
Pejman Misaahi — Sina Glasses Repair Shop
Forouhari — Optometry
Mahtab — Optometry
Bahman Rohani — Photography shop
Monib Mansour — Optometry
Raki Yousefi — Optometry
Arastou Aasadi — Welding business
Riazollah Heravi — Horology business
Arash Derakhshanian — Mechanic’s shop
Behshad Derakhshanian — Burglar alarm business
Behzad Rasti — Gameron Glasses
Behram Heidarpour and Mr. Ataollah Rezvani’s family — Zeiss Eyeglasses Store
Mr. Sharafi — Arash Glasses Store
Behzad Heidarpour — Tamasha Eyeglasses Store
Mr. Shadpour — Shayan Optic (managed by Mr. Soleimani)
Zahra Golabian — Optometry
Sohrab Laghayee — Optometry
Nima Miri — Cosmetics
Fairborn Sabeti — Appliance repair
Farzad Sabeti — Car alignment and oil change
Changiz Derakhshanian and Nima Nokhah — Toy shop
Rezvaneh Samii — Garment store
Kourosh Ahmadzadegan — Security systems
Alaoddin Mirzayee — Security systems
Shayan Ghedami — Paint store
Hooman Rostami — Burglar alarm business
Shahram and Shahrouz Zamani — Auto parts
Soheil Haghdoost — Optometry
Bahaoddin Samimi — Stationery store
Jhobin Yousefi — Burglar alarm business
Behnam and Behdad Shirvani — Appliance repair
Noorollah Ataeeyan — Motor winding business
Bahram Safari — Electronics
Naim Samimi – Auto body shop
Fazel Asadi – Mobile repair
Zekrollah Akbari – Welding business
Shahin Akbari – Ironware
Fariborz Sanaee – Plastic ware
Zekrollah Babayee – Grocery
Atrollah Movafagh – Refrigerator repair
Shahrokh Asadi – Refrigerator repair
Daryoush Bakhtiari – Automobile studio
Saeed Asadi – Auto repair
Jalal Atayeean – Cosmetics
Mahyar Ghanbari — Security systems installation
Nima Mahinbakht — Security systems installation
Behzad Zabihi — Eyeglasses store
Kamaloddin Akbar — Woodturning
Ghavanoddin Sabetian — Carpentry
Ramin Moosavi — Building decoration
Naim Kamali — Appliance repair
Kourosh Ahmadi — Engine tuning
Zatollah Darabi — Carpentry
Sanaee — Cosmetics
Zia Khoshbin — Paint store (commercial)
Kourosh Moradi — Carpentry
Hossein Ahmadi — Carpentry
Jamal Movafaghi — Carpentry
Asghar Movafaghi — Carpentry
Ashkan Khalili — Motor winding
Shahrouz Zamani — Auto parts
Yaghoub Akbari — Appliance repair
Kamaloddin Akbari – Woodturning
Mahyar Ghanbari – Security systems installation
Ehsan Sanee – Cosmetics
Sohrab Zahedi – Stationery store
Nima Shabrokh – Cosmetics
Bahman Zabihi – Fabrics and crafts store
Shahriar Foroughian — Electric windings
Behrouz Yousefi – Home appliances repair
Vahid Golpour – Clothing
Jahanbakhsh Movafaghi – Woodturning
Saed Andokhs – Clothing
Akbar Hosseini – Wood shop
Hesam Yousefi – Carpentry
Arman Safaee – Stationery store
Zargham Zamani – Clothing
Shahram Nobakht – Appliances store
Pezhman Roshankoohi – Appliances store
Misagh Esmaeil zadegan — Telephone repair
Noushin Masoudian — Clothing
Sirous Nasiri — Cabinet making
Saleh Eshkevarian — Home appliances
Sina Garshasbi — Home appliances
Naeim Khalaj Abadi — Furniture manufacturing
Afshin Azadi — Clothing
Ahmad Nikounejad — Gas appliances (sale and repair)
Feizollah Nikounejad — Bike repair
Daryoush Talaee — Shoes store
Farshid Kian — Eyeglasses store
Afshin Sobati — Eyeglasses store
According to Bahai News, the reason for sealing these businesses has been the closure of these shops during the nine Bahai religious holidays. This is despite the fact that according to the Executive Regulations of Article Twenty-eight of the Trade Law, commercial units can keep their businesses closed for up to 15 days without providing prior notice to officials.
Another eight Bahai-run businesses closed in Karaj
Bahai News (Persian), November 1, 2016.
In recent days, agents from the Bureau of Public Places in Karaj have closed down eight businesses run by Bahais. They are all optometry businesses: one a lens grinding workshop, a spectacle repair shop, and six optometry retail shops. Four of the Bahai managers are named as Farshid Adhershab (فرشید آذرشب), Korush Sharifzadeh (کورش شریف زاده), Shahryar Rabbani (شهریار ربانی) and Pazeshman Mithaqi (پژشمان میثاقی). The report states that ten other businesses have been closed recently, simply because they were run by Bahais, but it does not say whether these ten are in Karaj.
The recent closures of optometry shops in Karaj almost certainly relate to the widespread Iranian belief that Bahais are ‘unclean,’ and should not provide personal services to Shiah Muslims, who are ‘clean.’ This belief, and the government’s desire to prevent the Bahai minority prospering, have led to an extensive and largely secret set of rules specifying the jobs and sectors from which Bahais are banned. An order clarifying these rules, dating from 2010, says that Bahais must be barred from cultural, educational or financial institutions, and are not to be allowed to work in the sectors of periodicals, jewelry, watchmaking, print-making, tourist agencies, car rentals, publishing and bookshops, photography, film-making, internet gaming, computers, or internet cafes. They may not own printing works or hotels and other accommodation for travellers, or teach tailoring skills, or work in restaurants, cafeterias and catering, food ingredients and foodstuff sales, takeaways (Iranian-style), cafe, butchers shops, supermarkets, the production and sale of ice-cream, fruit juice, soft drinks, pastry and sweets, and coffee. Since this order was issued, the optometry sector has apparently been added to the list.
Shahriar Cyrus sentenced: 5 years
Bahai News (Persian), October 30, 2016
August 1, 2015.
Shahriar Cyrus (شهریار سیروس), a Bahai painter and a respected art critic and teacher, was sentenced to 5 years in prison by Judge Moqayesseh (قاضی مقیسه, also spelled محمد مقیسهای) in Tehran. Judge Moqayesseh was also responsible for the sentencing of the seven ‘Yaran’ (national facilitators for the Bahais in Iran). The sentence was delivered on September 5, but has only just been reported. Mr. Cyrus was charged with founding an illegal organisation, a charge that relates to his painting classes.
Mr. Cyrus was arrested by eleven agents from the Ministry of Intelligence, who raided his painting class at about 4pm on June 30th, 2015. He was held in solitary confinement for 48 days. He was held in block 209 of Evin Prison, a section which is operated by the Pasdaran militia. He was released on bail two months after his arrest.
Two Bahai-run businesses closed in Karaj
Bahai News (Persian), October 27, 2016.
On October 26, agents from the Bureau of Public Places closed two businesses in Karaj because they were run by Bahais. They are an optometry workshop run by Mr. Rahmani (رحمانی) and a spectacles shop run by Mr. Behshad (بهشاد). Six other Bahai-run shops in Karaj have been closed in recent weeks. One of these was a luxury goods shop run by Amin Rahmani (امین رحمانی). This is apparently not the same as the optometry workshop run by a Mr. Rahmani in the latest report.
BIC report examines persecution of Iranian Bahais
Bahai International Community, October 25, 2016.
Iran’s persecution of Iranian Bahais continues unabated, despite government promises to end religious discrimination and improve human rights, according to a new report from the Bahai International Community.
Officially released today, “The Bahai Question Revisited: Persecution and Resilience in Iran” (PDF format) says Iran has actually stepped up certain elements of its campaign against Bahais, such as the dissemination of anti-Bahai propaganda and a crackdown on Bahai businesses.
The report offers a number of new statistics on the governments oppression of Bahais. Since 2005, it says, when the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began to re-intensify the persecution, there have been more than 860 arrests and some 275 Bahais have been sent to prison.
During that time, at least 240 Bahais have been expelled from university and thousands more have been blocked from enrolling through various ruses. There have been more than 950 specific, documented incidents of economic discrimination, such as shop closings or dismissals.
The report also says the situation has not changed under the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, who came to power in August 2013 with promises to end religious discrimination.
Since President Rouhani’s inauguration, the report says, Bahais have faced no less than 388 documented incidents of economic persecution and at least 151 Bahais have been arrested. The government’s campaign to incite hatred against Bahais has also intensified under his presidency, with more than 20,000 pieces of hateful anti-Bahai propaganda disseminated in the Iranian media.
“Taken altogether, what we have seen is an overall shift in tactics by the Iranian government, apparently as part of an attempt to conceal from the international community its ongoing efforts to destroy the Bahai community as a viable entity,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Bahai International Community to the United Nations.
“While arrests and imprisonments certainly continue, the government has relied increasingly on less blatant forms of persecution, such as economic, educational, and cultural discrimination.
“All this comes despite steadfast condemnation from the international community, activists, and, increasingly, ordinary citizens inside Iran,” said Ms. Dugal.
The 128-page report contains numerous human stories about the impact of the persecution on the lives of Bahais in Iran, showing how they have responded with surprising reserves of resilience and, even, small initiatives aimed at the betterment of Iranian society as a whole.
The report also examines the history of the persecution, offering an explanation for why it continues in the face of international pressure. An extensive appendix reproduces numerous secret government documents that show unequivocally that such persecution is official policy.
Mariya Kothari free on bail in Qorveh
Bahai News (Persian), October 18, 2016.
Dr. Mariya Kothari (ماریا کوثری), a Bahai from Qorveh, who was arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on October 4, was freed on bail on October 18. Her bail was set at 60 million tumans (17,000 euros, $US 19,000). After her arrest in Qorveh she was taken to the Ministry of Intelligence detention facilities first in Qorveh and then in Sanandaj. On October 9, while she was in jail, her home was searched by security forces for the third time.
Mrs. Kothari’s husband and son do not have Iranian nationality and have been required to leave Iran. Her husband lives in Equador and her son in Australia. As a result it has fallen to her mother to follow up on her arrest, but her mother has been denied visiting rights. Mrs. Kothari is accused of teaching the Bahai Faith. She is a qualified medical doctor. She studied medicine in Equador because, as a Bahai, she was barred from higher education in Iran under that country’s apartheid system.
Killing of a Bahai in Yazd was religiously motivated
Bahai News (Persian), October 22, 2016
As previously reported, Farhang Amiri (فرهنگ امیری), a Bahai living in Yazd, was murdered by two brothers who came to the door of his house on the evening of September 26. He suffered multiple stab wounds, including to the heart. According to one report he was first hit on the head with a brick. The men were arrested, and have confessed to the murder, saying they killed Mr. Amiri for religious reasons. The information comes from the Prosecutor’s office in Yazd, via the family of Mr. Amiri. The apparent murderers told the Prosecutor that Bahais, in their eyes, are infidels and a verse in the Quran (which they could not cite) required them to kill infidels. They picked Mr. Amiri at random from among the Bahais, and watched his home and family. The father of the killers is reported to have said that his sons had become radical, and he and the boys’ mother had been feeling that they were about to do something, and had reported their fears to the Ministry of Intelligence. A source interviewed by Bahai News said that the two had acted on their own initiative, although some initials reports had said that a third person, and members of the Basiji (militia), were involved. The source said that Mr. Amiri died when he was stabbed by the older brother, and the younger brother had injured Mr. Amiri in the face with a small knife.
The Universal House of Justice, the elected body that heads the Bahai community world-wide, has issued a letter (in Persian) dated October 19, which states that religious fanaticism was the primary motive for the killing of Mr. Amiri. The letter acknowledges the help of neighbourhood residents leading to the capture of the killers, the work of the police, and the willingness of a lawyer to assist [the family of the deceased], as signs that this fanaticism is not shared by all sectors of society. It is promising that the investigating magistrate has promised to approach the case on the basis of the equality of all citizens.
Mahvash Sabet returns to prison
Bahai News,16 October 2016.
Mahvash Sabet (مهوش ثابت), one of the seven ‘Yaran’ or national facilitators for the Bahai community in Iran, returned to prison on October 16. She had been free on prison leave for 10 days (extended from the original 5 days).
She is now in the ninth year of her prison sentence, and this is the first prison furlough she has been granted.
Mrs. Sabet was arrested on March 5, 2008, in Mashhad, where she had gone to make arrangements for the burial of a Bahai. She was held in solitary confinement for 175 days. Concerns for her health in prison were expressed as early as 2010, and on September 26, 2012, she suffered a hip fracture due to osteoporosis but was denied surgery. Before her arrest, she served for 15 years as Director of the Bahai Institute for Higher Education, which provides alternative higher education for Bahai youth who are excluded from all other forms of higher education in Iran.
Five Bahais bailed in Shiraz
Bahai News (Persian), October 10, 2016.
Five of the Bahais who have been arrested in Shiraz in recent weeks have been freed on bail, which was set at 200 million tumans (approx. $US 63,600). Mrs. Ruhiyyeh Nahriman (روحیه نریمان) and her husband Farzad Delaram (فرزاد دلارام), Soroush Eqani (سروش ایقانی), Farzad Shademan (فرزاد شادمان) and Mazhgan Gholampour (مژگان غلامپور), whose name was previous reported as Mazhgah (مژگاه), were first transfered from Detention Facility 100, run by the Ministry of Intelligence, to `Adel Abad prison in Shiraz, and then released on bail. Ruhiyyeh Nahriman and Farzad Delaram were arrested on October 3, the other three were among 14 Bahais who were arrested in their homes in Shiraz on the evening of September 29. Behnam Azirpour (بهنام عزیرپور), Sa`id Hosna (سعید حسنی) and Esma`il Rusta (اسماعیل روستا) have already been released on bail.
Interfaith group asks US government to reject report of U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
Editorial, October 12, 2016.
Kit Bigelow, who was Director of external affairs for the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the U.S. until her retirement in June 2010, has appeared as cosigner of a controversial letter from an ad-hoc group of religious leaders. Kit Bigelow is not a leader of the Bahai community. The letter was sent to President Barack Obama, Orrin Hatch as Senate leader (pro-tem) and House Speaker Paul Ryan. The letter states:
We wish to express our deep concern that the Commission has issued a report, Peaceful Coexistence: Reconciling Non-Discrimination Principles with Civil Liberties, that stigmatizes tens of millions of religious Americans, their communities, and their faith-based institutions, and threatens the religious freedom of all our citizens.
The Commission asserts in its Findings that religious organizations “use the pretext of religious doctrines to discriminate.”
What we find even more disturbing is that, in a statement included in the report, Commission Chairman Martin Castro writes:
“The phrases ‘religious liberty’ and ‘religious freedom’ will stand for nothing except hypocrisy so long as they remain code words for discrimination, intolerance, racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Christian supremacy or any form of intolerance.”
Kit Bigelow’s name appears as a signatory in her individual capacity as “Religious Freedom Advocate.” The term has been tainted in the USA in the last two election seasons because of its use as a cover for religiously-motivated discrimination, but Kit Bigelow’s activism for real religious liberties goes back much further, and not primarily in relation to the USA.
Current policies in the Bahai community do not allow for the recognition of the legally performed civil unions or marriages of same-sex couples. The policy of the Universal House of Justice is that individuals who are in same-sex marriages should not be allowed to enrol in the Bahai community. This means that they cannot vote, or be elected, for the Spiritual Assemblies that govern the affairs of local Bahai communities, and cannot participate in the open consultations on community affairs by enrolled members which are part of the ‘Feasts’ held in each local community 19 times every year. Those who are excluded from enrollment are not shunned and are not barred from other occasions of worship. The Bahai community today does not campaign against the legal recognition of same-sex marriages.
While the exclusion of individuals in same-sex marriages from membership of the Bahai community is discriminatory, this has not been justified by Bahais under the highly politicized banner of preserving religious freedom. There is nothing in the Bahai teachings that would justify Bahais in discriminating against homosexuals in their business activities, or in any role they might have as public officials. It would be unfortunate if the description of Kit Bigelow as “Religious Freedom Advocate” gave the impression that she, or the Bahai community, were aligned with the political movement that has claimed a religious liberties justification for discrimation in public life.
A PDF of the controversial letter is available here.
The report it criticizes is available as a PDF here.
An example of the dialogues within the Bahai community on this question can be found here.
129 Bahai students barred from higher education
Iran Press Watch, October 9, 2016.
In a continuation of the pattern of previous years, at least 129 Bahai students (as of September 18) have been denied the right to register at a university in Iran using the excuse of “incomplete file”. These are students who have gained adequate grades in the national University Entrance examination; it does not include those barred from sitting the examination, for example by not sending them exam registration cards, or who were given no grades when they did sit. It includes Bahai students who have been exluded in previous years, and sit the examination again. (Because of this, the figure cannot be used to guess the size of the Bahai community in Iran ~Sen) The Iran Press Watch article includes a review of the ways Bahais have been excluded from Higher Education since 1979.
Manuchher Khalousi begins 1-year prison sentence
HRANA, October 7, 2016.
On October 6, a month before Manuchher Khalousi (منوچهر خلوصی) was due to begin serving a 1-year sentence, security agents arrived at his home and took him under arrest to Vakil Abad prison, to serve his sentence.
He was arrested on November 29, 2013, when security forces raided his home, for the sixth time since the 1979 Revolution. At his trial, on July 8, 2014, he was charged with “acting against national security by giving interviews with foreign media.” However no interviews with Mr. Kholousi are known, in either Iranian or foreign media. The court therefore adjourned the sitting for lack of evidence, and a judge was appointed to gather evidence for new charges. A court then sentenced him to six years in prison on charges against of propaganda against the regime and undermining national security. The review court reduced this sentence to one year.
His daughters, Nika and Nava Kholousi (نیکا و نوا خلوصی ), are serving sentences of six years and four and a half years, 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 have both served more than two years of these sentences, also in Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad.
In 1999, Mr. Kholousi was sentenced to death for being a Bahai. This sentence was later reduced to one year in prison, by which time he had already served 19 months in prison. With respect to his current sentence, HRANA has published a document showing that he was sentenced solely for being a Bahai.
Peyman Koushk-Baghi moved from Evin prison to Raja’i Shahr
Bahai News (Persian), October 6, 2016.
On October 6, Peyman Koushk-Baghi (پیمان کوشکباغی) was moved unexpectedly from Evin prison in Tehran to Raja’i Shahr prison, about an hour’s drive West of Tehran. Raja’i Shahr houses many of the male prisoners of conscience, including Baha’i prisoners. He has been sentenced to five years in prison for cooperation with BIHE, the Bahai open university which educates Bahais who are excluded from tertiary education in Iran under the apartheid laws. His wife Azita Rafizadeh (آزیتا رفیعزاده) is serving a four-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison for her own work in educating Bahai youth. The couple have a six-year-old son who, while both his parents were in the same prison, was able to visit his mother on Sundays and his father on Wednesdays.
Yekta Fahandezh-Sa`adi and Nabil Tahdhib free on bail
Bahai News (Persian), October 4, 2016.
Yekta Fahandezh-Sa`adi (یکتافهندژسعدی) and Nabil Tahdhib (نبیل تهذیب), two Bahais with an interest in environmental protection who were arrested in Shiraz on July 16 and 17, have been released on bail. Miss Fahandezh-Sa`adi
was one of fifteen Bahais arrested in Shiraz in 2010. On February 3, 2012, she was again arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and spent 82 days in Detention Facility 100. She was released on bail and later charged with propaganda against the regime and undermining national security. She was given a five-year suspended sentence, but was later acquitted by the Court of Review. She was arrested again by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on March 16, 2014. The agents searched her home and seized books, a laptop and personal effects. She was transferred to Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz, and was detained for two months. On June 16, 2016 she was again tried and sentenced by Judge Doctor Sadati (دکتر ساداتی) to five years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “collusion.” A month later, while waiting to begin serving this 5-year sentence, she was arrested again, and has been over 80 days in the detention at the Ministry of Intelligence’s detention facilities in Shiraz, before her release on bail on October 4.
New arrest in Qorveh
Bahai News (Persian), October 4, 2016.
Dr. Mariya Kothari (ماریا کوثری), a Bahai living in Qorveh, was arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on October 4. Eleven agents, including one female agent broke the door of her house and took her away in handcuffs. Her present whereabouts are unknown. Mrs. Kothari is a qualified medical doctor, but has no licence to work because she is a Bahai, and she herself has health problems. After her arrest, the agents hung a sign in front of her house saying that the property was closed because of sanitary violations. This apparently refers to the finding of some drugs, which Dr. Kothari said were for herself and her family.
Qorveh lies in Kurdistan Province, over an hour’s drive East of the major city of Sanandaj. The Bahai community there has been subject to intense scrutiny. In March 2012, fifteen members of the community were interrogated by the Ministry of Intelligence. They were asked about Bahai meetings, the participants and how the meetings are run, and the names of relatives living outside Iran, their income and living situation, and willingness to travel outside Iran, work status, and participation in Ruhi training institutes. In January 2013, 13 Bahai homes, including the home of the Kothari family, were searched in simultaneous raids by almost a hundred security agents. When the local authorities in Sanandaj decided to refuse to bury Bahais in their city, they began transporting the bodies to Qorveh, which had a Bahai cemetery containing the graves of nearly 30 Bahai martyrs who were executed by the Islamic Republic. But this cemetery was destroyed by the local authorities in Qorveh in the small hours of July 14, 2016. The agents also uprooted 300 20-year-old trees.
Mahvash Sabet begins 5-day prison furlough
HRANA (Persian), October 5, 2016.
Mahvash Sabet (مهوش ثابت), one of the seven ‘Yaran’ or national facilitators for the Bahai community in Iran, who are serving long prison sentences, has been released on a 5-day prison furlough. She is now in the ninth year of her prison sentence. Mrs. Sabet – a schoolteacher and mother of two – was arrested on March 5, 2008, after she was summoned to the Iranian city of Mashhad to discuss some matters regarding a Bahai burial. Two months later, on May 14, the other six Yaran were arrested in raids of their homes. Initially sentenced to 10 years in prison, this was later increased to 20 years, and then reduced again to 10 years.
One new arrest in Shiraz
Bahai News (Persian), October 3, 2016.
Mrs. Bahare Nowruzi (بهاره نوروزی) was arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence who came to her home in Shiraz aroudn 2pm on October 3. She was taken to the Ministry’s detention facility 100 in Shiraz. As previously reported, Mrs. Ruhiyyeh Nahriman (روحیه نریمان) and her husband Farzad Delaram (فرزاد دلارام) were arrested in a raid on their home in Shiraz on the night of October 2, and fourteen Bahais arrested in Shiraz on September 29 are still in detention. Yekta Fahandezh-Sa`adi (یکتافهندژسعدی) and Nabil Tahdhib (نبیل تهذیب), two environmental activists who were arrested in Shiraz on July 16 and 17, continue to be held in the Intelligence detention center in Shiraz; they have been charged with acting against national security and propaganda against the regime. Na`imatullah Bangaleh (نعمت الله بنگاله), who was arrested with his daughter on August 27 is still being detained. I have had no word of the release of Sara Ekhlaqi (سارا اخلاقی), the owner of a bridal accessories shop who was arrested on June 14.
This list does not include those already sentenced and serving their sentences in prison, or the large number of Bahais in Shiraz who have suspended sentences or who are free on bail awaiting trial or awaiting the summons to begin their prison sentences. There is also no word of investigations regarding the fatal poisoning of Leila Kargar (لیلا کارگر) on December 29, 2014, apparently for religious reasons. She told her family that she had been discussing religious matters in a park with a well-spoken lady, who had given her a drink of fruit juice. The fatal stabbing of Koroush Rouhi (کوروش روحی) on November 12, 2015, also remains unexplained but there are no indications that this was a sectarian attack.
Bahai cemetery of Urumiyyeh vandalized again
Bahai News (Persian), October 3, 2016.
On September 30, the Bahai cemetery of Urumiyyeh (Urmia) was again vandalized. On July 25, 2015, a large number of 20-year-old trees in this cemetery were cut down using a chainsaw. On the most recent occasion gravestones were damaged and an attempt was made to burn the remaining trees. When the Bahais complained to the police and court, they were told there was nothing to be done, since the Bahais did not know who had vandalized the cemetery. The destruction of the graves of religious minorities, especially those of Bahais and Jews, has occured throughout Iran since Qajar times. On July 17, 2016, law enforcement agents in Kurdistan province demolished a Bahai cemetery there, uprooted over three hundred 20-year-old trees, and confiscated personal property from the mortuary. Some cities, notably Tabriz, refuse to allow the burial of Bahais. In Sanandaz, three successive Bahai cemeteries have been destroyed by government agents. For a discussion of the long history of symbolic violence directed at graves and bodies of Bahais and other in Iran, see Mehrdad Amanat, Set in Stone: Homeless Corpses and Desecrated Graves in Modern Iran.
Two more arrests in Shiraz
Gold News, October 3, 2016.
Mrs. Ruhiyyeh Nahriman (روحیه نریمان) and her husband Farzad Delaram (فرزاد دلارام), a Bahai couple with two children, were arrested in a raid on their home in Shiraz on the night of October 2. Their present whereabouts and the reasons for their arrests, and the arrests of a number of other Bahais in Shiraz in recent weeks, are not known. Fourteen Bahais arrested in Shiraz on September 29 are still in detention.
Two environmental activists still held in Shiraz, torture reported
Iran Press Watch, October 1, 2016.
As of September 23 (and there is no change as of October 2, ~ Sen), Yekta Fahandezh-Sa`adi (یکتافهندژسعدی) and Nabil Tahdhib (نبیل تهذیب), two environmental activists who were arrested in Shiraz on July 16 and 17, continue to be held in the Intelligence detention center in Shiraz; they have been charged with acting against national security and propaganda against the regime.
Three others arrested at that time have been bailed. They are Behnam Azirpour (بهنام عزیرپور), Sa`id Hosna (سعید حسنی) and Esma`il Rusta (اسماعیل روستا), whose arrest was not previously reported here. Bail was set at 200 million tumans (approx. $63,600). These three environmental activists spent the last ten days of their detention in the quarantine section of Shiraz’s Adel-Abad Prison, among prisoners accused of ordinary offences and in very harsh sanitary conditions. A source close to these activists has told Justice for Iran that they were beaten during interrogations. The interrogators hit the faces and sides of the bodies of the detainees with their fists, and also pulled out the fingernail of one of them. During interrogations they were blindfolded while facing the wall, and were dishonored, threatened and pressured to make commitments.
Another three of those arrested have already been bailed, for the same amount, They are Na’im Qa’idsharfi (نعیم قائدشرفی), released on July 18, Mrs. Noushin Zanhari (نوشین زنهاری), released on August 13, and Ramin Shirvani (رامین شیروانی), released on August 21.
It appears that the reason for the arrest of some of these environmental activists, who picked up trash around Shiraz on weekends, was the fact that they were Bahais.
The Intelligence Office of Shiraz had warned the families of the detainees not to spread news regarding the condition of their children, and had asked them not to provide any information related to this.
Yekta Fahandezh-Sa`adi had also been arrested and interrogated in January 2012 and February 2014. She was free on payment of 200 million tumans bail. A week before the third arrest, she had been sentenced to 5 years incarceration, charged with acting against national security and propaganda against the regime.
Six Bahai-run businesses closed in Karaj
Bahai News (Persian), September 29, 2016.
On September 29, officials from the Bureau of Public Places closed down four businesses because they were operated by Bahais. They are a car parts shop run by Javid Iqaneyan ( جاوید ایقانیان ), which was closed previously on September 17, and allowed to reopen a week later, a luxury goods shop run by Amin Rahmani (امین رحمانی), a lighting shop run by Sa`id Vajdani (سعید وجدانی) and a shop called “Elixir” run by Ata’ullah Shahidi (عطالله شهیدی). In the previous week they closed to more Bahai business in Karaj, which I neglected to report at the time: those of Fardad Ja`fari (فرداد جعفری) and Houman Shahidi (هومن شهیدی). Houman Shahidi is the brother of Ata’ullah Shahidi.
Fourteen new arrests in Shiraz – corrected
Bahai News (Persian), September 29, 2016.
Fourteen Bahais have been arrested in coordinated raids by security forces on Bahai homes in Shiraz around 9pm on the evening of September 29 [I believe this should read September 28 ~ sen]. The agents did not have arrest warrants or search warrants. Those arrested are Shamim Ekhlaqi (شمیم اخلاقی), Sahba Farabakhsh (صهبا فرحبخش), Sahba Maslahi (صهبا مصلحی), Ahdiyyeh Enayati (عهدیه عنایتی), Mahyar Safidi (مهیار سفیدی), Shadi Sadeq-Eqdam (شادی صادق اقدم) and Varqa Kaviani (ورقا کاویانی), Maryam Eslami (مریم اسلامی), Soroush Eqani (سروش ایقانی), Marjan and Mazhgah Gholampour (مرجان و مژگاه غلامپور), Farid and Farzad Shademan (فرید و فرزاد شادمان) and Parisa Rouhi-zadegan (پریسا روحی زادگان).
An earlier headline on Bahai News, which said that some of these arrests were in Karaj, has been corrected.
Yashar Rezvani free on bail
Bahai News (Persian), September 28, 2016.
Yashar Rezvani (یاشار رضوانی), a Bahai from Kerman who has been living in Tehran, has been freed on bail. He was arrested in a raid on his home on August 3. After over a month of solitary confinement and interrogation in Evin Prison, he was transferred to a general wing of the same prison. He is to be charged with membership of Bahai organisations. Bail was set at 200 million tumans (56,000 euros; 64,000 $US), and was apparently approved in mid-Septmber, but for some reason his actual release on bail was then delayed for 10 days.
Fourteen new arrests in Shiraz and Karaj
Bahai News (Persian), September 29, 2016.
Fourteen Bahais have been arrested in coordinated raids by security forces on Bahai homes in two provinces of Iran, around 9pm on the evening of September 28 [date corrected ~sen]. The agents did not have arrest warrants or search warrants. Those arrested are Shamim Ekhlaqi (شمیم اخلاقی), Sahba Farabakhsh (صهبا فرحبخش), Sahba Maslahi (صهبا مصلحی), Ahdiyyeh Enayati (عهدیه عنایتی), Mahyar Safidi (مهیار سفیدی), Shadi Sadeq-Eqdam (شادی صادق اقدم) and Varqa Kaviani (ورقا کاویانی) in Shiraz, and in Karaj (presumably, the report is not clear) Maryam Eslami (مریم اسلامی), Soroush Eqani (سروش ایقانی), Marjan and Mazhgah Gholampour (مرجان و مژگاه غلامپور), Farid and Farzad Shademan (فرید و فرزاد شادمان) and Parisa Rouhi-zadegan (پریسا روحی زادگان).
Two Bahai business closed, more given notice of closure
Bahai News (Persian), September 25, 2016.
On September 22, officials from the Bureau of Public Places closed in Omidieh county, in the southern province of Khuzestan, closed two Bahai-run businesses. They were managed by Mustafa `Ebadi (مصطفی عبادی) and Ayaz Afshari (ایاز افشاری ), and worked in the refrigeration sector. Omidieh county is one of the hottest inhabited places on earth, during the summer months. No reason was given for the closures. The businesses have licenses to operate that are valid for another three years. Other Bahai-run businesses in the Province of Khuzestan have been given a 10-day notice of closure.
Provisional translations of two significant works of Baha’u’llah
Adib Masumian(blog), September 25, 2016.
Adib Masumian has posted his provisional translations of two significant works of Baha’u’llah, the Five treasures and the Tablet of the Paradise of Justice. The “five treasures” is a record of the words of Baha’u’llah, as heard by Nabil-e Zarandi, and is therefore classified as a pilgrim’s note, but one of great interest which is now made available to English readers. The Tablet of the Paradise of Justice is a longer work, three sections of which had previously been translated by Shoghi Effendi. They have some themes in common: the Five Treasures says:
Dost thou know what My purpose is in having come to this world and in proclaiming My Cause amongst the peoples? I will say it that thou shalt know. I have come to establish openly—through the strength and power of God—justice, protection, trustworthiness, and piety in every corner of this world, which is so replete with defilement—and in which the oppression of the oppressors and the treachery of the treacherous have sealed shut the door of tranquility to all creation …
and in the Paradise of Justice we read:
O thou this name! Pride thyself in this, that We have made thee the dawning-place of Our justice amidst all people. The day is approaching when We shall raise up manifestations of thee upon the earth, through whom We shall roll up the standard of oppression and unfurl the banner of justice between the heavens and the earth. It is through them that God shall blot out every trace of injustice from the earth, and adorn the whole of creation in every land with these names. All beings, both seen and unseen, shall rejoice at their advent, for They are the mirrors of My justice amidst My servants, and the daysprings of My names amidst My creation. Through them, the hands of oppression shall be severed, and the arms of command strengthened.
For a list of Adib Masumian’s translations of Bahai Writings, see this page.
Baha’i murdered in Yazd: two arrests
Bahai News, September 27, 2016.
Farhang Amiri (فرهنگ امیری), a Bahai living in Yazd, was murdered by two persons who came to the door of his house on the evening of September 26. He suffered multiple stab wounds, including to the heart, and according to one report was also hit on the head with a brick. Initial reports are that the murder was not related to his Bahai beliefs, and that two persons have been arrested but not yet charged. The Bahai News report says that two persons came to enquire whether his car was for sale. On the first occassion his son Puya opened the door, and they went away. When they returned, Mr. Amiri opened the door and was attacked. He was taken to hospital, but his injuries were fatal. The two assailants fled but were later arrested on the basis of “information received.” Mr. Amiri’s father was executed for his Bahai beliefs.
Another Bahai business closed in Karaj
Bahai News (Facebook, Persian), September 17, 2016.
A vehicle parts shop in Karaj, run by Javid Iqaneyan ( جاوید ایقانیان ) and his son `Emad Iqaneyan (عماد ایقانیان), was closed by the authorities on September 17. The authorities had refused to renew its business licence, apparently because Mr Javad Iqaneyan is known as a Bahai and has a reputation for integrity and customer service. Three other Bahai-run businesses in Karaj were closed by the authorities on August 16 and 18 this year.
On June 23 this year, the Universal House of Justice issued new guidelines for the observance of Bahai Holy Days in Iran, which allow for various compromises between the Bahais’ desire to close their businesses on the Holy Days and authorities’ desire to reduce the visibility of Bahais in commercial centres. For example, Bahais who have businesses could close the business one day before and one day after the Holy Day as well as on the Holy Day, leave the lights of a business turned on although nobody is working, or have a worker present although no trading is done. But the guidelines reject the idea of seeking official permission to close for a day, where this is neither provided for in legislation nor imposed on non-Bahais, since this would be to accede to government interference in the freedom of conscience. Such compromises have to be worked out locally, and it is not yet clear whether fewer Bahai businesses are being shut down because of the Holy Days issue. The authorities also have a campaign — inconsistently enforced across the country — to exclude Bahais from offering personal services such as optometry to the Muslim population, because Bahais are believed to be “unclean.”
Yashar Rezvani still held, without bail
Bazdasht, September 19, 2016.
Mr. Yashar Rezvani (یاشار رضوانی), a Bahai from Kerman who has been living in Tehran, was arrested in a raid on his home on August 3. During his interrogation he was held for 33 days in solitary confinement before being transferred to a general wing of Evin Prison in Tehran, and his file was sent to Bench 28 of the Revolutionary Court Ten days later his family was able to meet with court officials, who told them that he would remain in custody since the investigator needed two weeks to determine the amount of bail. After two weeks have passed but his family has had no response to their enquiries. It would appear that the relevant officials have gone on holiday. It appears that he is charged with membership in a Bahai organization, a charge that he has rejected since there is no such organization [in Iran, because they were disbanded on government orders].
More Bahai students barred from university in Iran
Bahai News (Persian), September 21, 2016.
Following the announcement of results from Iran’s University Entrance examinations, and the beginning of the new academic year, several new cases have emerged of students being excluded from education in Iran solely because of their Bahai beliefs. Bahai News has published reports of 22 such cases, nine in the report linked to above, and the remainder in previous reports. The pattern in past years has been that Bahai students are excluded at four points: by being barred from taking the examination, by receiving no results, at the moment of enrollment (as in these 22 cases), or when they are discovered to be Bahais after enrollment.
Aminullah Emani’s optician’s shop reopens
Gold News (Persian), September 14, 2016.
On September 14, local authorities in Isfahan allowed an optometry business run by Aminullah Emani (امین الله ایمنی) to reopen, after closing it on September 11. The closure apparently did not relate to the issue of Bahai holy days, since the report says that Mr Emani was visited by local officials who wanted to confirm that he was a Bahai. He had apparently been running his business in such a way that his Bahai identity was not immediately apparent. The report says that while the business, which has been operating for decades, was allowed to reopen, the “difficulties” are not entirely resolved, and follow-up continues.
Zhila Shahriyari free on bail in Tehran
Bahai News (Persian), September 13, 2016.
Mrs. Zhila Shahriyari (ژیلا شهریاری) has been freed from Evin prison in Tehran, after posting bail. She was arrested in the city on August 13 by a squad of agents travelling in two cars and a pickup, and taken to her home. The agents searched her home for two hours, seizing religious literature, a PC, laptop and mobile phone and all her bank cards.
Nazanin Bangaleh free on bail in Shiraz
Bahai News (Persian), September 12, 2016.
Nazanin Bangaleh (نازنین بنگاله), a Bahai who was arrested with her father Na`imatullah Bangaleh (نعمت الله بنگاله) on August 27, was released from detention in Shiraz on September 11, after posting bail of 175 million tumans ($US 56,000; 50,000 euros).
`Azam Motahari released from prison in Yazd
Bahai News (Persian), September 10, 2016.
Mrs. `Azam Motahari (اعظم مطهری) was released from prison in Yazd today, September 10, at the end of a one-year sentence. Towards the end of her sentence she was granted a 15-day prison furlough, beginning on August 10, and it was hoped that this would be extended so that she would not have to return to prison. But it was not to be: she returned to prison and served the remaining days of her sentence. Mrs. Motahari is one of 20 Bahais who were arrested in central Iran in August 2012. They were charged with propaganda against the regime and participation in Bahai community activities.
Retrial for four Bahais following February miss-trial case in Isfahan
Bazdasht, September 8, 2016.
In February this year, seven Bahais from Isfahan who were among those arrested in raids in Tehran, Isfahan and Mashhad on November 15, 2015, were “tried” in Isfahan, without their knowledge, without legal representation, and apparently without charges, evidence or defence. The lawyer acting for one of the Bahais went to the court, and was told that the trial had already been held and the sentences of the seven Bahais would be announced within the next few days. (A guilty verdict, for a Bahai in an Iranian court, is more or less inevitable). A retrial has been announced for four of these Bahais, and their bail has been increased to 1.2 billion rials (34,000 euros, 38,000 $US). The four, Yeganeh Agahi (یگانه آگاهی), Adib Janamian (ادیب جانمیان), Parvin Nik-A’in(پروین نیک آیین) and `Arsheya Rouhani (عرشیا روحانی) were summoned to court in Isfahan on September 7 and charged with membership of illegal Bahai organisations and undermining national security. The four are among 16 Bahais arrested in raids on Bahai homes conducted by the Ministry of Intelligence in Isfahan, Tehran and Mashhad on November 15, 2015.
Noushin Zanhari and Ramin Shirvani released on bail
Bahai News (Persian), September 5, 2016.
Noushin Zanhari and Ramin Shirvani (نوشین زنهاری و رامین شیروانی) have been released on bail in Shiraz. Mrs Zanhari was released on August 13, and Mr. Shirvani on August 21. They had been held in the Ministry of Intelligence’s Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz. They were among at least seven Bahais and a number of other residents of Shiraz who associated with Bahais who were arrested on the morning of July 16. One of the Bahais arrested, Na’im Qa’idsharfi (نعیم قائدشرفی), was released on bail on July 18.
Ruhiyyeh Sabet released in Yemen
Bazdasht, September 7, 2016.
Mrs. Ruhiyyeh Sabet (روحيه ثابت), one of the Bahais detained in Yemen since August 10, has been released without having to post bail. According to latest reports, this leaves 14 of this group of Bahais in prison in Yemen. During the raid on a youth training seminar organised by the Yemeni Baha’i community and sponsored by the Nida Foundation for Human Development, 60 people were arrested. About half of them, who were not Bahais, and all the girls under 18, were released quickly. Half the remainder have been released over the past 4 weeks.
Mr. Iraj Lohrasb released from prison
Bazdasht, June 28, 2016
[This report is two months old: I overlooked it at the time ~Sen]
Mr. Iraj Lohrasb (ایرج لهراسب) has been released from prison in Yazd at the end of a two-year sentence for posting pictures of the vandalism of the Bahai cemetery in Yazd on his Facebook page. He was arrested on June 30, 2014 and sentenced in November that year. He served the whole two years without any prison furlough. In 1983, Mr. Lohrasb was imprisoned for several months and then exiled, along with a number of Bahais, to Zabol, a town on the Afghan border. He was allowed to return to his home about 6 years later.
Denial of pensions for Bahais in Iran
Aasoo (Persian), undated [August 2016]
The website Aasoo has published a document from the Ministry of Welfare and Social Security in Iran, dated 23 May 2011. The letter, written by the management of the national pension fund, responding to a petition from Mr. Nahid Mehrabkhani (ناهید مهرابخانی ) states that no pension can be paid out to him because, in February 1984 he was dismissed from employment by the Ministry of Education because of his Bahai beliefs. The denial of pensions for Bahais after the 1979 revolution was widespread, but documents of individual cases seldom surface. The document in this case implies the existence of a general rule that state pensions cannot be paid to Bahais.
In September 2013, Behzad Shokuhi ( بهزاد شکوهی ), then 75 years old, was beaten up and insulted at the Provincial Government Offices for Tehran province, where he had gone to seek payment of pension rights accumulated when he worked for the Ministry of Agriculture before the 1979 revolution. Like other Bahais in the civil service he was fired and banned from any further work for the government.
Father and daughter arrested in Shiraz
Bahai News (Persian), August 28, 2016.
On August 27, Na`imatullah Bangaleh (نعمت الله بنگاله) and his adult daughter Nazanin Bangaleh (نازنین بنگاله) were arrested by security forces in front of the family home in Shiraz. The agents then entered their home and ‘searched’ it destructively, seizing personal belongings such as computers, mobile phones, books, religious paraphernalia and their personal writings. Mr. Bangaleh’s brother went to the Ministry of Intelligence detention facility (Facility 100) in Shiraz, but received no answers about the whereabouts of the two detained Bahais or the reasons for their arrest.
Mrs. Azam Motahari granted prison furlough
Bazdasht, August 20, 2016.
Mrs. `Azam Motahari (اعظم مطهری) has been granted a 15-day prison furlough. She is servng a one-year sentence in Yazd prison. She has only 21 days to serve of her sentence, and it is hoped she may not have to return to prison. Mrs. Motahari is one of 20 Bahais who were arrested in central Iran in August 2012. They were charged with propaganda against the regime and participation in Bahai community activities. She was summoned to begin serving a one-year sentence in the central prison of Yazd on March 3, 2015 but, for reasons that are not clear, it was later reported that she began her sentence on October 6, 2015. Mrs. Motahari is the mother of Shamim Ettehadi (شمیم اتحادی), who was released from the Central Prison in Yazd on June 7 this year. He was charged with propaganda against the regime, membership of Bahai organisations, insulting officials, spreading lies and having satellite receiving equipment. The charges relate to his supposed responsibility for a 4-minute video documenting the destruction of the Bahai cemetery in Yazd, which was shown on the Persian-language television network Manoto.
Sonya Ahmadi released in Mashhad
Baszasht, August 18, 2016.
Sonya Ahmadi ( سونیا احمدی ) was released from Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad
on August 17. She began serving her 5-year sentence, on charges of teaching the Bahai Faith and membership of the Bahai community, on September 2, 2012, but she was released early on January 10, 2014, with the promise that her complete freedom would follow. However on April 10, 2014, she was telephoned to say she would have to continue serving her prison sentence.
Three Bahai businesses closed in Karaj
Around August 8, three Bahais who run shops in Karaj were warned that their shops would be closed permanently. Their names are Mansur Enayati (منصور عنایتی), Husayn Shayegan (حسین شایگان) and Manouchir Enayati (منوچهر عنایتی ), all close relatives.
On August 16, local officials from the Bureau of Public Places sealed the optometry shop run by Mansur Enayati, which had been closed during Bahai holy days, and its business licence was therefore not renewed. It had a staff of eight, who are now unemplyed. On August 18, officials from the same office sealed Mr. Shayegan’s optometry shop. Its business licence had not been renewed, because it was run by a Bahai.
There is some ambiguity whether the apartheid rules in Iran allow Bahais to run optician’s shops: Bahais are barred from many economic sectors but the list of exclusions is intended to be secret, and when it has been leaked it is out of date. The most recent list of the activities banned for Bahais did not include optometry.
The report notes that Mr. Manouchir Enayati’s shop was also closed on August 18, without adding details of that case. It does say, however, that the officials said they were acting on order from “higher up” — usually a reference to the Ministry of Intelligence.
Nateqeh Na’imi freed from prison in Yazd
Bahai News (Persian), August 16, 2016.
Mrs. Nateqeh Na’imi (ناطقه نعیمی), a Bahai held in Yazd Prison, was released on parole on August 16, after completing one third of her sentence. She was one of 20 Bahais arrested in Yazd, Isfahan, Kerman and Arak in August 2011, and sentenced to a total of 78 years in prison. Her sentence was two years in prison and one year’s suspended sentence, while her husband Mr. Faribourz Baghi (فریبرز باغی ) is also serving a 2-year term, on charges of acting against national security and propaganda against the regime. Mrs. Na’imi began serving her sentence, along with Mrs. Azam Motahari (اعظم مطهری), on October 6, 2015. She was granted one 10-day furlough during her time in Yazd prison. Her name was previously reported on Sen’s Daily as Nateq Na’imi (ناطق نعیمی).
Amnesty call provides update on the Bahais arrested in Yemen
Amnesty International, August 17, 2016.
Amnesty International has released a statement calling for the release of the Bahais arrested in Sana’a by Houthi security forces between August 10 and August 16. At present 27 Bahais are being detained, without access to lawyers or family visits. Amnesty states:
The Huthi armed group in control of parts of Yemen must immediately ensure the release of all 27 members of the Baha’i religion who have been detained in the capital, Sana’a, for a week without charge, in a blatant case of persecution of a minority faith.
Armed officers in balaclavas from Yemen’s National Security Bureau (NSB) intelligence agency, which works hand in hand with the armed Huthi authorities, stormed a Baha’i youth workshop in Sana’a on 10 August and arrested 65 people, including 14 women and six people under 18 without an arrest warrant. Further arrests were carried out yesterday [August 16].
“The arbitrary arrests of Baha’i people for doing nothing more than attending a peaceful community event is completely unjustifiable. It is just the latest example of authorities’ persecution of minority faiths,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme. “The Huthis must end their harassment of minorities and respect the right to freedom of religion – a right that is enshrined in the country’s own constitution and international law.”
Some of the arrested participants were released, while the al-Sakkaf brothers — the husbands of two detained women — were later called into the NSB and were also arrested. Twenty-seven still remain in the agency’s custody without access to lawyers or family visits.
The detentions of Baha’is on account of their faith violate Yemen’s obligations under international law and appear to be part of a wider crackdown on minorities by the Huthi authorities. The Baha’is were also persecuted on account of their faith under ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh prior to the armed conflict.
The al-Sakkaf brothers were previously apprehended by Huthi authorities in March 2015 and held for two days, and were interrogated about their faith and other members of the community. They were released without charge.
House of Baha’u’llah in Tehran in the news in Iran
Gold News, August 15, 2016.
On May 1 this year, the House of Baha’u’llah in an alley off Pamenar Street (خیابان پامنار) in Tehran was closed in accordance with a court order, and it was stressed that any attempt to reopen the house would face prosecution. The House is government-owned, and was renovated in 2013. It is not clear from the reports what was achieved by a physical closure. According to government-controlled media in Iran, Bahais in Iran and elsewhere had been trying to buy the neighbouring properties “to develop the historic building as a site for religious meetings and devotions” (or more likely, to make it difficult for a property developer to raze the area). According to these media, neglect of the historic building and ignorance and maladministration by the responsible officials in the Ministry of Cultural Heritage led them to ask the Bahais to seek — unsuccessfully — to have the house registered as a cultural monument. The age of the building and its beauty leaves no room for doubt, according to these media, that the refusal to register the building was due to anti-Bahai prejudice, yet the house is not linked only to the Bahai community, it is part of Iran’s history and belongs to all Iranians. Although the house is a sacred spot for Bahais, to avoid problems they refrain from activities nearby, and even from walking around the area.
My guess – as an outsider trying to read between the lines – is that the issue is that the registration of the building as a cultural monument, especially if it were listed as a UNESCO world heritage site, would prevent the construction of modern buildings in the immediate area. The judicial closure would prevent maintenance and further steps to document and register the site as a cultural heritage. The Ministry of Cultural Sites and Handcrafts, with a responsibility for both protecting heritage and developing tourism, is being blamed for failing to achieve the registration (because of anti-Bahai prejudice), and for working with Bahais to try to achieve registration! It is not clear why this issue should have resurfaced now, when the closure took place in May and was reported in a limited way at the time.
Trial of Hamed bin Haydara in Yemen postponed 5 weeks
Bazdasht(Persian), August 15, 2016.
The trial of Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara (حامد کمال بن حیدرا) in Sana’a, Yemen, has been postponed until September 25. No reason for this was given by the judge. In April this year, the Prosecutor asked for two months to gather evidence, although Mr. bin Haydara had at that point been imprisoned for 28 months. It would appear that no evidence has been found to sustain the various charges against him. Despite the defendant’s poor health, the judge has refused to allow bail. Mr. Haydara has been detained since December 3, 2013, and has been tortured to extract a confession.
Saba Golshan granted furlough for medical treatment
Bahai News, August 14, 2016.
Mr. Saba Golshan ( صبا گلشن ), a Bahai from Isfahan who is serving a 3-year sentence for his Bahai beliefs, was released from prison on August 14 for medical treatment. He had previously been granted a 2-month medical furlough for surgery and other treatment, and a request to extend this leave, early in February this year, was refused. His treatment was therefore interrupted.
On August 1, 2011, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence raided many Bahai homes in the cities of Yazd , Isfahan, Kerman and Arak, and arrested 17 Bahais. Two weeks later, three more Bahais were arrested in Yazd. These 20 Bahais have been given sentences totaling 58 years (or 78 years, of which 20 years are suspended sentences) by the Revolutionary Court in Yazd. Mr. Golshan’s sentence is 4 years, of which one year is suspended. He began his sentence on August 12, 2015.
New arrest in Tehran
Bahai News (Persian), August 14, 2016.
Mrs. Zhila Shahriyari (ژیلا شهریاری), a Bahai living in Tehran, was arrested on August 13. She was arrested elsewhere in the city by a squad of agents travelling in two cars and a pickup, and taken to her home. The agents searched her home for two hours, seizing religious literature, a PC, laptop and mobile phone and all her bank cards. She was then taken away — she is believed to be in block 209 of Evin Prison. Mrs. Shahriyari is the sister in law of Mahvash Sabet (مهوش ثابت), one of the seven Yaran or national facilitators for the Bahai community in Iran, who are serving long prison sentences. Mrs. Sabet is also in Evin prison.
Shayda Ta’id granted prison furlough
Bahai News (Persian), August 12, 2016.
Shayda Ta’id ( شیدا تائید ), a Bahai serving a 1-year sentence in Babol Prison, was released for a 10-day furlough on August 11. She began her sentence on June 23, 2016. The report does not indicate the reason for the furlough, which is unusually long and early in her sentence.
Shayda Ta’id was arrested in her home, along with her guest, Bayan Baba’i ( بیان بابایی ) from Qaemshahr, on January 21, 2013. They were taken to the Ministry of Intelligence in Sari, and three days later were allowed to contact their families. They were detained by the Ministry of Intelligence in Sari for a total of 25 days. Previously, on November 6, 2010, the home of Shayda Ta’id and her mother, Fariba Ta’id ( فریده تایید ), was searched by the Ministry of Intelligence, and on November 20, 2010, they were arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence. They were both released in early December, 2010.
30 Bahai youth arrested in Yemen
Reuters, August 12, 2016.
Armed officers from the National Security Bureau in Yemen, an intelligence agency controlled by the Houthis, raided a Bahai youth convention in Sana’a on Wednesday (or Thursday afternoon, August 12: sources differ) and arrested 30 boys and girls, according to a Reuters report. The Houthis are a Zaidi Shiah group, widely thought to be supported by Iran. Bazdasht reports that 60 youth and adults were arrested, but the youth who were not Bahais were released after providing a surety such as a business licence and promising not to associate with Bahais. A number of the girls were also released. The Bahais of Yemeni extraction were separated from those from Iran and other countries.
The trial of Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara (حامد کمال بن حیدرا) is scheduled to resume on August 14. He has been charged with collaborating with Israel by working for the Universal House of Justice, the Bahai supreme governing institution, which is based in Haifa, Israel. It is also alleged that he lured potential Muslim converts to the Bahai faith through charitable giving and tried to establish a homeland for the followers of the Bahai faith in Yemen. He has been detained since December 3, 2013, and has been tortured to extract a confession.
“The charges against Mr. bin Haydara are baseless and nonsensical and come after over a year of mistreatment, including solitary confinement, during which, privately, the authorities have repeatedly admitted their religious motives for the imprisonment,” said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “Mr. bin Haydara is a well-respected and sincere family man who has not broken any laws. Baha’is do not proselytize as a matter of principle, and all native Yemenis who have joined the Baha’i Faith have done so of their own conviction,” Ms. Dugal added.
“The accusation of spying for Israel is a grotesque distortion of reality,” said Ms. Dugal. “The historical circumstances that led to the establishment of the administrative and spiritual center of the Baha’i Faith occurred well before the existence of the State of Israel.”
Two Shiraz residents required to shun Bahais
Bahai News (Persian, Facebook), August 4, 2016.
Following the recent arrest and later release of 7 Bahais in Shiraz, a non-Bahai couple from Shiraz have been arrested, and released only when they promised not to have any contact with the Bahais. Reza Shafi`i (رضا شفیعی) and his wife were arrested en route from Shiraz to Marvdasht, and taken to the Ministry of Intelligence’s Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz, where they were interrogated extensively for a day. They were made to promise that they would not have any communication or cooperation with members of the Bahai Faith, and were then released. As previously reported, on July 16 and 17, seven Bahais were arrested in Yazd, and detained by the Ministry of Intelligence.
17 Bahais in Yazd arrested, and later released
Bahai News (Persian), August 4, 2016, and updates
In recent days, seventeen Baha’is in Yazd were arrested in raids on homes, conducted without a search warrant. Security agents climbed over the gate of a house in Yazd belonging to Mr. Sahil Rouhani-Fard and Mr. Azzatullah Khurram (سهیل روحانی فرد و عزت الله خرم). They arrested all those present (the number is not stated), and searched the house. Mr. Rouhani-Fard was previously imprisoned for two years because of his Bahai beliefs.
During the following night they raided the home of two other Bahais and arrested them. The arrested Bahais were interrogated and released within a few hours, except that
Gold News reports that on the morning of August 8, security forces in Yazd simultaneously raided the home and workplace of Mr. Mehran Bandi (مهران بندی), a Bahai whose home was raided in February 2014, and who was previously imprisoned for three and a half years, and exiled for three and a half years, because of his Bahai beliefs. The agents seized books, computers, a satellite receiver, mobile phone and images of Bahai sacred places. Mr. Bandi has been told to report to Bureau of Public Places in Yazd today, August 9, along with his son.
They also raided the home of Mr. Mashallah Shadepour (ماشاالله شادپور) [during the day]. Because his wife was not at home, they went to his work place. After searching that, they took him with him to his home and searched it. Mr. Shadepour’s elderly mother, Mrs. Safa Zarandeyun (خانم صفا زرندیون) is not able to walk, and for that reason had not opened the door for the agents.
The agents also went to a downstairs apartment used by Mr. Shadepour’s aunt, Mrs. Ridvan Shadepour (رضوان شادپور), and searched it. She is the wife of the Ali Motahari (علی مطهری), a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of Yazd, who was executed for his Bahai beliefs on September 8, 1980. Their daughter, Mrs. `Azam Motahari (اعظم مطهری) is now serving a one-year sentence in the central prison of Yazd.
The sequence of events and scale of the raids is not entirely clear from these reports. A Facebook report from Bahai News states that Sahil Rouhani-Fard and Mr. Azzatullah Khurram were freed from detention on August 4. It is possible that a number of their friends visited them to congratulate them on their release, and the raids followed this gathering.
House raid and arrest in Tehran
Bazdasht, August 3, 2016.
Mr. Yashar Rezvani (یاشار رضوانی), a Bahai from Kerman who has been living in Tehran, was arrested this morning when agents from the Ministry of Intelligence raided his home, breaking two doors in the process. His personal possessions were seized and he was taken away. The charges against him are not known.
Fu’ad Moqaddam has long-term medical furlough
Iran Press Watch, July 17, 2016.
Dr. Fu’ad Moqaddam (فواد مقدم) a 63-year-old physician and one of the former administrators of the Bahai online university (BIHE) in Isfahan, has been allowed to go home for two months’ leave for medical treatment, which may be extended, and his sentence has been suspended. He was arrested in May, 2011, and sentenced to five years in prison for his educational activities. He was serving his term at Raja’i Shahr Prison in Karaj, near Tehran. The BIHE is a distance-learning institute which serves students who are excluded from tertiary study in Iran, under Iran’s discriminatory laws against Bahais.
Bahai businesses closed and reopened in several cities
Iran Press Watch, July 29, 2016.
Iran Press Watch reports that the businesses of two Bahais in the city of Miandoab were sealed on July 30. They are a refrigerator repair shop run by Ehsan Dhehni ( احسان ذهنی دارای), and a mobile telephone store run by Taher Maqsudi (طاهر مقصودی). The reasons for the closures are not clear.
However the seals on at least thirteen Bahai-run businesses in Qaemshahr, and others in Sari, have been removed for the third time. Also, the seals on the businesses of 28 Bahais in Urumieh were removed on 21 July 2016, nearly two months after they were sealed.
As prevously reported, the Universal House of Justice has recently said that, where local authorities demand promises or has made suggestions designed to reduce the visibility of the closure of Bahais businesses on the Bahai Holy Days, such as closing the business one day before and one day after the Holy Day as well as on the Holy Day, leaving the lights of a business turned on although nobody is working in the business, or having a worker present although no trading is done, the Bahais may in consultation with mature Friends “accept such conditions or suggestions providing they do not conflict with the spirit of the Bahai teachings.”
UHJ letter on economic restrictions on Bahais in Iran
Editorial, July 22, 2016.
On June 23, the Universal House of Justice issued a letter through its Secretariat, regarding the response of the Bahais in Iran to the economic restrictions imposed upon them. With regard to employees, it restates existing policies that a Bahai employee should try to take leave from work on the Bahai Holy Days on which work is suspended, but can work with a good conscience if this is refused. With regard to Bahai-run businesses and institutions, the letter marks an important development both in Bahai policy and in the willingness of authorities in some parts of Iran to allow Bahai businesses to close for Bahai Holy Days under certain conditions.
The letter refers to a description given by two Bahais of the economic restrictions imposed on the Bahai community in a particular city and to some questions they had presented to the Universal House of Justice. It praises them for their interest in the progress of the Faith, their willingness to endure hardships in the path of God and their determination to remain in Iran. The letter refers to the alarming level of the difficulties imposed on the Bahais in that city, and other places in Iran, because they have closed their shops and work places on the Bahai Holy Days. [The authorities have responded by closing the businesses down] These illegal closures by some authorities are undoubtedly part of a plan for the economic strangulation of the Bahai community in Iran, in the hope of weakening the resolve of the Bahais to remain in Iran. The world and the people of Iran now recognize that, despite this pressure and the diverse restrictions on them, the Bahais uphold their spiritual teachings and high hopes for Iran.
The letter refers to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which guarantees freedom of conscience and religion, and states that the observation of Bahai Holy Days, including the suspension of other community activities, the closure of Bahai-owned businesses, and the suspension of work on the Holy Days form part of the religious practices of Bahais around the world. Every sincere believer is obliged to observe the Bahai Holy Days. In countries where freedom of religion and beliefs is respected, Bahais observe the Holy Days by taking leave from their work, just as the Shiah in Iran close their businesses on their religious festivals. For the Bahais in Iran, the implementation of this religious practice in present circumstances implies:
1. Bahai employees in whatever field, as well as students at all levels, should refrain from working on the holy days on which work is suspended, but if their superiors do not agree to this, they can do their work on that day with a clear conscience.
2. Bahais who control a business should close their businesses on the holy days on which work is suspended, even if they have employees who are not Bahais. However if this would have effects requiring prior arrangements to meet the needs of the public, they should endeavour to make such arrangements and should inform the authorities of the intention to close the business and of the measures they have taken.
3. In exceptional cases, entities linked to Bahais may continue to operate on Bahai Holy Days, for example where they provide services that are essential to society, to protect the life and health of persons, or provide a service that directly impacts the lives of the people around them, to such an extent that a short closure, even where prior arrangements had been made, might disrupt orderly life. In such situations, the Friends may continue the services offered by such institutions, but it is desirable to minimise the work involved in consultation with the authorities.
The authorities in some cities have demanded promises as regards the closure of Bahai businesses on Holy Days [as a condition for allowing a closed business to reopen], or have offered suggestions, such as closing the Bahai business one day before and one day after the Holy Day [as well as on the Holy Day], leaving the lights of a business turned on although nobody is working in the business, or having a worker present although no trading is done. The Bahais, who are always ready to show good will and to be flexible, may in consultation with mature Friends accept such conditions or suggestions providing they do not conflict with the spirit of the Bahai teachings.
With regard to the suggestion made elsewhere, that the Bahais should seek permission from the authorities to close their shops on Bahai Holy Days, if the civil law and trade regulations require such permission, it should be obtained, and the obligations of Bahai individuals in this case will be the same as those of employees and students. But if permission to close is neither required in the case of non-Bahais, nor mentioned in the relevant legislation, then it does not seem necessary to obtain it, as it would only be interference in individuals’ spiritual lives.
The above is a precis and explanation rather than a translation. The most important change in practice, for the many Bahais in Iran who run small businesses, will be the possibility of observing the Bahai Holy Days while avoiding conflict with the authorities. The closures of Bahai businesses in Iran appear to have three motives, in a mix that varies from place to place. One is prejudice and superstitions: the belief that Bahais are unclean and that Muslims should not interract with Bahais. This is also the motive behind the exclusion of Bahais from economic sectors involving food, drink and personal services. When Bahais observe a Holy Day by closing their business, the authorities can withdraw the business licence and so reduce interraction between Shiah and Bahai individuals. The second motive is mentioned in the letter: the economic strangulation of the community with the intention of compelling as many Bahais as possible to leave Iran. The third is a desire on the part of some local authorities to remove the visible presence of Bahais from public spaces. A business that is visibly closed on Bahai Holy Days, and only on those days, is a visible statement that the Bahais are still there, despite over 30 years of Islamic education and unremitting state propaganda against the Bahais. A Bahai cemetery is also a visible presence: hence the destruction of old cemeteries near to towns and the allocation of sites for new Bahai cemeteries in remote places.
Since the Bahais observe the Holy Days not to make a public statement, but because of the holiness of the day and events it commemorates, it is logical that the Universal House of Justice says that the Bahais may, in consultation with mature Friends – who will help all the Bahai business in a locality to act together – accept conditions or suggestions from the authorities that are designed to lower the public profile of the Bahai businesses, providing these conditions do not conflict with the spirit of the Bahai teachings.
Seven Bahais arrested in Shiraz, one released on bail
Bahai News (Persian), July 19, 2016.
On the morning of July 16, security forces in Shiraz arrested five Bahais: Mrs. Noushin Zanhari (نوشین زنهاری), Yekta Fahandezh-Sa`adi (یکتافهندژسعدی), who was recently sentenced to five years in prison, Behnam Azirpour (بهنام عزیرپور), Sa`id Hosna (سعید حسنی) and Rahim Shirvani (رامین شیروانی). They are being held by the Ministry of Intelligence in Shiraz. On the following morning, security forces arrested two more Bahais in Shiraz, Na’im Qa’idsharfi (نعیم قائدشرفی) and Nabil Tahdhib (نبیل تهذیب). The agents also searched their home(s) and seized books, a laptop and a smart phone. They were taken to the Ministry of Intelligence’s Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz. Na’im Qa’idsharfi was released on bail on July 18.
Security forces destroy Bahai cemetery in Qorveh, arresting one Bahai
Iran Press Watch, translating Bahai News, July 17, 2016.
Law enforcement agents in Kurdistan province have demolished a Golestan Javid (a Bahai cemetery), uprooted over three hundred 20-year-old trees, and have also confiscated personal property from the mortuary.
Law enforcement agents also summoned one local Bahai, Mr. Khalil Eqdameyan (خلیل اقدامیان), to the Kurdistan Province Judiciary. A Persian source, Bazdasht, reports that when he answered the summons, he was detained for several hours and then released on bail. He had followed up the destruction of the cemetery in enquiries to the security forces, who referred him to the Department of Agricultural Development (Agricultural Jihad).
Yekta Fahandezh sentenced to 5 years
Bahai News (Persian), July 11, 2016.
Yekta Fahandezh-Sa`adi (یکتا فهندژ سعدی), a Bahai from Shiraz, has been sentenced to five years in prison. She was one of fifteen Bahais arrested in Shiraz in 2010. On February 3, 2012, she was again arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence and spent 82 days in Detention Facility 100. She was released on bail and later charged with propaganda against the regime and undermining national security. She was given a five-year suspended sentence, but was later acquitted by the Court of Review. She was arrested again by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on March 16, 2014. The agents searched her home and seized books, a laptop and personal effects. She was transferred to Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz, and was detained for two months. On June 16, 2016 she was again tried and sentenced by Judge Doctor Sadati (دکتر ساداتی) to five years in prison.
Afshin Seyyed-Ahmad begins a 3-year sentence
Iran Press Watch, July 4, 2016.
Afshin Seyyed-Ahmad (افشین سید احمد), a Bahai from Tehran, was summoned to Evin Prison in Tehran on June 28, to begin serving a 3-year sentence. He was arrested on November 7, 2012, when his work place in Tehran was searched. Two days earlier, the workplace of Kamran Qaysari (کامران قیصر) in Karaj was also searched, and his home was searched on November 7: the Iran Press Watch report links these two cases, which is plausible. Mr. Seyyed-Ahmad is expected to serve his sentence in Raja’i Shahr prison in Karaj. His sentence, of three years, was not previously reported on Sen’s Daily.
Afif Na`imi granted 5-day leave after 8 years in prison
Bahai News (Persian), July 2, 2016.
Afif Na`imi (عفیف نعیمی), one of the seven imprisoned ‘Yaran’ (national facilitators for the Bahai community in Iran) began a five-day prison furlough on July 2. He is serving his sentence in Raja’i Shahr prison, and suffers from very poor health, exacerbated by prison conditions and the lack of sustained medical care. During his time in prison he has often been transferred to a coronary care hospital in Tehran, only to be moved back to prison after a short period of care.