Sen's daily

September 20, 2017

Behzad Dhabihi begins 6-month sentence in Sari

Payam News (Facebook), September 14, 2017.

Behzad Dhabihi Mahforujaki (بهزاد ذبیحی ماهفروجکی ), a Bahai from Sari, was arrested on September 4 and taken to prison to begin serving his sentence. He was originally sentenced to one year in prison and two years in internal exile in Heris County in Eastern Azerbaijan (the report says, Western Azerbaijan), but this sentence was reduced by the Court of Review to six months in prison. It is not clear whether the internal exile was also annulled. He was convicted in the Islamic Court (that is, not in a criminal court) in Sari on a charge of propaganda against the regime in the form of teaching the Bahai Faith, although at the court sitting the charges were presented as “propaganda against Islam and the Quran.” The text of the court’s judgement shows it was prepared by the Ministry of Intelligence in Mazandaran Province.

Mr. Dhabihi has been arrested four times in the last six years, and shops he ran have been shut down three times in the same period. On February 22, 2016, his shop in Sari was closed by the authorities, and remains closed despite efforts to reopen it.

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August 2, 2017

Sohayl Haqqdoust arrested, released on bail in Sari

Bahai News (Facebook, Persian), July 30, 2017.

Sohayl Haqqdoust (سهیل حق دوست) has been released from the Ministry of Intelligence detention facility in Sari after posting bail. His arrest, not previously reported on Sen’s Daily, took place on July 25, when five agents entered his home without his permission and arrested him for “media reports about the closure of his business.” The agents were accompanied by officials known as the Ansar Hosseini (انصار حسینی), charged with religious affairs in the Province of Mazandaran. Mr Haqqdoust was released on bail on July 29.

In April, 2016, 15 Bahai-run businesses in Qaemshahr were shut down by the authorities because they were closed for the Bahai holy day of the first day of Ridvan. One of these businesses, an optician’s shop, belonged to Mr. Haqqdoust. On the morning of November 8, 2016, he was one of five Bahais from Qaemshahr who were arrested at the Mazandaran Provincial Governor’s Office, where Bahais had gathered to seek interaction with public officials regarding the closure of Bahai businesses. They were released on bail after 9 days in detention.

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November 15, 2016

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. [I have been unable to keep pace, on Sen’s Daily, with the reports of these expulsions and exclusions.]

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.

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May 14, 2016

Nine Bahai businesses allowed to reopen

Bahai News (Persian), May 11, 2016.

Nine Bahai-run businesses in Sari and Ramsar, which were sealed by local authorities on May 1, have been given permission to reopen. The Bahai businesses were shut down by the authorities because they had closed to allow the Bahais working there to observe Bahai holy days. But the authorities’ action was illegal, since the law allows all businesses in Iran, except for essential services, to close for up to 15 days per year.

The news that the businesses may reopen is surprising and gives hope that the authorities may begin to observe the law in their relations with Bahais. The 6 Bahai businesses in Kerman province that were closed down in April 2015 are still sealed, and another 7 have since been shut down. The picture is similar across Iran: Bahai businesses are frequently closed down but seldom allowed to reopen. However a number of international business leaders have recently been pressuring Iran to halt its economic discrimination against Bahais, “as an affront to the freedom to do business.”

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May 5, 2016

Six Bahai businesses closed in Ramsar and Sari; total now 39

Bahai Community News, May 2, 2016.

On May 1, local authorities closed down one Bahai-run business in Sari and five Bahai businesses in Ramsar. Both these centres lie in the province of Mazandaran, where 12 other Bahai-run businesses have been closed in the past week. This brings the total number of Bahai businesses closed in the past month, in Iran as a whole, to 39: 16 in Qaem Shahr, two in Babol, three in Tenakabon, five in Babolsar, two in Bahnamir, five in Fereydunkenar, and the six mentioned in this new report. All the closures appear to be related to the observance of Bahai festival days of Ridvan, and are contrary to Article 23 of the Constitution which forbids investigations of individuals’ religious beliefs, and also contrary to the regulations which allow businesses (except essential services) to close for 15 days per year without notifying the authorities.

According to a HRANA report, all the closures have been done in the absence of the owners, without written notice or informing the trades guild in advance. In Qaemshahr, authorities have told the Bahais that they cannot be accepted as residents and their businesses would be shut down, because they are Bahais and therefore have security files. One interesting aspect is that the Office of Public Places in Babolsar had told the Bahai businesses there that they would not be closed if they left their lights burning or the shop shutters raised during the Bahai Holy Days. It is not clear whether they complied (there is no reason why they should not) and were shut down anyway, or if they failed to comply. However this does suggest that the issue for the local authorities in Babolsar is that, on Bahai Holy Days, there should be no obvious sign in the commercial district of the number of Bahai-run businesses in the town. In other towns however, the closures are part of a general pattern of persecuting the Bahais at any opportunity. In 1934, when the Shah wished to close down the Bahai schools in Iran, he used the observance of Bahai Holy Days as an excuse.

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March 15, 2016

Behzad Dhabihi still in solitary, despite bail

Human Rights in Iran, March 14, 2016.

Behzad Dhabihi (بهزاد ذبیحی) is still being held in solitary confinement in the Ministry of Intelligence detention facility in Sari, although bail has been granted and paid. He was arrested on February 22, and detained by the Ministry in solitary confinement, although bail of 50 million tumans (31,000 euros, $41,000 US) has been posted, apparently because of administrative delays in registering the collateral. At the time of his arrest his home was searched and his place of business closed down, for the third time in recent years. On January 30, 2011, when agents from the Ministry of Intelligence searched his home and business, seized some personal effects and closed his business. He is also reported to have been arrested in March 2011 and April 2012, and released on bail after a period in detention. Because Bahais are barred from most professions and from regular employment in most economic sectors in Iran, a large portion run small businesses, which are subject to arbitrary closure by the authorities.

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March 11, 2016

Four more Bahais arrested in Iran

Bahai News (Persian, facebook), March 10, 2016.

On March 8, four more Bahais were arrested simultaneously in Tehran, Karaj and Sari. Their names are given as Tara Houshmand (تارا هوشمند), Rouhiyyeh Safajou (روحیه صفاجو) and Sarmad Shadabi (سرمد شادابی), in Tehran and the nearby city of Karaj, and Behzad Dhabihi (بهزاد ذبیحی) in Sari. It is not known where they are being detained.

Tara Houshmand (pictured top right) was arrested by security agents in her home in Tehran, which was searched. Her personal effects including a computer, a mobile phone and books were seized. She was one of a group of Bahais excluded from education who responded to a claim made in 2014, by Mohammad Javad Larijani, Head of the Human Rights Council of the Judiciary, that Iranian authorities do not discriminate against Bahais, and challenging the Bahais excluded from education to send documentation. The Bahai students took their documentation to the authorities as requested, thus exposing Mr. Larijani’s lie. The story is detailed here.

Mr. Sarmad Shadabi (pictured top left) was arrested at the Roudehen campus of the Islamic Free University, near Tehran. He was a signatory of a letter about the breaches of Bahais’ civil rights, written to a Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights. An interview with him, about his expulsion from University, was cited on the BBC Persian service.

Rouhiyyeh Safajou (pictured bottom right) was arrested by 8 security agents posing as workers from the gas supply company. When she opened the door to them, they entered and searched her home, and took her away. She is also a student excluded from education. She was one of a group of Bahai students excluded from tertiary education who met with Ali Reza Mahjoub (علی‌رضا محجوب), a reformist Member of Parliament, to argue for the right of education. The meeting was reported on this blog in September 2014.

No details are available on the arrest of Behzad Dhabihi in Sari, but it appears to be unrelated to the arrest of the three students. Mr Dhabihi, who name was spelled Zabihi in a previous Iran Wire report, managed one of the three Bahai-run optometry businesses in Sari which were closed in November, 2015. At that time the Bureau of Public Places in the Province of Mazandaran shut down 23 businesses belonging to Bahais in the cities of Sari, Qa`em Shahr, Tenakbon and Babolsar.

Update, March 14: Human Rights in Iran reports that Rouhiyyeh Safajou is being held in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, and has had contact by telephone with her family, in which she said that she is well.

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November 16, 2015

Iranian authorities launch widespread crackdown: Bahais arrested, businesses closed

Iran Wire (English), November 16, 2015.

On the morning of Sunday, November 15, Iranian Intelligence Ministry agents arrested 20 Bahais in Tehran, Isfahan and Mashhad. They also closed down Bahai-run businesses in the Province of Mazandaran.

Among those detained was Nakisa Hajipour (نکیسا حاجی پور), who was detained at Mashhad railway station after Intelligence Ministry agents arrived at her home with an arrest warrant and were told she was traveling. According to an informed source who spoke to IranWire, she was prevented from boarding the train and arrested. Also arrested in Mashhad were Nika Pakzadan (نیکا پاکزادان), Faraneh Daneshgari (فرانه دانشگری), Sanaz Es’haqi (ساناز اسحاقی) and Naghmeh Dhabihayan (نغمه ذبیحیان). They were all arrested at their homes.

In Isfahan, agents arrested Yeganeh Agahi (یگانه آگاهی), Adib Janamian (ادیب جانمیان), Keyvan Nik-A’in (کیوان نیک آیین), Parvin Nik-A’in(پروین نیک آیین), Vahid Karami (وحید کرمی), `Arsheya Rouhani (عرشیا روحانی) and Zarin Aqa-Baba’i (زرین آقابابایی). They also arrested Sahab Rouhani (سحاب روحانی) and Matin Janameyan (متین جانمیان), but released them after several hours. In Tehran, agents arrested Helia Moshtaq (هلیا مشتاق), Negar Baqeri-Tari (نگار باقری طاری), Sahba Farnoush (صهبا فرنوش), Nava Monjazeb (نوا منجذب), Yavar Haqiqat (یاور حقیقت) and Navid Aqdasi (نوید اقدسی).

Navid Aqdasi is a cousin Mr. Ataollah Rezvani ( عطاءالله رضوانی ), murdered two years ago in the Persian Gulf port of Bandar Abbas. Navid Aqdasi has actively pursued his cousin’s case and talked to the media about it. As a result, he has been threatened a number of times, including in recent months, when vandals have posted threatening graffiti on the walls of his house.

So far, no information has been made available about the charges against the Bahais. Their families have not been informed of their whereabouts. According to reports, it is likely that the prisoners have been taken to detention centers run by the Intelligence Ministry in their respective cities.

On the same day of the arrests took place, the Bureau of Public Places in the province of Mazandaran sealed and shut down 23 businesses belonging to Bahais in the cities of Sari, Qa`em Shahr, Tenakbon and Babolsar. This followed the businesses being closed on Saturday, November 14, a religious holiday for Bahais. Authorities have in the past objected to Bahai businesses observing holy days, threatening them with closure if they failed to keep the same business hours as non-Bahai shops and services.

Two days prior to the closure of Bahai businesses in Mazandaran, authorities also closed all Bahai businesses in the city of Rafsanjan in the southeastern province of Kerman. Among the businesses closed were shops selling cosmetics, health products, musical instruments, eyeglasses, clothes, tires and toys, and businesses offering refrigerator maintenance, photography and photocopier services. Bahais in Iran are barred from employment in most public sector jobs and many private sector jobs, with the result that many depend on small shops and workshops.

Shop and office owners were given no notice of the closure. In some cases, they were not even aware of the operation until some hours later. The town of Babolsar was the only exception. [That is, notice of closure was given in Babolsar. The ٍEnglish report on Iran Wire is incorrect on this point ~Sen]. The nature of the simultaneous arrests and closure suggests a planned operation, ordered and organized by the Intelligence Ministry.

According to reports, Bahai businesses shut down include those belonging to the following individuals:

Sari: Three optician’s shops run by Dhekrollah Rahimeyan (ذکرالله رحیمیان), Farid Alavi (فرید علوی), Behzad Zabihi (بهزاد ذبیحی) and Bozorgmehr Hor (بزرگمهر حر), the cosmetics shop of Ehsanollah Sana’i (احسان الله سنایی), and the clothing shops of Aramesh Zohouri (آرامش ظهوری) and Houshmand Goli (هوشمند گلی).

Qa`em Shahr: cosmetics and health products workshops run by Nima Miri (نیما میری) and Changiz Darakhshanian (چنگیز درخشانیان), a toyshop run by Bijan Nokhah (بیژن نوع خواه), a grocery operated by Dhekrollah Baba’i (ذکرالله بابایی), the optician’s shops of Soheil Haqdoost (سهیل حق دوست) and Zahra Golabian (زهرا گلابیان), the tire (or appliance?) business of Farzad Sabeti (فرزاد ثابتی) and a photocopy shop belonging to Shahin Sana’i (شاهین سنایی).

Tenakbon: The home security workhops of Omid Qaderi (امید قادری), the air conditioning workshops of Farhad Taqipour (فرهاد تقی پور) and of Michele and Armin Esma`ilpour (میشل و آرمین اسماعیل پور) and the refrigeration service business of Ruhollah Iqani (روح الله ایقانی).

Babolsar: The musical supplies business of Mithaq Leqa’i (میثاق لقایی), the photography business of Nasser Mir-Mohammadi (ناصر میرمحمدی) and the toyshop of Barzu Raf`ati (برزو رفعتی).

Persian source at Iran Wire
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August 16, 2015

Bahai student expelled from a private university in Sari (updated)

Taghato, August 14, 2015.

Dorsa Qolizadeh (درسا قلی‌زاده), a Bahai student of architecture who had managed to enjoy two terms of tertiary education at Rouzbahan University, a private institution in Sari, has been expelled from the University following pressure from Iran’s Ministry of ‘Intelligence.’ She has described the events in a letter, on which this summary is based. [Iran Press Watch has now translated the entire letter.] During the examinations at the end of the second term, on June 9, she was summoned by telephone to the Sari office of the Ministry of Intelligence, and asked why she had enrolled when she knew the Bahais were not permitted to attend higher education in Iran. She was accused of teaching the Bahai Faith on the campus, but without any specifics about when or how she was supposed to have done this. When she asked for evidence, she was told it was not her place to ask questions. The two interrogators told her that there were three possibilities: continue in her religious beliefs, and be expelled from the University; continue her studies outside Iran; or renounce the Bahai religion, and go to the Friday Imam [to declare herself a Shiah Muslim], in which case her conversion to Islam would be published in the newspapers and she could continue her studies. Ironically, her examination for the following day would be on the subject “The Islamic Perspective.” She replied that people believe in their hearts, you (the Ministry) cannot take their faith from them, and chose to stick to her beliefs. She was able to sit the last two examinations, and tell her friends that she was being expelled. She reports a great measure of solidarity from her classmates and friends. Next day, she was summoned to the University to sign a form. She did so, and then realized that the form said she was withdrawing from the course. The university staff may have meant well, since signing the form also meant that she would get part of her university fees back.

[I have used her letter, on HRANA, to supplemented the Tagheto report ~Sen]

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August 4, 2015

Over 30 Bahai businesses closed in Sari

Bahai News (facebook page), August 4, 2015.

Reports from Sari indicate that over 30 Bahais business have been closed by authorities, and that the closures are continuing. Most of the closures have now lasted from 3 weeks to 3 months, and in a few cases much longer. Local Bahais say that officials have two aims: to isolate the Bahais from society, and to force them to leave the country. By keeping the shops locked up, officials ensure that perishable contents will deteriorate. Officials have also tried to get the Bahais to sign an undertaking not to close their businesses on Bahai Holy Days. However the law allows all businesses to close without giving notice, on 15 days during the year, except that businesses such as bakeries are only allowed to close for 3 days and are required to give notice to the authorities before they close.

On May 27 I reported that eleven Bahai business had been closed in Sari. Since then, I have reported on five more closures. the most recent on June 30. The present report apparently includes these earlier closures. In recent months there has been a wave of closures for Bahai business across Iran, in cities such as Hamadan, Karaj, Kerman, Rafsanjan, Tehran and Zahedan, but the Bahais in Sari have faced the heaviest persecution. See the category “economic discrimination” on this blog.

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June 30, 2015

Bahai business closed in Sari

Bahai News (Persian), June 30, 2015.

A workshop belonging to Mr. Houman Bakhtavar ( هومن بخت آور ) was closed by the local authorities this morning, apparently because Mr. Bakhtavar is a Bahai. There has been a sharp rise in the number of Bahai businesses closed by the authorities in Sari in recent months, as well as in Kerman, Hamadan and Rafsanjan. See the category ‘Economic discrimination‘ on this blog.

[Note to readers: A Bahai of the same name was arrested in Mashhad in 2005, and began a two-year sentence for his Bahai beliefs on August 3, 2010. I would like to know whether this is the same Houman Bakhtavar who now lives (and tries to work) in Sari. ~ Sen]

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June 19, 2015

Another Bahai business closed in Sari

Bahai News (Persian), June 19, 2015.

A carpentry workshop belonging to Qavam-adin Thabeteyan ( قوام‌الدین ثابتیان), a 74-year-old Bahai from Sari, is still closed, almost two months after local authorities moved to close about a dozen Bahai-run businesses in the city. This workshop was closed on April 26, and is not included in the list of 11 Bahai businesses closed by authorities in our last update, on May 27. At the time it was reported that 15 Bahai-run businesses had been shut down, but details were only available for eleven. The business licences of the owners have also been withdrawn, to prevent them opening new premises. Two officers from the office that administers business premises and licensing in Sari who went to Mr. Thabeteyan’s workshop asked him to sign a written pledge that he would abide by the commercial code, close his premises on public holidays, and seek prior permission from the local authorities before closing his business for one or more days. However the commercial code does not include any rule limiting the closing days of businesses such as Mr. Thabeteyan’s workshop, that is, one-man businesses which do not provide essential goods or services. The code allows such businesses to be closed for up to 15 days every year, for any reason, and for more than 15 days providing the authorities are notified. Thus the third condition imposed by authorities is itself contrary to the commercial code, serving no other purpose but to force Bahai businesses to open on the days of the nine most important Bahai religious observances. Mr. Thabeteyan therefore refused to sign this undertaking, and his workshop is still closed. The report does not indicate what has happened with the other eleven Bahais business that are known to have been closed at the time.

On July 19, 2010, Mr. Thabetan was arrested in his home by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence. His home had previously been searched by officers of the Ministry, who at that time confiscated religious materials. It appears he was arrested for assisting educational rights activists. He was released one month later. Sarah Sabeteyan ( سحر ثابتیان ) was expelled from the Zahra secondary school in Sari on 1 November, for “blasphemy” and because she is a Bahai.

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March 2, 2015

Bahai libraries banned, closed, in four cities in Iran

Maf News, February 24, 2015.

A recent memo signed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (pasdaran) states that Bahais are not permitted to own or manage libraries. In recent days, the Basij militia in the cities of Semnan and Sari (in the North), and in Yazd and Kerman (South-central Iran) has worked with the Pasdaran’s cultural surveillance agency to close libraries owned or managed by Bahais. The relevant documents were signed by local security forces. Six libraries in Semnan and Yazd have been closed, [Note: these are not necessarily libraries of Bahai books for use by Bahais: literacy programmes, especially in rural areas, have long been a focus of Baha’i social work, in Iran and elsewhere. There is already a long-standing practice of confiscating Bahai books and images found in Bahai homes during raids: no new policy would be required to close such personal libraries. ~ Sen]

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December 22, 2012

Three Sari Bahais free on bail in Mashhad

HRANA, December 22

On December 20, Behzad Dhabihi, Anvar Moslemi and Eshkan Zamani ( بهزاد ذبیحی، انور مسلمی و اشکان زمانی ), were freed on bail. They were arrested in Sari by security forces on December 2, and then transferred to Mashhad. Behzad Dhabihi and Anvar Moslemi were freed on bail of 50 million tumans (31,000 euros, $41,000 US), and Eshkan Zamani provided the operating licence of his business as surety. It is said that the case has been found to be outside the jurisdiction of the court in Mashhad, and has been transferred back to Sari.

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December 5, 2012

Three Bahai detainees transferred from Sari to Mashhad

HRANA, December 5

On December 2, security forces arrested Behzad Dhabihi, Anvar Moslemi and Eshkan Zamani ( بهزاد ذبیحی، انور مسلمی و اشکان زمانی ) in Sari. After 48 hours in detention, they have been charged and their immediate transfer to Mashhad has been authorised. More details of the arrests have also emerged. On the morning of December 2, agents from the Ministry of Intelligence (more…)

December 3, 2012

Three new arrests in Sari

HRANA, December 3

On December 2, security forces arrested Behzad Dhabihi, Anvar Moslami and Eshkan Zamani ( بهزاد ذبیحی، انور مسلمی و اشکان زمانی ) in Sari. The officers went to their home and workplace. Their home was searched and personal items including books and CDs were confiscated. The three were taken to the Ministry of Intelligence in Sari. Behzad Dhabihi was arrested twice previously, in March 2011 and April 2012, and released on bail after a period in detention. Anvar Moslami has also been arrested twice in the past, in December 2008 and June 2009, and was sentenced to one year in prison. He was released only recently, after completing this sentence.

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November 12, 2012

Student expelled in Sari

HRANA, November 12

Samiyyeh Quli-nezhad ( سامیه قلی‌نژاد ), a Bahai from Sari who was studying applied mathematics, has been expelled from Behshahr University because of her Bahai Faith. She was in the first year of her study. The decision was conveyed to her in a telephone call from the university’s security office on November 10. She reports that the officials told her that the only way she could be allowed to return to the university was if she announced that she had become a Muslim. On November 11, her family went to the security office with the offer that she could conceal her real beliefs and become a Muslim under pressure, and conceal the reasons for her expulsion from other students. [The offer was apparently rejected.] Samiyyeh’s sister, Suna Quli-nezhad ( سونا قلی‌نژاد ) was also expelled from university because of her Bahai beliefs, in 2009, after one semester of study in herbal medicine.

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November 2, 2012

One arrest in Sari

HRANA, November 1

Shirin Foroughiyan ( شیرین فروغیان ), a Bahai resident of Sari, was arrested at her home on October 30. Agents from the Ministry of Intelligence searched her home and seized a computer, printer, and religious books and images. They had a search warrant, and wrote in the word “arrest” themselves. The warrant was in any case invalid, since it did not bear the letterhead of a court, and was not signed by a judge. It is notable that `Abas Alizadeh ( عباس علیزاده ), a Ministry of Intelligence interrogator specialising in Bahai matters, was present during the raid. When Shirin Foroughiyan persisted in demanding a valid warrant, he threatened to beat her harder. Shirin Foroughiyan and her husband `Adel Samimi ( عادل صمیمی ) were arrested previously, in the winter of 2008, when they were fined 300,000 tumans each (about 210 euros, 300 USD).

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July 19, 2012

Sara Mahbubi begins her sentence

PCED, July 19

Sara Mahbubi ( سارا محبوبی ), a Bahai student excluded from higher education, reported to Sari Prison this morning to begin serving a 10-month sentence. This will be her third period of imprisonment. The first began on June 14, 2010, when she was called to the Ministry of Intelligence building in Sari and held for 24 days before being freed on bail. On July 21, 2011, she was again arrested and held for 17 before being freed on bail. Her brother Wasal Mahbubi ( وصال محبوبی ) was also imprisoned for a time last year.

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