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Laila Falck

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Continous persecution of the Iranian Bahais
2/21/2010 9:07:53 PM

Dear readers

Today I will give some information about the situation for the Iranian Bahais. It is not very bright.

Last updated: 21 February 2010den 21 februari 2010den 21 februari 2010

Note: This report is provided as a service to news media and others desiring current information about the Baha'is in Iran. All details have been verified by the Baha'i International Community.

Words in italics have been altered or added since the previous update on 13 February.

The Baha’i community of Iran, numbering about 300,000 people, is the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the country.

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Summary of latest news:

Summary of latest news

Further details

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Next court session for Baha’i “leaders” to be 10 April

The trial of seven Baha’i leaders imprisoned since 2008 will continue on 10 April, according to written notice formally conveyed to their attorneys. The trial opened on 12 January with a closed session where charges were read. According to accounts in government-sponsored news media, the defendants were accused of espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, the establishment of an illegal administration, cooperation with Israel, sending secret documents outside the country, acting against the security of the country, and corruption on earth. The second session was on 7 February and reportedly involved mainly procedural matters.

All the charges have been categorically denied by the Baha’is. Attorneys associated with the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran – co-founded by Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi – are representing the defendants.

The names of the seven are Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm. Mrs. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008 and the others on 14 May 2008.

Jail conditions are harsh, and although all seven were at first held incommunicado, they are now allowed periodic visits with family members. The visits are often through a barrier and sometimes are canceled altogether.

Until their imprisonment, the seven Baha’is were part of an ad hoc group called the Friends in Iran that helped tend to the needs of the 300,000 Baha’is in that country. The Friends group has now been disbanded, as have smaller committees that assisted Baha’is on the local level.

The Baha’i International Community has stated the following about the charges against the Baha’is:

  • The accusation of spying is contrived and has long been used as a pretext to persecute Baha’is and as an attempt to impede the progress of the Bahá’í community. Since the 1930s, Baha’is have successively been accused of being tools of Russian imperialism, of British colonialism, of American expansionism, and, most recently, of Zionism. The Baha’i Faith has never been a part of any of these movements. There is no truth to this allegation, nor is there any evidence to support it.

  • That the international headquarters of the Baha’i Faith is located within the borders of modern-day Israel is purely the result of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, being banished from his native Tehran and sent – by Persian and Ottoman authorities in the 19th century – to perpetual exile in the city of Acre, near Haifa. Baha’u’llah arrived in Acre in 1868, 80 years before the establishment of the state of Israel. The Iranian government is well aware of this history.

  • Accusations that Baha’is promote “propaganda against the Islamic order” are completely without foundation – Baha’is respect all religions, including Islam, and are loyal to government.

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More Baha’is arrested

Thirteen Baha’is were arrested in Tehran on 10 and 11 February. Of these, 11 are still detained. This is in addition to a different group of 13 Baha’is who were arrested on 3 January. Of those individuals, 10 are still jailed.

Since the beginning of January, arrests have occurred in Semnan, Babolsar, Mashhad, and Karaj, in addition to Tehran.

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Some 60 Baha’is in prison

There are nearly 60 Iranian Baha’is currently in prison because of their religion.

The number of Baha’is in detention varies as new people are arrested but others released after posting cash, property deeds, or business licenses as collateral.

The deposit required for temporary release from custody is often exorbitant. Several recent cases in Semnan and Shiraz have involved bail as high as the equivalent of $150,000.

As of 16 February, the cases of at least 256 Baha’is were still active with authorities. These include individuals in prison, those who have been released pending trial, those who have appealed their verdicts, those awaiting notification to begin serving prison sentences, and a few who are serving periods of internal exile. Thousands more have been questioned, threatened, or deprived of pensions, livelihood, or education.

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Baha’i goes on trial in connection with Ashura demonstrations

A member of the Baha’i Faith was among the 16 individuals put on trial in Tehran on 30 January, apparently accused of participating in the Ashura demonstrations on 27 December. The trial is ongoing.

The Baha’i International Community has issued a statement condemning the lack of due process at the trial and calling on fair-minded people everywhere to raise their voices against human rights violations in Iran. The Baha’i defendant at the trial was among those arrested in Tehran on 3 January. Ten Baha’is of this group are still detained at Gohardasht prison in Karaj. Prosecutors have alleged that arms and ammunition were found in some of their homes – accusations that the Baha’i International Community categorically rejects.

There are fears that charges against these 10 individuals will be used to create false evidence against the seven Baha’i leaders who have been held since 2008. See news stories at and

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International reaction

On 15 February, the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva conducted the Universal Periodic Review of Iran, with a number of countries and international human rights organizations expressing concern over Iran’s deteriorating human rights record. See article at

Two days later, Amnesty International criticized Iran for rejecting important recommendations by the United Nations to improve human rights in the country.

The European Parliament on 10 February adopted a detailed resolution about Iran in which it strongly condemned Iran’s human rights abuses. The resolution included mention of the Baha’is and other minority groups whose rights are denied, including Sunnis, Christians, Kurdish, Azeri, Baluch, and Arabs. On 11 February, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Iranian League for the Defence of Human Rights issued a joint statement titled “Stop the repression against Baha’i.” It referred specifically to recent arrests and to the trial of the seven leaders.

(For details of these and many other statements, see separate section on international reaction. Samples of media reports can be viewed here.)

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The situation overall

The government campaign to eradicate the Baha’i community of Iran continues, with arrests, confiscation of assets, closing of businesses, long and frightening interrogations, raids on homes, denial of education and employment, harassment of schoolchildren, and other forms of persecution.

In the past year, Baha’is have been arrested, detained, interrogated, or had their homes searched in more than two dozen cities and towns, including Babol, Babolsar, Bushehr, Delijan, Ghaemshahr, Hamadan, Isfahan, Karaj, Kashan, Kerman, Khorramabad, Khouzestan, Mahforouzak, Marvdasht, Mashhad, Miandoab, Najafabad, Qazvin, Sari, Semnan, Shiraz, Tehran, Tonekabon, Yasouj, and Yazd.

Harassment over Baha’i burials and the desecration of cemeteries are clear indications that the persecution is based solely on religion and not the result of any threat posed by Baha’is, as officials sometimes claim. In the past year, Baha’i cemeteries in Tehran, Ghaemshahr, Marvdasht, Semnan, Sari, and Isfahan have been defaced, bulldozed, or in some way blocked to the Baha’i community.

Universities and other institutions of higher education to a large extent remain closed to Baha’i students. In recent years, those who do manage to get admitted generally have been expelled during the course of their first year. Recently, such expulsions have been reported in Semnan, Zanjan, Yazd, Gonbad, Khoramshahr, and Chabahar. There are continuing reports of youth being denied enrollment in high schools and even primary schools. In Tehran recently, an eighth-grader who won a key competition and thus automatically qualified for a school for the gifted was denied admission because of her religion.

Home raids continue in various cities and usually follow the pattern of agents from the Ministry of Intelligence searching a home; confiscating computers, mobile phones, books, and other materials; and taking residents into custody. Authorities also apply pressure to Muslim citizens to discriminate against and mistreat Baha’is.

Trumped-up charges against Baha’is are used to justify arrests. A Baha’i woman in Semnan was sentenced to 3½ years in prison for, among other things, “membership in anti-regime groups associated with Baha’is.”

Economic persecution is acute, with both jobs and business licenses being denied to Baha’is. Numerous cases have been reported of long-time shop owners being forced to surrender business licenses under threat of arrest. The operator of one of five optical stores owned by Baha’is in Nazarabad – shops that were closed by authorities more than a year ago – managed to get a court verdict allowing her to reopen her shop, but the Ministry of Intelligence is preventing her from doing so. More recently, optical shops have been forced to close in Khomein and Rafsanjan.

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Summary of types of persecution

Harassment of Baha’is is pervasive and includes many incidents of all of the following:

  • Arrests and detention, with imprisonment lasting for days, months, or years. In cases where the Baha’i is released, substantial bail is often required.
  • Direct intimidation and questioning by authorities, sometimes with the use of high-intensity lights and physical mistreatment.
  • Searches of homes and business, usually with Baha’i books and other items confiscated.
  • School expulsions and harassment of schoolchildren.
  • Prohibition on Baha’is attending universities.
  • Court proceedings where Baha’is are accused of promoting propaganda against the government “for the benefit of the Bahaist sect.”
  • Monitoring of the bank accounts, movement, and activities of Baha’is, including official questioning of Baha’is requiring them to give information about their lives, actions, neighbors, etc.
  • Denial or confiscation of business licenses.
  • Denial of work opportunities in general.
  • Denial of rightful inheritances to Baha’is.
  • Physical assaults, and efforts to drive Baha’is out of towns and villages.
  • Desecration and destruction of Baha’i cemeteries, and harassment over burial rights.
  • Dissemination, including in official news media, of misinformation about Baha’is, and incitement of hatred against Baha’is.
  • Evictions from places of business, including Baha’i doctors from their offices and clinics.
  • Intimidation of Muslims who associate with Baha’is.
  • Attempts by authorities to get Baha’is to spy on other Baha’is.
  • Threatening phone calls and letters to Baha’is.
  • Denial of pension benefits.
  • Denial of access to publishing or copying facilities for Baha’i literature.
  • Confiscation of property
"Earth is but one country and mankind it's citizens" "The source of arts and crafts is the power of reflection" Bahá'u'lláh.1817-1892 Founder of the Bahái'Faith

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