The Iranian government’s systematic campaign to persecute the Baha’i religious minority accelerated again this past week with the arrest, court hearing or imprisonment of at least 18 more Baha’i citizens across the country, bringing the June total to 44 people. Hundreds of others, meanwhile, also await summonses to court or to prison.
The Baha’i International Community (BIC) said the increasing pace of arrests and imprisonments in recent weeks constituted a worrying new chapter in the persecution and shows that the authorities are increasingly implementing their plans to jail or otherwise harass the Baha’i community.
The past week saw the new arrests of three women in Shiraz, including two in their early twenties, and a 41-year-old mother of two, all of whom remain in detention without charge in the detention center of the Shiraz Intelligence Office.
One of the young women had previously sought entry to university in 2019 after passing Iran’s national entrance exams. The authorities told her that she had an “incomplete file”—a common experience among Baha’is who apply and are denied entrance to university. Baha’is have been denied access to higher education in Iran since the 1983 Cultural Revolution.
The father of one of these young women had a heart attack after his daughter's arrest.
Seven other Baha’is, all of whom had been previously arrested and released on bail, were also summoned to court hearings last week and await the outcomes.
In Bandar-e-Lengeh, in southern Iran, officials forced the closure of a Baha’i-owned workshop and denied business licenses to two other optical businesses, depriving these families of their livelihoods and further strangling the economic opportunity of members of the community.
In Sanandaj, and several other small cities in the ethnic Kurdish region of western Iran, members of the Baha’i community have been under constant surveillance, harassment and have been threatened because of their beliefs.
“The Baha’is in Iran hardly make it through a single week without suffering new arrests, summonses to prison and other forms of persecution by the Iranian government,” said Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the BIC to the United Nations. “We are sounding the alarm: the Baha’is in Iran are suffering the worst coordinated attack we have seen in many years.”
The latest developments follow the issuing of jail and exile sentences against 26 Baha’is in Shiraz last month on charges of assembly and collusion “for the purpose of causing intellectual and ideological insecurity in Muslim society.” The BIC insists the Baha’is had, in fact, been gathering across Shiraz as part of their efforts to address local community needs and to assess the severity of the region’s water crisis. A number of young children will be separated from their parents as a result of these sentences.
Two years ago, also in Shiraz, 40 other Baha’is were summoned before a revolutionary court where an official threatened to ‘uproot’ the community from the city.
IranWire's founding Editor-in-Chief, Maziar Bahari, who made several films about the Baha’is in Iran, said the ongoing arrests showed that the Iranian government was trying to “bury” the Baha’i community in the country.
“The Iranian authorities jail you if they want the world to forget about you and to make you lose hope for the future,” Bahari said. “Thousands of Baha’is in Iran have been jailed over the past 40 years, which testifies to Iran’s ambition to bury the Baha’is, and now it seems this situation is getting worse. I hope the international community can press the Iranian government to relent.”
Newly reported actions taken against the Baha’is this month include:
- On 28 June 2022, Mrs. Jila Sharafi Nasrabadi, a Baha’i resident of Shiraz, was arrested by security forces, who searched her home and confiscated numerous items, and was taken to the detention center of the Shiraz Intelligence Office. Mrs. Nasrabadi, aged 41, is married and has two children.
- On 26 June 2022, Ms. Shaghayegh Khanehzarrin, and Ms. Negar Ighani, both in their early 20s, were arrested in Shiraz. The charges against these two individuals are unknown and they remain in detention at the Shiraz Intelligence Office. On 20 June 2022, Mr. Moin Misaghi, Mr. Mehran Mosalla Nejad, and Ms. Negareh Ghaderi and Ms. Hayedeh Foroutan were summoned to appear in court in Shiraz.
- On 19 June 2022, Mr. Said Abedi, Mr. Vahid Dana, and Mr. Salehi, first name unknown, were summoned to appear in court in Shiraz.On 18 June 2022, Mr. Fardin Naddafian, from Tehran, was transferred to Evin Prison to serve his sentence. Additional information is available regarding this case.On 17 June 2022, Ms. Haideh Ram was transferred to Adilabad Prison in Shiraz to serve her sentence. Five other Baha’is, Mr. Borhan Esmaili, Ms. Maryam Bashir, Ms. Faranak Sheikhi, Ms. Minou Bashir, and Ms. Dorna Ismaili, who had previously been sentenced to a total of more than 64 years in prison in a joint case with Ms. Ram, were also summoned to serve their sentences. Additional information is available regarding these cases.
- On 15 June 2022, Ms. Samin Ehsani, a specialist in child education, was arrested and transferred to Evin Prison to serve her sentence. Additional information is available regarding this case.
The Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, have been persecuted in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. A secret memorandum approved by Iran’s Supreme Leader in 1991 calls for the “progress and development” of the Baha’i community to be blocked by barring them from university, disrupting their ability to earn livelihoods, and through other discriminatory means.