Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence has issued a surreal statement in a bid to legitimize the ongoing mass arrests, imprisonments and property confiscations of Baha’is in Iran.
More than 100 members of the peaceful religious minority group, including former community leaders, have been targeted in the past few weeks while the authorities have raided at least 52 homes and businesses
The statement published by the Ministry on Sunday described the detainees as members of “the Baha’i espionage party”, accusing them of both “spying for Israel” and “the organized promotion of no hijab”.
Those arrested, it claimed, were also “propagating the teachings of the fabricated Baha’i colonialism” and “infiltrat[ing] the educational system at different levels, especially at the pre-school level, across the country”. No evidence for any of the above was presented by the Ministry.
During the raids of Sunday, security forces had descended on the homes of scores of Baha’i citizens in the cities of Tehran, Karaj, Mashhad, Shiraz, Qazvin, Sari and Gorgan, searching and seizing personal items such as mobile phones and laptops.
At least 13 Baha’is were taken into custody, including Mahvash Sabet, Fariba Kamalabadi and Afif Naemi, members of a now-defunct informal group providing pastoral care known as the “Yaran” or “Friends” of Iran, and Saman Ostovar, Sahi Sabeti and Behnam Momtazi.
Also on Sunday, two other Baha’i residents of Shiraz, Saeed Ettehad and Siamak Honarvar, were sent to begin serving arbitrary 27-month sentences in Adelabad Prison. Both were arrested in April and tried at Branch 1 of Shiraz Revolutionary Court on charges of “propaganda against the regime” and “membership of hostile groups”, a reference to their Baha’i faith.
Sunday’s onslaught came days after 20 Baha’is in Shiraz, Tehran, Yazd and Bojnourd were arrested, jailed or subjected to home searches and business closures, and less than a month since 44 others across Iran were also detained, arraigned or imprisoned. Twenty-six individuals among the 44, all in Shiraz, have been sentenced to a combined total of 85 years in prison.
The Baha’i International Community has castigated the Ministry of Intelligence’s “preposterous” message condoning the raids. Diane Ala’i, the BIC’s representative to the United Nations, added: “What the Iranian government is doing is simultaneously an act of gross oppression and a brazen example of the worst kind of hate speech.
“We are outraged that a significant number of Baha'is have been detained again in Iran. It is even more galling that the Ministry of Intelligence is trying to portray these individuals as agents of foreign powers trying to undermine Iran’s security.
“The Ministry’s statement is utterly incoherent and self-contradictory, and the allegations are clearly absurd and baseless. Iran’s authorities, rather than dealing with the challenges of their country, instead direct their attacks on innocents and try to stoke religious hatred.”
“Iran’s government has for more than 40 years alleged that Baha'is are spies for foreign countries but, in all that time, has failed to produce a shred of credible evidence. Now they are reduced to attacking kindergarten and daycare teachers as a threat to national security.”