On Sunday, Ministry of Intelligence agents carried out coordinated raids on the homes of a number of Baha'is in different cities in Iran. Several of the targets were arrested during the searches.
Among them were three former Iranian Baha’i community leaders, Fariba Kamalabadi, Mahvash Sabet and Afif Naimi. All three had already served 10 years in prison, and had been released in 2017 and 2018.
The Ministry described them and other detainees in a statement as "members of the central core of the Baha'i espionage party". They were further accused of "invasive propaganda", “infiltrating the education system” and "the organized promotion of no hijab”.
Ever since its establishment, the Islamic Republic of Iran has accused Baha’is of spying on the pretext that the community’s main religious and administrative center lies in Israel. This ignores the fact that Baha'u'llah, the prophet-founder of the Baha’i faith, was exiled to that country by Iran’s Qajar and Ottoman leadership years before the establishment of the State of Israel. Baha'is live in all countries of the world, but nowhere else do they face the charge of espionage.
Farhad Sabetan, a spokesman for the Baha’i International Community (BIC), told IranWire the allegations made in the statement “are so oft-repeated that they have become meaningless, and not accepted by any clued-up or fair-minded Iranian.
“There is no active official or unofficial Baha'i institution in Iran because the government of the Islamic Republic banned it years ago. Even when there were some unofficial community leaders, the government arrested them. Now, three of the same ex-leaders have been detained again.”
Just like others issued over the past 43 years, he said, the statement was “baseless, unfounded and lacking any verified legal evidence”: “The constant harassment of Baha'is only evidences the Iranian government's drive to spread hatred against them.”
Baha'is in Iran have faced continuous waves of persecution and pressure from the state ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The past few months have seen this pattern exponentially worsen.
“There is no legal justification for suppression of the Baha'is, or any other minority,” Dr. Sabetan said. “This campaign is solely over their religious beliefs. With what document or proof they can show that Baha'is promote unveiling?
“There’s nothing to say this in any statements from the Baha'i community, all of which are available on the internet and are free to read. The only point they do make is the principle of equality between men and women in the Baha'i religion. Perhaps, in a topsy-turvy way, the regime is using this to claim Baha’is are anti-hijab.”
Figures collated by the BIC indicate the homes of at least 52 Baha'i families were raided by security agents on Sunday, and at least 13 Baha’is were arrested on this day. IranWire has been provided with the names of some of those affected, as follows.
Arrested: Mahvash Sabet, Fariba Kamalabadi
Raided: Nima Haghar, Nazila Haghar, Shaghayegh Keshavarz, Esmaeil Jamali
Arrested: Raheleh Keshani, Ehsan Jaberi, Bahareh Bangaleh
Raided: Hedieh Ghiabi, Shadi Khasezad (Tabrizi), Farideh Hedayati
Arrested: Behnam Momtazi
Raided: Masoud Bahrami, Navid Molaei, Sogand Rangraz, Rozhin Boyukaghaei
Arrested: Afif Naimi, Saman Ostovar
Raided: Pouya Sarraf, Bita Momtazi, Sara Shabanpour, Nasir Heravi, Sabin Yazdani, Mozaffar Nabili, Kamyar Habibi, Nakisa Sadeghi (also issued a court summons)
Arrested: Soha Sabeti (Rahmani)
Raided: Navid Misaghi, Soraya Manouchehrzadeh, Sanaz Alizadeh
Raided: Shakib Masoumi, Afsoon Moodi, Neda Taefi, Shaghayegh Poorenayati, Shafagh Fahandezh
Raided: Azadeh Yaghini, Afsaneh Tashakor
Raided: Fataneh Ansari (also spent several hours in custody)