Three Hollywood actors and celebrities, Mark Ruffalo, Rainn Wilson and Justin Baldoni, have denounced the Iranian government's ongoing persecution of the Baha'i community in a series of tweets published last week. The interventions came after security agents arrested 13 young Baha'is in the city of Ghaemshahr in Iran's Mazandaran province.
This is very disturbing news and the international community should be aware of this. https://t.co/rhVlGjJDsR— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) September 1, 2022
No charges against the young Baha'is have been announced.
"This is very disturbing news and the international community should be aware of this," Ruffalo tweeted to his 8.2 million followers, sharing the latest news release published by the Baha'i International Community (BIC) last week. His tweet was shared nearly 300 times as of Monday and liked more than a thousand times.
Rainn Wilson called the situation "shameful", in a post to his 4.4 million followers, and using the #freeBahaiyouth hashtag that had emerged online, and said that the Iranian authorities were "criminalising" Baha'i citizens. And Justin Baldoni asked his followers to retweet the news and said it was "unbelievable that this is still happening".
Thousands of other tweets by Iranian activists and citizens, as well as many supporters around the world, also shared the latest news and expressed support for the human rights of the Iranian Baha'i community.
The 13 young Baha'is had been arrested on 31 August, in Ghaemshahr, mostly while visiting a private home where they were studying together and discussing education and social progress. A fourteenth Baha'i, an adult, was also arrested. Their names are Hengameh Alipour, Negar Darabi, Golbon Fallah, Mahsa Fathi, Nazanin Goli, Mani Gholinejad, Samiyeh Gholinejad, Bita Haghighi, Sanaz Hekmat-Shoar, Afnaneh Nematian, Basir Samimi, Mojir Samimi, Sam Samimi and Anis Sanaie.
The arrests are the latest in a month-long crackdown against Baha'is across the country by the Iranian government. Authorities have targeted Baha’is in at least 245 incidents of persecution over the past 32 days, the BIC said, with arrests and imprisonment, the destruction of homes and confiscation of properties, raids on private and business premises, beatings, the denial of medication to detainees and the denial of higher education to more than one hundred young people.
The crackdown provoked widespread condemnation by the United Nations, several governments, civil society organizations including Amnesty International, and across international and Persian media outlets.
“How ironic that these youth were arrested while studying and discussing the role of education, when they themselves had all been denied access to higher education by the Iranian authorities”, said Simin Fahandej, Representative of the BIC to the United Nations in Geneva. "The Iranian government’s cruelty breaks every measure. Not only does it deprive these youth of entering universities and developing their intellectual capacities, it also denies them the simple right to gather as young people to discuss issues of importance to their generation.”
A statement issued by the Mazandaran province Intelligence Department, meanwhile, acknowledged the arrests and claimed that the detainees were the "central core" of the "Baha'i espionage organisation" in the north of the country.
Human rights observers and activists have repeatedly said that the Iranian government uses hate propaganda and false accusations, such as claiming that the Baha'is are spies, in an attempt to justify their systematic persecution of the religious minority. Last month the BIC revealed a "ploy" by security agents to film a staged video designed to incriminate Baha'is and, last year, the #StopHatePropaganda campaign attracted mass support against the Iranian authorities efforts to incite hatred against Baha'is.
“Iranians of goodwill inside and outside Iran, the international community and countless individuals around the world have unequivocally asked Iran to end its persecution of the Baha’is,” said Ms. Fahandej. “Iran must realize that its continued persecution of the Baha’is only damages its own credibility domestically and internationally, while demonstrating to the world the innocence of the Baha’is in Iran.”