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Baha’is of Iran

“Relentless Oppression:” 90-Year-Old Baha’i Arrested, 180 More Targeted

August 16, 2023
3 min read
In an August 16 statement, the BIC’s United Nations office in Geneva says there have been “over 180 incidents of persecution against the community in recent weeks”
In an August 16 statement, the BIC’s United Nations office in Geneva says there have been “over 180 incidents of persecution against the community in recent weeks”

Iranian authorities have arrested Jamaloddin Khanjani, a 90-year-old Baha’i in failing health who already served 10 years in prison for his religious beliefs, in what the Baha'i International Community (BIC) calls a “new wave of repression” targeting the religious minority in the country.

In an August 16 statement, the BIC’s United Nations office in Geneva says there have been “over 180 incidents of persecution against the community in recent weeks.”

Khanjani was arrested on August 13 with his daughter Maria Khanjani, the statement says, noting that he was already imprisoned between 2008 and 2018 because of his membership of an informal leadership group for the Baha’is in Iran, known as the “Yaran.”

The group was formed with knowledge of the authorities as a result of the government’s banning of formal Baha’i institutions in Iran. The Yaran was disbanded in 2008, and all its seven members were imprisoned until 2018, when they were released after serving their 10-year sentences.

Khanjani’s latest arrest comes days after the 10-year prison terms of two other former Yaran members, Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi, were upheld earlier this week on appeal. The BIC says that the 70-year-old Sabet “suffers from significant health issues and has been transferred to the hospital from prison numerous times in the past year.”

A fourth member of the Yaran, Afif Naimi, who was arrested a year ago, has recently received a seven-year jail term. He is also said to be suffering health issues.

“The cruelty meted out to the Baha’is in Iran has no limits. Arresting a 90-year-old and others with health issues who already spent 10 years in prison for their faith shows the government’s desperate attempt to continue its fruitless efforts to destroy the Baha’i community in Iran,” says Simin Fahandej, the BIC’s representative to the UN in Geneva.

“No human being, bound by even the slightest principles of fairness, would regard it as anything other than a gross and outrageous miscarriage of justice to imprison, without a shred of evidence, proof or charge, a 90-year-old man who has already suffered profound persecution for his faith,” she added.

Nine other Baha’is accused of disrupting pharmaceutical supplies were also arrested on August 13, the BIC statement says. They are the owners and employees of pharmacy businesses which were sealed and shut down by the authorities.

“In the face of growing solidarity between the Baha'is and the general population the government is trying to drive a wedge by calling these legitimate Baha’i-owned trading businesses ‘hoarders,’” according to the BIC.

The new arrests have taken the number of Baha’is arrested or imprisoned in recent weeks to nearly 60, while more than 26 Baha’is received prison sentences, it says.

Eighteen other Baha’is have faced interrogations, 59 Baha’i-owned businesses were reportedly sealed by the authorities and the homes of nine others were raided and searched.

Baha'is, who number some 300,000 in Iran, have been systematically persecuted since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Shia Islam is the state religion in the country. The constitution recognizes several minority faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, but not the Baha'i faith.

“The Iranian government has seen the unprecedented worldwide support for the Baha’i community after the Our Story Is One campaign and the Baha’i community’s efforts to call for unity among all groups and it is now manifesting its desperation to eradicate the community — by targeting and increasing its persecution on the elderly and the sick.” Fahandej says.

“If Iran can learn one thing from its past cruelty of over 40 years, it is that its continued persecution of the Baha’is has proved to be counterproductive, raising awareness of the situation of the Baha’is globally, creating stronger solidarity between the Baha’i community and the wider population in Iran and proving to the international community the innocence of the Baha’is in the face of relentless oppression.”



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