Saba Sefidi, a Bahai from Tehran, was freed from Evin Prison yesterday, February 23, on a bail of1.5 billion tomans ($US355,000). Sefidi had been summoned to the court at Evin Prison on January 11 and arrested at that time.
In recent months, the harassment and the arrests of Iranian Baha’i citizens have intensified. Since the presidency of Ebrahim Raisi started, tens of Baha’is in various towns, from Tehran, Shiraz and Tabriz to Bandar Mahshahr, Babol and Qaemshahr, have been subjected to home searches, arrests, trials and prison sentences. The authorities have also refused to provide clear answers about the arrests – including when some prison sentences will begin – meaning that both the convicted, the already imprisoned, and their families, all live in uncertainty.
In a recent statement, the Baha’i International Community also expressed alarm over continuing confiscation of Baha’i properties in Iran. The statement cites the seizure of 13 irrigated properties owned by the Baha’is in the village of Kata, in the province of Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, farmlands surrounding the village of Roshankooh in Mazandaran Province, and a new court order to seize properties belonging to six Baha’is in Semnan Province.
Saba Sefidi had been in detention for more than 40 days. She was allowed to call her mother on some occasions, for just a few minutes, but she was not allowed to talk about the charges against her nor where she was detained.
On September 30, 2021, security agents raided Sefidi’s home in Tehran, searched the property, and seized numerous personal items. Sefidi was later summoned for questioning to the Evin court and was released after a few hours of interrogation. In January, she was once again summoned to Evin; the summons cited “attributed charges” as the reason for being called to the court, but did not clarify the nature of the charges. Sefidi was arrested on January 11 during her hearing at Branch 2 of the Evin court
Before her release on bail, Sefidi’s family visited judicial authorities, court officials and on two occasions the assistant prosecutor, without receiving any clear information on Sefidi’s whereabouts.
A source close to Sefidi told IranWire: “Three or four times, and while somebody [a prison official] was supervising her, Saba had very short phone conversations with her mother, but the authorities have not agreed to in-person visits. This made the family worried about her health and physical conditions.”
According to this source, a week ago the prosecutor’s office told the family that their daughter had filed an objection to her arrest and, since it would take another 20 or 30 days for the objection to be processed, she would remain in detention until then. But a couple of days later, when Sefidi was on the phone with her family, she told them that she knew nothing about the alleged objection. Her mother went to the court, was told that the letter of objection had been sent to the Revolutionary Court’s branch on Tehran’s Moallem Street, and they were awaiting the court’s response. They even gave Saba Sefidi’s mother the reference number.
When Sefidi’s mother went to that branch of the Revolutionary Court, the official in charge said that he had not received such a letter and told her that security cases, such as the case of her daughter, are never referred to that branch but are always processed at Evin.
It is estimated that more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran, making them the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the country, but the Islamic Republic’s constitution only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism as “legitimate” religions. Baha’is are denied many of their rights, including the right to higher education, the right to work for the government, the right to hold religious ceremonies and the right to free speech.
Iran is a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Islamic Republic has always claimed that it respects the rights embedded in this document. But the Iranian regime does not believe Baha’is deserve the rights enunciated in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.”