Prison authorities have released Baha’i leader Fariba Kamalabadi from prison on a temporary basis, IranWire has learned. Kamalabadi, who is serving a 10-year sentence for “insulting religious sanctities” and “propaganda against the regime,” was given a five-day furlough, though it is not clear whether she has been granted temporary freedom on medical grounds.
Kamalabadi is one of seven prominent Baha’i leaders jailed in 2008. They were originally charged with espionage for Israel in addition to the charges, and handed down prison sentences of 20 years. In 2010, an appeals court overturned the espionage charges, which reduced the sentences to 10 years.
The Yaran (or “Friends in Iran”) have all been targeted for their adherence to the Baha’i faith, and for being actively involved in tending to the spiritual and social matters of the 300,000-strong Baha’i community in Iran. Yaran members Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Vahid Tizfahm are all currently being held in prison.
Since her arrest, authorities have regularly moved Kamalabadi between various Iranian prisons. Most recently, she has been serving time at Evin Prison, after having been moved from Rajai Shahr Prison in 2011 after the women’s ward was closed at the prison.
Baha’i News reported that authorities had granted Kamalabadi a furlough, and that there was speculation in Iran that other female members of Yaran might also be temporarily released, though this has not been confirmed.
Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Iranian government has persistently targeted Baha’is, jailing leaders, closing down businesses, and preventing them from pursuing further education. Responding to the educational discrimination they faced, Baha’is launched the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE), an underground university, in 1989. Qualifications from BIHE are now accepted at dozens of universities around the world.
IranWire’s sister organization, Not a Crime, promotes education equality around the world, and raises awareness of the situation for Baha’is in Iran through street art in major cities around the world.