On Wednesday October 31, Zabihollah Raoufi, a 70-year-old Baha’i shopkeeper from Sanandaj, the capital of Iran’s Kurdistan province, packed his bag, said goodbye to his friends and family and set out for the city’s prison to start serving a one-year sentence. On July 22, Branch 4 of the Kurdistan Appeals Court Raoufi sentenced him to a year in prison and a year of exile in Minab, a city in the southernmost province of Hormozgan, far away from Sanandaj.
“On September 8, 2015, Intelligence Ministry agents raided the home of Raoufi without a warrant,” an individual with close ties to Raoufi’s family told IranWire. “They arrested him after searching the house and confiscating books and anything connected to the Baha’i faith. He was released on bail after a week. During the time he was in detention, Sanandaj’s Intelligence Bureau agents also arrested several of his family friends and pressured them to file complaints against Mr. Raoufi and accuse him of proselytizing for the Baha’i faith. Some of them later told Raoufi that at first they had refused the interrogators’ demand and had denied that Raoufi had tried to convert them to the Baha’i faith. They told the interrogators that Raoufi had only answered questions that they had asked out of curiosity, but the Intelligence Ministry’s interrogators said that even answering such questions was tantamount to proselytizing and, consequently, was a crime.”
According to the source, the detainees were threatened with the death penalty for apostasy and, out of fear for their lives, they were forced to file complaints against Raoufi without the presence of a lawyer.
The first session of Raoufi’s trial was held on December 14, 2015 at Branch 1 of Sanandaj’s Revolutionary Court. The court heard charges against him of “propaganda against the regime” and “assembly and collusion against national security by promoting Baha’ism.” The second session, which had been scheduled to be held under the jurisdiction of Judge Saeedi-Nia on February 13, 2016 was postponed for unknown reasons and was eventually held on October 16 that year. Raoufi was sentenced to one and a half years in prison and one year of exile in Minab. On July 22, 2018 Judge Mostafa Tayyari of Branch 4 of Kurdistan’s Revolutionary Appeals court reduced his prison sentence to one year but retained the exile sentence.
This is the second time that Zabihollah Raoufi has been sentenced to prison. On August 21, 2009, Intelligence Ministry agents arrested him after searching his home and confiscating various items. Five days after his arrest, Raoufi was tried on the charge of “propaganda against the regime” and was sentenced to one year prison in Minab. The court of appeals reduced the sentence to six months in prison in the city of Tuyserkan in the province of Hamadan. After the arrest and during the trials Raoufi was kept at the Sanandaj Intelligence Bureau’s detention center; following four months in “temporary” detention, he was transferred to the prison in Tuyserkan to serve the remainder of his sentence.
Harassing the Whole Family
Zabihollah Raoufi is not the only member of his family to have been harassed by the Intelligence Ministry. In the last decade his wife Parvaneh Rahmani and his son Sama Raoufi have also been arrested and interrogated more than once.
“Five days before the first trial of Mr. Raoufi, Parvaneh Rahmani received a phone call from the Justice Bureau to go [to the bureau] and pick up a notification by the court,” a source from the Baha’i community told IranWire. “Surprised, Parvaneh asked whether there was a case against her at the Revolutionary Court. ‘Yes, you do have a case at the Revolutionary Court!’ she was told. a day later Parvaneh Rahmani was arrested on the street by security agents and their home was searched again.”
She was released on bail after 10 days. Branch 2 of Sanandaj Criminal Court tried Rahmani on the charge of “insulting the sacred” but found her not guilty due to apparent lack of evidence. The plaintiffs in her case were the same friends of the family that Sanandaj’s Intelligence Bureau had forced to bring complaints against her husband.
Like his parents, Sama Raoufi has also been repeatedly arrested and interrogated. On July 19, 2011, he was summoned to Sanandaj’s Intelligence Bureau for a “friendly conversation,” but it turned into hours of interrogation, insults and humiliation. On October 5 of the same year, Intelligence Ministry agents raided his home to arrest Sama but he was not home so the arrest was not carried out. The agents told his parents that their son had distributed unauthorized CDs and that he belonged to an “illegal” music band, but they had found no evidence to support their claims.
A few days earlier the Intelligence Bureau had notified Parvaneh Rahmani that they had to close down their place of business, or otherwise there would be “serious consequences” for the whole family.
In early 2012 Sama Raoufi was again arrested without a warrant as he was leaving his home, this time by plainclothes agents. He was taken to the Intelligence Bureau’s detention center and released on bail after 27 days of “temporary” detention.
The Baha’is are the most persecuted religious minority in the Islamic Republic. They are discriminated against in every aspect of life, from education to earning a living. Even in death, Baha’is are subjected to discrimination and their graves are routinely destroyed.
More on Baha’i prisoners in Iran:
The Arrest that Boosted Support for the Baha’is, September 29, 2018
Six Baha’i Environmentalists Arrested, September 25, 2018
Mass Arrests of Baha’is in Shiraz, August 28, 2018
The Baha’i Prisoner of Semnan: 2,000 Days and Counting, August 13, 2018
Baha’i Woman Sent to Prison for BIHE Volunteer Work, July 26, 2018
Remembering Mona, 35 Years Later, June 22, 2018
Foreign Minister Zarif: What Baha’i Prisoners?, April 27, 2018
Ten Years Later: the Baha’i Seven are Free for Norooz, March 20, 2018
Freed Baha’i Leader: Jailing Baha’is is Futile and Pointless, February 17, 2018
Baha’i Teacher Jailed for Five Years, December 20, 2017
Young Baha’i Tries for University but Ends up in Jail, November 14, 2017
An Exclusive Interview With the Freed Baha'i Leader, September 19, 2017
A Living Story of 174 Years of Constructive Resilience, August 2, 2017
A Baha’i Brought an Al Qaeda Man in from the Cold, February 1, 2016
Faezeh Hashemi and Nasrin Sotoudeh Visit Baha’i Prisoner, May 13, 2016
Temporary Freedom for Jailed Baha’i, May 10, 2016
Lawyers Must Speak out for Baha’is, September 29, 2015
Baha’is in Iran: The Pressure Mounts, February 25, 2014