Alongside the mass arrests of protesters across Iran over the last two weeks, authorities have also cracked down on and arrested members of the Baha’i community – and in the case of Baharestan, a satellite city of Isfahan, some members of the public have agitated for their arrest.
Although the reasons for the arrests are not entirely clear, in many cases, they seem to have been carried out in retaliation for claims that Baha’is have led and spurred on the nationwide protests, claims that have been disseminated by pro-regime Telegram channels.
IranWire spoke to a source in Isfahan who said that last Wednesday, November 27, plainclothes agents in Baharestan arrested a man from the neighborhood called Soroush Azadi after a thorough search of his home and after confiscating personal belongings, including a mobile phone, computers, books related to the Baha'i faith and other reading material. Azadi was taken to an undisclosed location and has not been heard from since. The person IranWire spoke to also said he thought a Baha'i woman from the same area had been arrested, but he did not know her name.
Two days after the arrest of Soroush Azadi, security forces arrested nine other Baha'i citizens on the morning of Friday, November 29, also in Baharestan. They have been named as Shahab Ferdowsian, Nasim Jaberi, Mehranollah Daddy, Shahbaz Bashi, Vahid Niazmand, Naser Lotfi, Ghodus Lotfi, Saghar Manouchehrzadeh and Homa Manouchehrzadeh, and were also reportedly taken to an unknown location.
Peoples’ Campaign Against Baha’is?
The arrests took place on the same day that people In Baharestan apparently held up placards calling for the arrest of Baha’is and protesters following Friday prayers.
The next day, November 30, Baharestan Salam Telegraph Channel posted pictures of the destruction of several neighborhoods in Isfahan and wrote: "On Friday morning, 29 November, as part of a security operation, nine key people leading the recent unrests were arrested by security forces in #Baharestan in Isfahan. All were members of the Baha'i sect, and they were delivered to the relevant authorities.” The Telegram channel continued, calling for the worst possible punishment for the detainees. It said authorities should show no mercy and, if appropriate, the confessions of the Baha’is should be broadcast.
According to reports sent to IranWire, on Saturday, November 30, security forces raided the house of Baha'i citizen Bardia Farzaneh in the town of Omidieh in Khuzestan province. After inspecting and confiscating personal belongings including mobile phones and laptops, agents arrested Farzaneh and also took him to an unspecified location. His family have also not been given any information about his arrest or his whereabouts. On the same day, agents also went to the home of Bardia Farzaneh’ s uncle, Ismail Farzaneh, and arrested him after searching through and seizing some of his belongings. There is no further information available about his case either. Again, the manner and timing of the arrests suggest they were linked to the recent protests and arrest of protesters, which took place in several locations across Khuzestan province.
Gholam Reza Shariati, the governor of Khuzestan, confirmed that demonstrations had taken place in 15 cities across the province and that various people had tried to introduce violence to the peaceful protests. He said 180 people had been arrested in Khuzestan province.
Also arrested were Baha’is Nasim Shoghi and Kimia Pour Sadeghian in Zahedan, the capital of Sistan and Baluchistan province. The charges against them and the exact date of their arrests are not known, and information is even more difficult to find about their cases because the internet continues to be unreliable in the province. IranWire spoke to a relative of Nasim Shoghi, who said she specializes in child psychology and education, has held several workshops in Zahedan and is trusted by many local people.
Meanwhile, as the third week of public protests began, albeit in a less widespread way, reports of arrests continue, with the number said to be in the hundreds in various cities across Iran. Information about the arrests of Baha’is over the last few days has been scarce, especially given that law enforcement authorities seem to be even less accountable than usual. Baha’is are routinely arrested in Iran, so recent events could be part of that pattern. However, it would appear that some authorities are using the protests to crack down harder on the minority religion and its communities.