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Iranian government detains dozens more Baha’is during national crisis

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GENEVA—18 November 2022—Twenty-nine Baha’is in Iran have been arrested since September, the latest incidents in a crackdown that began in late July, even as the Iranian government faces unprecedented scrutiny around the world over its human rights record.

The latest developments follow the most recent crackdown against the Baha’i community commencing at the end of July which saw almost 300 incidents of persecution over a period of six weeks.

Ten of the detained Baha’is have since been released on bail, while several continue to be held without due process, some at unknown locations. Some individuals have not been heard from since they were detained.

“As our hearts ache at the sight of the suffering of all Iranians in the country,” said Simin Fahandej, Representative of the Baha’i International Community (BIC) to the United Nations, “we also continue to witness the persecution of the Baha’is, a group all too familiar with suffering injustice at the hands of the government. They have endured years of arrests, detentions, ill-treatment and the denial of higher education and livelihood. Throughout 43 years of suffering, they have remained resilient in the face of continuous persecution by a government which has stone-heartedly set out to destroy them as a viable entity in Iran.”

“As they look at what is happening in Iran today, the Baha’is know what it feels like to be detained on false charges, interrogated and mistreated, detained without due process, and for families to fear for their loved ones, all for standing up for what they believe in,” Ms Fahandej added. “Our desire is that all Iranians can live in peace and security, enjoying equality and justice, where everyone can contribute meaningfully to the progress of their society, irrespective of their ethnic background or religious beliefs.”

Three of those currently in detention are former leaders of the Baha’i community, Mahvash Sabet, Fariba Kamalabadi and Afif Naimi, who had been arrested on 31 July at the outset of the summer crackdown. They have now each spent over 100 days in detention without trial. The three were members of the former “Yaran”, or “Friends” of Iran, a disbanded informal group that tended to the basic pastoral needs of the Baha’i community, who were all imprisoned in 2008 for a decade. This is despite the fact that since their release in 2018 they have had no responsibilities within the community.

Baha’is are now also facing a new barrage of baseless claims, for example, the accusation that Baha’is are instigating unrest at Iranian universities.

“The blatant lies of the Iranian government no longer deceive Iranians, nor others in the international community,” added Ms Fahandej. “The irony of accusing Baha’is of fomenting unrest at universities is particularly glaring. Baha’i students have been systematically expelled or banned from all universities and institutions of higher education in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and yet they are now being accused of instigating university protests. How shameful to resort to such ridiculous deception in an attempt to spread fear, mistrust and disunity among the different segments of Iranian society.”

“As always, rather than addressing the underlying challenges facing Iranian society and responding to the aspirations of the Iranian people, the government continues to blame its own failings on others, including the Baha’is. We urge the international community to respond decisively to the ongoing human rights abuses, and to the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran in direct violation of the human rights treaties to which Iran has legally committed itself.”

Selections of other reports from the recent incidents include: 

  • Two young men, aged just 16, were interrogated and beaten. The teenagers were detained in mid-October and held for several hours without any information being given to their families. The youths were later returned to their homes, which were searched, and personal items were confiscated before the two were released.
  • A Baha’i visiting Tehran for work was detained in early October and sent to Evin Prison, from where he was able to contact his family, though he has not been heard from since a fire at the facility on 15 October.
  • A Baha’i couple has been detained since mid-October without due process and faces charges including “assembly and collusion against national security” and “blasphemy”,  as well as “propaganda against the regime and activities against national security”. The authorities refused to accept bail from this jailed couple.
  • A Baha’i woman, detained in late September in Evin Prison without family visits, told her family during a phone call that her detention was being extended by 30 more days. The woman’s husband, who is not a Baha’i, had also been summoned and interrogated.
  • A Baha’i who has been in detention without due process since mid-September reported that he had been charged with “propaganda against the regime through teaching the Baha’i Faith”, “propaganda against sacred Islamic Sharia” and “communicating and cooperating with foreign media through interviews and sending news of human rights violations and inciting people to create ongoing protests through cyberspace”. He had also been beaten and denied requests to be examined by a doctor. The latest reports indicate that interrogators were trying to extract a forced confession from him—and he has been denied access to a lawyer.
  • And another report received by the BIC indicated that, because of overcrowding in Iran’s prisons following increased arrests, one detained Baha’i is being held in a small cell slightly larger than a solitary confinement cell along with 16 others. The individual was forced to receive a visit from his wife in a prison stairwell because no other space was available
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