GENEVA – November 18, 2022 – Twenty-nine Baha’i have been arrested in Iran since September, the latest incidents amid a crackdown that began in late July, even as the Iranian government faces an unprecedented scrutiny around the world over its human rights record.
The latest developments follow the recent crackdown on the Baha’i community, which began in late July and saw nearly 300 cases of persecution over a six-week period.
Ten of the detained Baha’i have since been released on bail, while several remain being held without due process, some at unknown locations. Some people have not been heard from since their detention.
“While 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 continue to witness the persecution of the Baha’i, a group who is all too familiar with suffering wrongs at the hands of government. They have endured years of arrests, imprisonment, abuse, and denial of higher education and livelihoods. During 43 years of suffering, they have remained resilient in the face of continued persecution by a government determined to destroy them as a viable entity in Iran.”
“When they look at what is happening in Iran today, the Baha’i know what it feels like to be detained, interrogated and ill-treated on false charges, to be detained without due process and that families fear for their loved ones, everything to stand for what they believe in,” Ms. Fahandej added. “Our wish is that all Iranians can live in peace and security, enjoying equality and justice where everyone can meaningfully contribute to the advancement of their society, regardless of their ethnic origin or religious beliefs.”
Three of those currently detained are former Bahai community leaders Mahvash Sabet, Fariba Kamalabadi and Afif Naimi, who were arrested on July 31 at the start of the summer raid. They have now each spent over 100 days in detention without a trial. The three were members of the former “Yaran” or “Friends” of Iran, a defunct informal group that attended to basic pastoral needs of the Baha’i community, all jailed for a decade in 2008. And this despite the fact that they have not had any tasks within the community since their release in 2018.
The Baha’i are now also confronted with a new barrage of unfounded allegations, for example with the accusation that the Baha’i are inciting unrest at Iranian universities.
“The Iranian government’s blatant lies are no longer deceiving the Iranians or others in the international community,” Ms. Fahandej added. “The irony of accusing the Baha’i of fomenting university unrest is particularly blatant. Baha’i students have been systematically expelled or banned from all universities and colleges in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, yet they are now accused of inciting university protests. How shameful to resort to such ridiculous deception to sow fear, suspicion and disunity among various segments of Iranian society.”
“As always, instead of addressing the underlying challenges facing Iranian society and addressing the aspirations of the Iranian people, the government continues to blame others for its own failures, including the Baha’i. We call on the international community to respond decisively to the ongoing human rights abuses and persecution of the Baha’i in Iran, which is in direct violation of the human rights treaties to which Iran is legally bound.”
A selection of other reports on recent incidents include:
– Two young men, only 16 years old, were interrogated and beaten. The teenagers were arrested in mid-October and held for several hours without their families being informed. The youths were later returned to their homes, which were searched and personal belongings confiscated before the two were released.
– A Baha’i visiting Tehran on business was arrested in early October and taken to Evin prison, from where he has been able to contact his family, although he has not been heard from since a fire at the facility on October 15.
– A Bahá’í couple has been detained without due process since mid-October on charges including “assembly and collusion against national security” and “blasphemy” and “anti-regime propaganda and anti-national security activities.” The authorities refused to accept bail from this detained couple.
– A Baha’i woman detained without family visits in Evin prison at the end of September told her family during a phone call that her detention would be extended for a further 30 days. The woman’s husband, who is not a Baha’i, was also summoned and questioned.
– A Baha’i detained without due process since mid-September reported that he was charged with “propaganda against the regime by teaching the Baha’i faith”, “propaganda against the holy Islamic Sharia” and “communication and cooperation”. has been engaged with foreign media by interviewing and sending messages about human rights violations and inciting people to ongoing protests about cyberspace. He had also been beaten and refused requests for a medical examination. The latest reports suggest interrogators tried to extract a coerced confession from him – and he was denied access to a lawyer.
– And another report received by BIC indicates that due to overcrowding in Iran’s prisons, following a spike in arrests, a detained Baha’i is being held in a small cell, slightly larger than a single cell, along with 16 others. The person had to have his wife visit him in the prison stairwell because no other place was available.