Iran Continues to Oppress Religious Minorities

ON 10/29/2023 AT 02 : 36 PM

Iran has sentenced 26 Baha’is to prison for merely belonging to the religion.
Baha’is woman arrested in Iran
In an escalating pattern of persecution against the Baha’is in Iran, 36 incidents have taken place in recent days, affecting mostly women, including 10 women who were arrested in Isfahan.. HRAN

Islam is a totalitarian religion, culture and control system. It has no tolerance for dissent, diversity or independent thinking. As an Islamic nation, the Iranian government is compelled to suppress any competing religion or dissent and that it does with gusto. 

The Bahāʾī religion grew out of Islam and the Bābī sect, which was founded in 1844 by Mīrzā ʿAlī Moḥammad of Shīrāz in Iran. The Bahāʾīs believe in the oneness of humanity and devote themselves to the abolition of racial, class, and religious prejudices. The religion has no priesthood and few rituals. Because it promotes continued social evolution it is conflicts with medieval Islam, which is rigid and unchangeable. 

In an escalating pattern of persecution against the Baha’is in Iran, 36 more incidents targeting the community have taken place in recent days, affecting mostly women. Ten women, most of them young, were arrested as part of these incidents while 26 additional individuals, 16 of whom were also women, have been sentenced to a total of 126 years in prison.

The 10 Baha’i women were arrested in Isfahan, in central Iran, earlier this week. Three others have also been arrested in Yazd.

The arrests took place after homes were raided and the personal property of several individuals was confiscated, including electronics, books, cash and gold. More than 10 agents were reported to have raided the home of one of the women during her arrest.

The raids also targeted the home of an elderly Baha’i woman whose husband had been executed in the 1980s for being a Baha’i—although she was not arrested.

The execution of her husband which was followed by decades of persecution against her family, including against her children and grandchildren who were deprived of many rights including the right to go to university, exposes the cradle to grave persecution faced by every Baha’i in Iran.

“Every one of the Baha’i individuals arrested, and whose homes were raided by the Iranian government, indeed every Baha’i in Iran, has a lifelong story of persecution which has affected every facet of their lives. These stories are a chilling testament to decades of heartless persecution against an entire community, only for their beliefs,” said Simin Fahandej, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “And as we see women in Iran targeted in general, Baha’i women face even greater persecution, not only as women but also as Baha’is, further demonstrating how, today, all Iranians face persecution and discrimination only for daring to stand up for justice and equality.”

“The international community must hold the Iranian government accountable for its human rights violations,” Ms. Fahandej said. “The 10 women arrested this week have committed no crimes. The dozens sentenced to years in prison are also innocent. All they want is to serve their society. But instead of their contributions being welcomed, they are put behind bars, and the Iranian government deprives its entire society of some of the most capable individuals in its society.”

The Baha’i International Community recently launched the #OurStoryIsOne campaign, in honor of 10 Iranian Baha’i women executed 40 years ago this year for their beliefs. The campaign seeks to demonstrate that the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran is part of the same story of the struggle for gender equality and justice. The campaign showed that for Iranians all their stories are chapters of the same interconnected story of building a new Iran, through sacrifice and resilience, where everyone lives and prospers regardless of faith, background and gender.

“By increasing the persecution against Baha’i women in Iran, the Iranian government is further demonstrating that all Iranians are facing the same struggle for equality and freedom, as so emphatically demonstrated by the #OurStoryIsOne campaign. The campaign is the response of the Baha’i community after decades of efforts by the Iranian government to use hate speech and division—showing that Iran’s efforts to drive a wedge between Baha’is and others has been fruitless,” Ms. Fahandej said. “If the Islamic Republic can learn one thing from its 44 years of cruelty, it is that its continued persecution of the Baha’is has been counterproductive, raising awareness of the situation of the Baha’is, creating stronger solidarity between the Baha’i community and the wider population in Iran and proving to the international community the innocence of the Baha’is in the face of relentless oppression.”

The latest arrests and prison sentences follow more than a year of intensified attacks on Iran’s Baha’i community. Dozens of other Baha’is have been either arrested, tried, summoned to begin prison sentences, barred from higher education or earning a livelihood over recent months. And in August the Baha’i International Community reported that 180 Baha’is had been targeted—including one 90-year-old man, Jamaloddin Khanjani, who was detained and interrogated for two weeks.

Two other Baha’i women, Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi—who along with Mr. Khanjani and four other Baha’is spent a decade in prison from 2008 to 2018—were re-arrested in July 2022 and are now each serving a second 10-year jail term.

Additional information on the latest cases of persecution of Baha’is in Iran:

  • The 10 women arrested by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence in Isfahan are Neda Badakhsh, Arezou Sobhanian, Yeganeh Rouhbakhsh, Mojgan Shahrezaie, Parastou Hakim, Yeganeh Agahi, Bahareh Lotfi, Shana Shoghifar, Negin Khademi, and Neda Emadi, and took them to an unknown location.
  •  Ms. Shokoufeh Basiri, Mr. Ahmad Naimi and Mr. Iman Rashidi, were also arrested and remain in the detention center of the Yazd Intelligence Department.
  • Ms. Nasim Sabeti, Ms. Azita Foroughi, Ms. Roya Ghane Ezzabadi and Ms. Soheila Ahmadi, residents of Mashhad, were each sentenced to three years and eight months in prison by the Revolutionary Court of this city.
  •  Mrs. Noushin Mesbah, a resident of Mashhad, was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison.
  • The sentence of four years and one month and seventeen days of imprisonment and social deprivation of Mrs. Sousan Badavam was confirmed by the appeals court of Gilan province.
  • Mr. Hasan Salehi, Mr. Vahid Dana and Mr. Saied Abedi were each sentenced to six years, one month and seventeen days of imprisonment under the supervision of the electronic system, fine and social exclusions by the first branch of Shiraz Revolutionary Court.
  • Mr. Arsalan Yazdani, Mrs. Saiedeh Khozouei, Mr. Iraj Shakour, Mr. Pedram Abhar were sentenced to 6 years each, and Mrs. Samira Ebrahimi and Ms. Saba Sefidi were each sentenced to 4 years and 5 months in prison.
  • Mr. Houshider Zareie's sentence was implemented after his appearance in the first branch of the Shiraz Revolutionary Court. He was sentenced to pay a fine and five years of movement restriction under electronic monitoring.
  • Mrs. Shadi Shahidzadeh, Mr. Mansour Amini, Mr. Ataollah Zafar and Mr. Valiollah Ghedamian, were sentenced to a total of twelve years in prison by the thirty-sixth branch of the Court of Appeal of Tehran province.
  • Mrs. Shahdokht Khanjani, a resident of Semnan, was sentenced to sixteen years of imprisonment, 50 million Tomans fine and additional punishment by the first branch of the Revolution Court of this city.
  •  Mrs. Sanaz Tafazzoli's sentence of 10 years and 9 months imprisonment, imprisoned in Vakil Abad prison of Mashhad, was confirmed by the Court of Appeal.
  • Mrs. Roya Malakouti, imprisoned in Vakil Abad prison in Mashhad, was sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.
  • The hearing of the charges against Mrs. Golnoush Nasiri and Mrs. Farideh Moradi, residents of Mashhad, was held in Branch 1 of the Mashhad Revolutionary Court and each were sentenced to three years and eight months in prison.
  • The hearing of the charges against Ms. Parisa Eslami, a resident of Karaj, was held in the Karaj Revolutionary Court and she awaits sentencing.