Five Sentenced in Connection to 2017 Armed Attack in Tehran

Posted on: October 20th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Five Sunni prisoners detained in connection to a 2017 attack on both Iranian Parliament and the late Ayatollah Khomeini’s mausoleum have been sentenced to prison terms in Branch 2 of Urmia Revolutionary Court.

HRANA has confirmed the identity of the prisoners as Ebrahim Moradi, Mohammad Nikzad, Ahmad Ghanbardoust, Mohammad Ghanbardoust, and Ghader Salimi. They have been held in Urmia Prison’s Ward 13 since their arrests one week after the attack.

An informed source detailed their sentences to HRANA: Moradi was sentenced to three years; Nikzad to nine months, Ahmad Ghanbardoust to three years; Mohammad Ghanbardoust to four years; and Salimi to five years. All were charged with “collaboration with ‘Takfiri’ groups [a term commonly used by Iranian authorities to denote Daesh (ISIS) sympathizers].”

The attack in question, which took place on June 7, 2017, injured 52 and took the lives of 17 civilians and parliamentary security agents. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.

Two days later, the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence announced that 41 people had been arrested on suspicion of ISIS collaboration in Tehran, Kermanshah, Kurdistan, and West Azerbaijan provinces. Local sources counter that the total number of arrestees was closer to 70. As of now, HRANA has no further information on the arrestee’s interrogations, wellbeing, or access to due process.

Eight people accused of ISIS affiliation were executed July 7, 2018, on charges of “Baqi” [rebellion] and “abetting corruption on earth.” All had been sentenced to death in May 2018 by Judge Salavati of Revolutionary Court Branch 15, a sentence later upheld in Branch 39 of the Supreme Court on June 10, 2018.

Baha’i Crackdown Continues with Two More Arrests in Karaj

Posted on: October 19th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Two Baha’i residents of Karaj, a northwestern suburb of Tehran, became the latest victims of the Iranian authorities’ crackdown on the Baha’i community when they were arrested October 16, 2018.

Parvan Manavi and Elham Salmanzadeh became the seventh and eighth Baha’is to be arrested in their city after authorities confiscated some of their books and personal belongings during a raid of their homes.

A close source told HRANA that security forces first searched the workplace of Manavi, a greenhouse operator, before escorting him to his home where they carried out a search and seizure. “They raided Elham Salmanzadeh’s home at the same time, and then arrested her afterward too,” the source added.

On September 16th, HRANA reported on the arrest and transfer to Evin Prison of four Baha’i Karaj residents: Peyman Manavi, Maryam Ghaffaramanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh. HRANA also reported on the arrest of two more Baha’i Karaj residents, Hooman Khoshnam and Payam Shabani, on September 24 and 25, 2018. In recent weeks, HRANA also reported on the arrest of a number of Baha’i citizens in Shiraz and Isfahan.

Over the past month, members of Iran’s Baha’i religious minority have faced increased pressure across the country from Iran’s security and judiciary establishment.

Iranian Baha’i citizens are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom of religion and belief, and the right to adopt and manifest the religion of their choice, be it individually, in groups, in public, or in private.

Based on unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. Iran’s constitution, however, recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Consequently, the rights of Baha’is are systematically violated in Iran.

Under Pressure from Security Forces, Samsung Company Fires Baha’i Employee

Posted on: October 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – In continued efforts to marginalize the Iranian Baha’i community, Yazd security officials put pressure on the administrator of a Samsung subsidiary to fire marketing representative Sahar Rouhani on the grounds of her faith.

An informed source told HRANA that Rouhani was already being commended by Samsung executives as one of the best employees in the company after working there for little more than a year.

Rouhani’s university photography studies were cut short for the same reason in 2009, the source added. “She was expelled from the university in the middle of the fourth semester, after paying full tuition fees, because of being Baha’i.”

In August of this year, HRANA reported on the sudden and permanent dismissal of Baha’i Shiraz residents Sabah Haghbin, Samira Behinayeen, and Payam Goshtasbi from their private companies. Their company’s executives, like those at Samsung, had been harried by security agents to fire them.

Ever since the Iranian Revolution of 1979, when Baha’is were fired from public-sector positions en masse in a process known as Paksazi (cleansing), state authorities have consistently quashed the efforts of Baha’i citizens to improve their social status, shuttering their bodegas, confiscating their property, blackballing them from schools, and pulling strings to terminate their employment.

UN Human Rights Rapporteurs have repeatedly objected to Iran’s history of repressing Baha’is, citing it as a token example of the regime’s neglect of human rights treaties.

Baha’i citizens of Iran are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all people are entitled to freedom of religion, belief, and changes thereof, as well as the right to express and practice those beliefs as individuals or collectives, in public or in private.

Though unofficial sources estimate the Baha’i population of Iran at more than 300,000, Iran’s Constitution officially recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. As a result, the rights of Baha’is in Iran are systematically violated.

Six Members of Yamani Religious Group Arrested in Izeh

Posted on: October 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – After a month of interrogations, six citizens arrested by security agents in the city of Izeh on September 8th have been accused of “contact with the ‘Mahdaviat’ religious group” and transferred to Izeh prison in the southwestern province of Khuzestan.

HRANA has identified the arrestees as Moslem Asadzadi, Sajjad Asadzadi, Abdollah Kavoosi, Habib Mohammadi, Peyman Andaveh, and Ali Ahmadi. A source close to the matter told HRANA that all six were members of a minority religious group called “Ansar Imam Mehdi” and their homes were searched upon their arrests.

“One of the people arrested was an 18-year-old,” the source said. “After one month of scrambling to learn about their whereabouts, we were informed this week that they’ve been transferred to prison and that a bail has been set.”

The source added that the wait has been difficult for their families. “These people were arrested for their faith and for supporting a religious movement,” they said.

Ansar Imam Mehdi is considered a sect of a larger Iranian religious movement called the Yamani faith. Yamanis are devotees of their spiritual leader Ahmad al-Hasan Yamani, who claims to be in contact with the 12th Shiite Imam.

The 12th Imam, known as Mehdi or Mahdi, is an eschatological figure who Shiites believe to be alive, hidden, and biding time to return and restore Islamic utopia. In recent years, many individuals claiming to be in contact with Mehdi were met with intolerance by Iranian authorities. Such claims run counter to the ideology of the Iranian authorities and have provoked the security apparatus to appoint divisions that specialize in quelling belief groups like the Yamanis.

HRANA reported earlier this year on crackdowns on Yamani followers in Torbat-Heydarieh and Qom.

High Arrest Risk for Shirazi Baha’is

Posted on: October 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Baha’i Shiraz resident Niloofar Hakimi was arrested by Shiraz Intelligence agents October 6th and transferred to a local detention center, continuing a recent wave of arrests of Baha’i locals, according to an informed source.

HRANA reported on the arrest of five other Baha’i Shirazis on September 15th and 16th: Noora Pourmoradian, Elaheh Samizadeh, Ehsan Mahbub-Rahvafa, and married couple Navid Bazmandegan and Bahareh Ghaderi.

Bazmandegan was arrested 6 p.m. on September 15th while teaching a psychology class, a source told HRANA. Authorities reportedly confiscated the identification cards, flash drives, email addresses, mobile devices, and mobile device passwords of all those present. Bazmandegan was subsequently escorted to his home, where authorities conducted a search and seized his personal belongings. His wife Bahareh Ghaderi was also arrested and transferred to an undisclosed location. Samizadeh was arrested the same day in Shiraz, and Mahbub-Rahvafa was arrested September 16th in his home. After searching Mahbub-Rahvafa’s house, authorities transferred him to Shiraz Intelligence Office Detention Center No. 100.

Baha’is in Iran do not have freedom of religion. This systematic repression is in violation of Article 18 of the International Declaration of Human Rights as well as Article 18 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. These documents assert the rights of every individual to freedom of religion, religious conversion, and expression of their religious belief as individuals or groups, publicly or privately.

Unofficial reports indicate that there are over three hundred thousand Baha’is living in Iran. Meanwhile, the Iranian constitution only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism as permissible religions, effectively rendering the Baha’i faith illegal. This loophole allows the Iranian government to systematically violate the rights of Baha’is with impunity.

Lawyer Mostafa Daneshjoo Remanded to Evin Prison

Posted on: October 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Judge Moghiseh has extended the temporary detention period of lawyer and imprisoned Dervish activist Mostafa Daneshjoo, denying his request for bail despite the severe progression of his cardiac and lung disease.

Symptoms of Daneshjoo’s asthma were exacerbated by his stay in Evin Prison’s Ward 250 between 2011 and 2015, on charges of “membership in the Dervish cult,” “acting against national security,” “propaganda against the regime,” and “disturbing the public mind.” Despite orders from the assistant prosecutor that Daneshjoo is sent to a healthcare facility, Evin Prison authorities have barred his transfer.

Seven armed agents arrested Daneshjoo in his mother’s home on July 7th, taking him to solitary confinement in Evin Prison’s Ward 209 — which is under Intelligence Ministry management — where he stayed for 45 days. He was then sent to Ward 4, typically designated for convicts of financial crimes.

Daneshjoo was arrested pursuant to a case file against him in 2017 in Tehran’s Security Investigation Court, in connection to a violent clash that took place February 2018 near the Dervish spiritual leader’s residence on Golestan Avenue in the capital city.

Per a letter from the security office at Azad University, Daneshjoo’s alma mater, he has been barred from continuing his studies. Citing his defense of the Gonabadi Dervish religious minority, security authorities have revoked his permit to practice law.

In a note dated October 2nd, attorney Ali Sharifzadeh announced that he had been retained as Daneshjoo’s lawyer in Branch 28 of Revolutionary Court.

Open Letter: Baha’i Prisoner Hopeful Amid Fraught Traditions of New Academic Year

Posted on: October 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA)- As a new academic year unfolds in Iran, Baha’i prisoner Azita Rafizadeh speaks out in an open letter about the systemic barriers between post-secondary education opportunities and the country’s Baha’i citizens.

HRANA has reported on several cases over the past few weeks of students whose hopes of attending college have been eliminated by nothing more than the insidious alert of “deficiency on file.” Since 2006, this message has been a common method for disqualifying Baha’i students from university enrollment.

In direct violation of the law, Baha’is are prevented from pursuing degrees or employment in government offices, per under-the-table directives from the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. Every year, a new cohort of Baha’is is either barred from higher education altogether or thwarted before culminating their degrees.

Since the 1979 revolution, the office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iran has repeatedly protested the Iranian government’s animosity towards its Baha’i population, particularly in preventing these citizens from furthering their studies. According to the UN, such directives demonstrate a blatant disregard of multiple international treaties.

Rafizadeh reacts to these prohibitions in the letter below, translated into English by HRANA:

It is the third year that I’ve languished in the corner of a jail cell as schools and universities reopen their doors. I’m kept far from the thrills of a new academic term, from seeing the bright-eyed university students excited to pursue their higher education, and from seeing upperclassmen resume their course.

Over the past few years, I have tried to preserve in my heart the warm glow of that atmosphere, and pray sincerely that all those who are striving, serving, and studying will succeed. Even still, these days, when news reaches me of those students who love learning yet get ‘deficiency on file’ for their 2018 results from Konkur [a nationally-competitive college entrance exam], the bitterness of discrimination and prejudice comes flooding back, and my hopes for doing away with these measures is diminished. To be sure, [this pattern] at least confirms the perseverance of hope and love for learning in young people who, despite a life of deprivation, still do their best to enter universities by participating in Konkur in hopes of gaining knowledge, the greatest virtue of the human world.

It is the existence of these hopeful and eager-to-learn youth that has, over the years, helped the Free Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) to thrive in spite of the pressures and systematic attempts to dissolve it. This institute continues to steadfastly serve young Baha’is who are deprived of continuing their education.

When I heard the happy (albeit delayed) news of Holaku Rahmanian’s graduation from Santa Cruz University, my heart brimmed with happiness and resolve. I was certain that although I have been forbidden from serving the youth of my country, better and more qualified individuals will graduate from this institute every year, who are well-versed in the sciences of the day and whose hearts beat to serve the institute and their countrymen.

Hoping for the day when the cloak of discrimination is lifted from the country’s youth, so that they may serve each other and build our country’s future side by side.

Azita Rafizadeh
Evin Prison
October 2018

***

Azita Rafizadeh is an Iranian Baha’i whose spouse Peyman Kushak Baghi is also imprisoned at Evin. Prisoners of conscience, both were sentenced to 4 and 5 years in prison, respectively, on charges of “membership in the illegal and misguided Baha’i group with the aim of acting against national security through illegal activities at the BIHE educational institute.”

Iranian Baha’i citizens are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom of religion and belief, and the right to adopt and manifest the religion of their choice, be it individually, in groups, in public, or in private.

Based on unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. However, Iran’s Constitution only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Consequently, the rights of Baha’is are systematically violated in Iran.

Soccer Player Shayan Mosleh Provokes Outcry from Sunni Imams

Posted on: October 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA)- While moonlighting as a Shia orator, Shayan Mosleh — a soccer player for Tehran’s popular Persepolis club — gave a poetry reading that gained wide circulation on the internet, inciting responses from Sunni scholars, Parliamentary representatives, and the public who found it “insulting [to] Sunni sanctities.”

On September 28th, Mosleh’s name resounded in speeches from Sunni prayer imams (listed below) across the country, who condemned his commentary to the point of asking he be held accountable through the judiciary and state-run news agencies.

Friday Prayer Leaders in Iran who protested against Shayan Mosleh:

Molavi Mohammad Hossein Gargij
Azadshahr, Golestan province

Seyed Abdolbaes Ghatali
Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan province

Molavi Habib al-Rahman Motahari
Head of Ahnaf Khavaf Seminary, Khorasan Razavi Province

Molavi Abdolghafar Sheikh Jami
Kheyrabad village, Taybad County, Khorasan Razavi province

Molavi Khodabakhsh Eslamdoost
Ramin, Chabahar county, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Abdolsamad Damani
Head of Sunni seminary in Haghanieh, Iranshahr county, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Abdolrashid Shahbakhs
Zabol, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Gholam Heyday Farooghi
Birjand, South Khorasan province

Abdolkarim Javar
Gonbad Kavoos, Golestan province

Molavi Abdolahad Sarbazi
Anza, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Seyed Ahmad Abdollahi
Asadieh, South Khorasan province

Molavi Kheyrallah Nikhoy
Friday prayer speaker in Khaf, Razavi Khorasan province

Molavi Abdolhakim Seyedzade
Friday prayer speaker in Gosht, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Mohammad Tayeb
Iranshahr, Sistan & Baluchestan province

Molavi Chahani
Friday prayer speaker in Rameshk, Kerman province

Sheikh Mohammad Saleh Kheradnia
Damahi, Bandar Abbas

Sheikh Mostafa Imam
Head of Masjid Jameh in Bandar Abbas’s Khajeh Atta quarter.

While the Iranian constitution recognizes Sunni as a religious minority, it defends a specific school of Shiism as the country’s official religion. As a result, Sunnis are victim to systematic discrimination and persecution.

Two Baha’i Citizens Released from Detention in Shiraz

Posted on: October 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Pezhman Shahriari and Mahboob Habibi, two Baha’i residents of Shiraz who were arrested by security forces on August 17th and detained in a Shiraz Intelligence Detention Center known as Plaque 100, have been released pending their court hearings.

As of the date of this report, no details were available about their charges.

HRANA previously reported on the coordinated arrests of Baha’i citizens Koroush Rouhani, Dorna Isma’ili, Hooman Ismaeili, and Negar Misaghian by Shiraz security forces. All were released later that day but Kourosh Rouhani, who was released on bail 37 days later.

On Sunday, September 16th, HRANA reported on the arrest and transfer to Shiraz Intelligence Detention Center of five other Baha’i residents of Shiraz: Noora Pourmoradian, Elaheh Samizadeh, Ehsan Mahbub-Rahvafa, and married couple Navid Bazmandegan and Bahareh Ghaderi.

Baha’is in Iran do not have freedom of religion. This systematic repression is in violation of Article 18 of the International Declaration of Human Rights as well as Article 18 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights. These documents assert the rights of every individual to freedom of religion, religious conversion, and expression of their religious belief as individuals or groups, publicly or privately.

Unofficial reports indicate that there are over three hundred thousand Baha’is living in Iran. Meanwhile, the Iranian constitution only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism as permissible religions, effectively rendering the Baha’i faith illegal. This loophole allows the Iranian government to systematically violate the rights of Baha’is with impunity.

Harassed by Authorities, Christian Former Prisoner Stages Sit-in Across From Evin

Posted on: September 29th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Fatemeh Mohammadi, a Christian convert who was released from Evin Prison earlier this year, has staged a sit-in across from her former prison to protest what she referred to as the prison authorities’ “campaign of verbal harassment” against her.

Mohammadi was initially detained last November, and sentenced to six months in prison by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran. She was released from Evin Prison’s women’s ward after completing her sentence. Now, she claims authorities are contacting her family to insult and harass them.

“After I was released from Evin Prison, I was contacted by the prison’s interrogation team,” Mohammadi told HRANA. “They called me all sorts of vulgar words. Last night, September 26th, 2018, Evin Prison again called my home. The person on the phone said [unpleasant] things to my family and told them, ‘It is best that you stop your daughter from her activities as the path she is on leads to corruption.’”

She said she was prompted to begin her protest when her home was contacted once again on Thursday, September 27th, 2018.

“They repeated their words,” Mohammadi said. “Afterwards, I went to Evin to find out what was wrong, but no one offered an explanation. For this reason, I am protesting and staging a sit-in across from Evin Prison, and will continue to do so until they process my complaint.”

Mohammadi previously published a letter in which she spoke of the anguish she endured during her interrogation.

Last November, Mohammadi was detained in Tehran and transferred to Evin prison along with Majid Reza Suzanchi Kashani, another recent Christian convert. On April 7th, 2018, Mohammadi, who was 19 years old at the time, was sentenced by Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran, presided by Judge Ahmadzadeh, to six months’ imprisonment on charges of “membership in proselytizing groups,” “christian activity,” and “acting against national security through propaganda against the regime.”

Per Iranian law, Mohammadi’s sentence should have been reduced by a quarter when she consented to the verdict; however, she served a month and a half longer than anticipated per the law. She was released May 14th, 2018.