Denial of Access to Higher Education Surges for Baha’i Citizens in Iran

Since the beginning of this year, HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, has documented 16 cases of Baha’i citizens being barred from higher education due to their faith.

As in previous years, many examinees of the nationwide university entrance exam encountered the message either “Rejected” or “Rejected due to general ineligibility”, indicating that they have been identified as Baha’i and hence barred from higher education.

According to HRANA, each year, numerous Baha’is examinees are rejected as the results of exams for various excuses by the official website of the National Organization of Educational Testing (NOET), an organization for holding the nationwide entrance exam.

Following the call of one of these citizens, NOET mentioned the intervention of the intelligence police as the reason for the rejection and in case an objection is filed, they can pass the written objection on to the intelligence police for further assessment.

In a written response to another citizen, NOET stated, “This message is shown when the intelligence office or any other security institution has an open case regarding the examinee or they have not approved his/her ineligibility. Your objection will be passed on the intelligence office, but until you identify yourself as Baha’i, the objection will not be taken into account.”

After taking exams many times, Some of these citizens are still facing various excuses such as “document defect” and therefore, they are barred from continuing their education due to being Baha’i.

At odds with Iran’s law clarifying the rights to education indiscriminately for all citizens, the enactment of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution of Iran, which oversees to ensure that education and culture remain Islamic, barres Baha’is from taking an occupational position as well as tertiary education.

Baha’i citizens are denied the right to exercise their religion. This systematic deprivation stands in violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which both affirm that everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

According to unofficial reports, there are more than 300,000 Baha’is in Iran. While the constitution recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism as accepted religions (People of Book, as articulated in Sharia law), it denies recognizing Baha’i faith, which conclusively leads to the systematic violation of their rights.

Thirteen Baha’is Have Been Barred From Higher Education So Far This Year

Tehran resident Negar Sobhani Azabadi has become the 13th Baha’i citizen this year to be barred from higher education on the grounds of her faith.

HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, has identified one more examinee of the university entrance exam who has been rejected due to her belief in the Baha’i faith.

Azabadi received the rejection message when visiting the school website to view her exam results. It read “Rejected due to General ineligibility”, indicating that she had been identified as Baha’i and was thus ineligible to enter the university.

Each year, there are numerous reports about Baha’is who are barred from higher education once detected as Baha’is even on the verge of graduation.

At odds with Iran’s law clarifying the rights to education indiscriminately for all citizens, the enactment of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution of Iran, which oversees to ensure that education and culture remain Islamic, barres Baha’is from taking an occupational position as well as tertiary education.

 

Baha’i Citizens Moin Misaghi and Negareh Ghaderi Arrested in Shiraz

On Wednesday, September 22, Baha’i citizens Moin Misaghi and Negareh Ghaderi, both natives of Shiraz, were arrested by security forces and taken to an unknown location.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, security forces searched the homes of the citizens and confiscated a number of their belongings during the arrest.

Security forces also visited the home of Hayedeh Mosallanejad, another Baha’i citizen, to arrest her but she was not detained as she was not home.

According to unofficial sources, it is estimated that more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran, but the Iranian constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Because their faith is not considered legitimate by authorities, the rights of Baha’is in Iran have been systematically violated for years.

This deprivation of the freedom to practice their religion is a breach of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations covenant holds that every person has the right to freedom of religion, freedom of converting religion, as well as freedom of expression, individually or collectively; openly or secretly.

Baha’i Citizen Ali Ahmadi Sent to Ghaemshahr Prison to Endure Sentence

On Thursday, August 26, Ali Ahmadi, a Baha’i citizen and native of Ghaemshahr, was arrested and transferred to prison.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, Ahmadi was sent to Ghaemshahr Prison to endure his one-year prison sentence.

Ali Ahmadi, who suffers from the underlying conditions of diabetes and heart disease, is being forced to serve out this prison sentence during the peak of the coronavirus crisis in Iran.

Mr. Ahmadi had been detained and imprisoned before. He was arrested by security forces and transferred to the Kachuei Detention Center in Sari, in November 2018. He was released on bail in January 2019.

Ghaemshahr Revolutionary Court sentenced Mr. Ahmadi to a total of 11 years in prison on charges of “propaganda against the regime and the administration of the Baha’i organization”. This sentence was upheld by the appeal court without holding a trial. Eventually, the Supreme Court accepted the request for retrial and sent the case to the Branch 28 of the Mazandaran Court of Appeals, where Mr. Ahmadi’s sentence was reduced to 1 year in prison.

According to unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran, but the Iranian constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Because their faith is not considered legitimate by authorities, the rights of Baha’is in Iran have beeen systematically violated for years.

This deprivation of the freedom to practice their religion is a violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations covenant holds that every person has the right to freedom of religion, freedom of converting religion, as well as freedom of expression, individually or collectively; openly or secretly.

Eight Year Prison Sentence Upheld for Baha’i Citizen and Women’s Motocross Champion Shahrzad Nazifi

After approving an appeal hearing, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran upheld an eight year prison sentence for Baha’i citizen and women’s motocross champion Shahrzad Nazifi.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, Nazifi was previously sentenced in absentia to eight years in prison, 4 hours of community service a day for 3 months, and a 2-year ban on leaving the country.

Nazifi was arrested on charges of “managing illegal groups and factions with the aim of disrupting the security of the country” and “bad motives and internal desire to destroy the religious system”.

Unofficial sources estimate that more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran, but the Iranian constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Because their faith is not considered legitimate by authorities, the rights of Baha’is in Iran have been systematically violated for years.

The deprivation of the freedom to practice their religion is a violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations covenant holds that every person has the right to freedom of religion, freedom of converting religion, as well as freedom of expression, individually or collectively; openly or secretly.

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Baha’i Citizens Sina Kamali Sarvestani and Dorsa Dehghani Arrested in Shiraz

On June 14, Baha’i citizens Sina Kamali Sarvestani and Dorsa Dehghani were separately arrested by security forces and taken to an unknown location.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, officers reportedly searched Sarvestani and Dehghani’s homes in Shiraz and confiscated all electronic devices including phones, laptops, and books.

More than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran, according to unofficial sources, but the Iranian constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Because their faith is not considered legitimate by authorities, the rights of Baha’is in Iran have been systematically violated for years.

This deprivation of the freedom to practice their religion is a violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations covenant holds that every person has the right to freedom of religion, freedom of converting religion, as well as freedom of expression, individually or collectively; openly or secretly.

As of this writing, no information is available on the detention facility or the status of Sarvestani and Dehghani.

Court Trial Held for Baha’i Citizen Kiana Shoaei

The trial of Kiana Shoaei, a Baha’i resident of Shiraz, was held at the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz on May 15.

According to HRANA, the news agency of Human Rights Activists, the trial referred the case to the prosecutor’s office to rectify incomplete documents. Another hearing will be held after the deficiencies are fixed.

Kiana Shoaei was previously summoned to Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz on May 5. In this citation, she was asked to appear at the branch on the 15th regarding a lawsuit that had been lodged against her for “forming dissident groups with the intention to disrupt the security of the country, membership in dissident groups with the intention of disrupting security, and propaganda against the regime”.

Shoaei had been awaiting trial since 2019,  after being arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence in October and released on bail in November of that year.

According to unofficial sources, it is estimated that more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran, but the Iranian constitution recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. Because their faith is not considered legitimate by authorities, the rights of Baha’is in Iran have been systematically violated for years.

This deprivation of the freedom to practice their religion is a breach of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The United Nations covenant holds that every person has the right to freedom of religion, freedom of converting religion, as well as freedom of expression, individually or collectively; openly or secretly.

Baha’i Citizen Dori Amri Begins One-year Prison Term

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) On Wednesday, November 14, 2018, Baha’i Mashhad resident Dori Amri began serving her one-year prison sentence in Mashhad’s Vakilabad Prison.

May Kholousi and her daughter Saghi Fadaei, Amri’s Baha’i co-defendants, turned themselves in October 31st to begin serving their own one-year sentences.

The verdict in Amri, Kholousi, and Fadaei’s case was recently upheld in Khorasan Razavi Appeals Court.

Iran Update: Reports of Persecuted Baha’is October 24 – November 11

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) -Baha’i citizens of Iran have continued to face persecution this month, in the form of grave desecrations, business shutdowns, and interference by authorities in their places of employment. Meanwhile, one Baha’i prisoner has returned to prison after a furlough release.

Grave Desecration

Four days after her October 24th burial, the body of Shamsi Aghdasi Azamian, a Baha’i resident of Gilavand village near the city of Damavand, was found in the nearby rural outskirts of Jaban.

According to a close source, security forces called Azamian’s son that same day, informing him that her remains had been found and instructing him to rebury them in Tehran.

Security forces had previously forbidden Baha’i Gilavand residents from burying their dead locally, ordering instead that all deceased Baha’is be interred in the capital city, 50 miles west by mountain pass. Though Azamian’s son initially refused — citing Baha’i religious custom to lay believers to rest no more than one hour away from their place of death — the family ultimately complied under pressure from security forces.

Earlier this year, Iranian authorities issued a court order to lock down a Baha’i cemetery in the city of Kerman. Baha’is in Sanandaj, Ahvaz, Tabriz, and Sangesar have also been prevented from burying their loved ones in local cemeteries, and in the cases of Sangesar and Sanandaj, some Baha’i burial sites have been reported destroyed.

As of yet, no one has claimed responsibility for the desecration of Azamian’s grave.

Shutdown of Baha’i Businesses

Iranian Authorities have shut down the small businesses of five Baha’i Ahvaz residents and two Baha’i Abadan residents as of November 5th.

The businesses — which had been temporarily closed, in observance of Baha’i religious holidays — were court-ordered to remain sealed off to the public. Their owners were identified as Ahvaz residents Vargha Derakhsan, Behrouz Zohdi, Jahanbakhsh Afsharzadeh, Feizollah Ghanavatian, Sohrab Derakhsan, and brothers Arman Azadi and Aram Azadi of Abadan.

Having run their business for the past 38 years, the Azadi brothers had already experienced a forced shutdown on July 12, 2018. After a 14-day tug-of-war with security forces, the prosecutor’s office, and other municipal authorities, they managed to re-open their store on July 26th, only to be shut down again this month.

Despite trade union regulations protecting business owners from arbitrary closures, Baha’i citizens regularly face unexplained restrictions on their commercial activity. And while Iranian businesses are legally permitted to close up shop for a maximum of 15 days per year — for any reason — some have been forced to stay closed after briefly pausing their operations for Baha’i holidays.

On December 3, 2017, Rouhani aide Shahindokht Molaverdi said that Iranian authorities were looking into a legislative solution to this issue.

HRANA reported on the forced closure of 11 Baha’i-owned business in Ahvaz in July of this year, and previously published a story on the same trend in Abadan.

Baha’i Prisoner Back in Rajai Shahr After Furlough

Afshin Seyed Ahmad, a Baha’i political prisoner serving a three-year sentence for “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the regime,” returned to prison on November 11th after eight days of furlough.

This was Ahmad’s first furlough release since beginning his sentence June 28, 2016, in Evin Prison. He has since been transferred to Rajai Shahr.

Ahmad previously spent 20 days in solitary confinement after a November 2012 arrest.

Educational Institution Shut Down

Two educational institutions in the city of Shiraz have been shut down by court order for employing recently-arrested Baha’i citizens Nora Pourmoradian and Elaheh Samizadeh.

HRANA reported on Pourmoradian and Samizadeh’s release on October 10th after spending more than three weeks in custody. The two were working in the field of music education for children.

A close source backed speculation that the institution’s shutdown was prompted by Pourmoradian and Samizadeh’s employment there.

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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.

Furlough Granted to Bereaved Baha’i Prisoner Azita Rafizadeh

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Authorities have granted a November 7th to November 10th furlough period to Baha’i prisoner Azita Rafizadeh, who will attend memorial services for her father, Seyed Yadollah Rafizadeh, who recently died in a car accident.

Azita Rafizadeh is serving a four-year sentence for her Baha’i affiliations, including the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education, as well as a charge of acting against national security.

The furlough request of her spouse Peyman Koushk-Baghi, who is currently serving a five-year sentence on the same charges, was denied.