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

Posted on: November 15th, 2018

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.

Furlough Granted to Bereaved Baha’i Prisoner Azita Rafizadeh

Posted on: November 12th, 2018

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.

Baha’i Mother and Daughter Begin Prison Term

Posted on: November 2nd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – At 5 p.m. on October 31st, a Baha’i mother and daughter turned themselves in to begin serving one-year prison sentences.

Mashhad resident May Kholousi, her daughter Saghi Fadaei, and their fellow Baha’is Shayan Tafazzoli and Dori Amri were all sentenced February 2018 by Judge Soltani of Mashhad Revolutionary Court Branch 3 on charges of propaganda against the regime. Appeals court upheld their sentences on August 26, 2018.

Security forces arrested all four in Mashhad in June 2014. Two court sessions met for the defendants while they were free on bail, on December 17, 2014, and June 17, 2017.

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.

Tyranny on Prisoners of Conscience at Rajai Shahr

Posted on: October 24th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- This past August, Rajai Shahr Prison authorities ordered the transfer of political prisoners to Ward 10, where prisoners’ already-tight rations on climate control, fresh air, and nutrition have reportedly been cut even slimmer.

It is a running suspicion that prison authorities seek to dismantle the political ward, breaking down these prisoners’ spirits so that they will be more amenable to being dispersed among different wards.

Ward 10 currently houses 18 prisoners charged with political and security-related crimes. Four more political prisoners are being held in lateral sections. Of these 22, seven are in need of medical care.

A cold chill is already creeping through the walls of the hillside prison, boding the incoming flu season from which political prisoners stand unprotected, a close source told HRANA. “The need for heating equipment is felt all across the prison, but on [Prison Head] Gholamreza Ziayi’s orders, the political prisoners can’t have access to heaters. While prisoners pay for heaters out of their own pockets, the director has forbidden their delivery or use in the political ward.” Prison authorities have reportedly even gone as far as banning heaters in common areas that political prisoners might flock to for refuge, i.e. the prison library, gym, or store.

A letter underlining the dire need for climate control addressed to Ziyai from a previous prosecution assistant responsible for overseeing prison affairs, did nothing to change his mind, the source said.

Political prisoners got the brunt of the opposite heat extreme this past summer when they were denied access to any form of a cooling system. While their repeated requests managed to obtain three refrigerators for the ward, Ziyai underlined that they would have access to more equipment and amenities if they requested to be transferred to different wards.

Political detainees have thus far held fast to regulations requiring prisoners charged with different offenses to be housed in separate wards. Their resistance against integrating with prisoners accused of petty theft, drug-related crimes, or violent offenses has contributed to continued daily frictions between authorities and their cohort.

Meanwhile, the assessment of food provided to these political prisoners is even more scathing than the Rajai Shahr usual. Sources say that prisoners eat vegetarian by default, limited to plain rice with soy or lentils at lunchtime. Though the dinner menu promises to be more substantial — bean or lentil stew, or Ash [a thick Iranian soup] — sources say that the dishes hardly live up to their names, and prisoners in the cohort are rarely, if ever, served produce.

Deprivation of fresh air is also being leveraged against them, sources say. The regular 2-to-5:30 recreation period previously enjoyed by political prisoners in mixed groups has been eliminated entirely since their transfer to Ward 10. “Fresh airtime has been denied [to them] on direct orders from Ziayi, despite the fact that the recreation area is empty between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.”, an anonymous source said.

Warden and Internal Director Vali Ali Mohammadi has abdicated from addressing prisoners’ complaints, stating that he defers to the authority of Ziayi and his secretary/chauffeur. “In other words,” a source said, “the slightest request, like for food or stationary, has to pass by Ziayi and his secretary.”

Though seasoned in-group attrition tactics, authorities at Rajai Shahr have not shied away from more targeted brutality to get their point across. Multiple sources have reported aggressive body searches, harassment and verbal abuse of prisoners’ families, and the placement of arbitrary, extreme restrictions to wear down individual inmates. In one such instance, Supervising Prosecution Assistant Rostami placed a long-term prohibition on visits between Hassan Sadeghi and his imprisoned wife; in another, medical attention to the bone cancer and infected surgery site of Arash Sadeghi were repeatedly postponed and denied. Deprivations like Sadeghi’s may become more widespread: two weeks ago, an official prison order came into effect, invalidating all approved transfers of ailing prisoners to [outside] medical facilities.

The respective situations of a number of Rajai Shahr prisoners of conscience are compiled in the lists below

1. Majid Assadi, accused of assembly and collusion [against national security]. Arrested in 2016, sentenced to 6 years. Anticipated release date: 2021. Has been incarcerated for two years without furlough.

2. Afshin Baimani, accused of Moharebeh [enmity against God] through cooperation with the MEK. Arrested in 2000, sentenced to life. Currently in 18th year of incarceration without furlough.

3. Mohammad Banazadeh Amirkhizi, accused of being a MEK sympathizer, and of assembly and collusion against the regime. Arrested on 2016, sentenced to 11 years. Anticipated release date: 2027. Has been incarcerated for two years without furlough.

4. Ebrahim Firouzi, accused of assembly and collusion and propaganda against the regime. Arrested in 2013, sentenced to 7 years. Anticipated release date: 2019. Currently in 5th year of incarceration without furlough.

5. Abolghassem Fouladvand, accused of Moharebeh through supporting the MEK. Arrested in 2013, sentenced to 15 years. Anticipated release date: 2028. Currently in 5th year of incarceration without furlough.

6. Gol Mohammad Jonbeshi, accused of cooperation with the Taliban. Arrested in 2016, sentenced to 3 years. Anticipated release date: 2019. Currently in 2nd year of incarceration without furlough.

7. Latif Hassani, accused of forming an illegal group to act against national security. Arrested in 2012, sentenced to 8 years. Anticipated release date: 2020.

8. Saeed Massouri, accused of Moharebeh through membership in the MEK. Arrested in 2000, sentenced to life. Currently in 2nd year of incarceration without furlough.

9. Mohammad Ali (Pirouz) Mansouri, accused of Moharebeh through support of the MEK. Arrested on 2007, sentenced to 22 years. Anticipated release date: 2028. Currently in 11th year of incarceration without furlough.

10. Asghar Pashayi, accused of espionage. Arrested in 2008, sentenced to 10 years. Anticipated release date: 2018. Release pending his payment of a fine. Currently in 10th year of incarceration without furlough.

11. Farhang Pourmansouri, accused of hijacking a plane. Arrested in 2000, sentenced to life. Currently in 18th year of incarceration without furlough.

12. Shahram Pourmansouri, accused of hijacking a plane. Arrested in 2000, sentenced to life. Currently in 18th year of incarceration without furlough.

13. Houshang Rezaei, accused of Moharabeh through membership in Komele [Kurdish opposition group]. Arrested in 2010, sentenced to death. Currently in 8th year of incarceration without furlough.

14. Arash Sadeghi, accused of propaganda against the regime, assembly and collusion, insulting the supreme leader, and disseminating lies. Arrested in 2016, sentenced to 11.5 years. Anticipated release date: 2027. Currently in 2nd year of incarceration without furlough.

15. Hassan Sadeghi, accused of Moharebeh through cooperation with the MEK. Arrested in 2013, sentenced to 11.5 years. Anticipated release date: 2028. Currently in 5th year of incarceration without furlough.

16. Hamzeh Savari, accused of moharebeh and acting against national security. Arrested in 2005, sentenced to life. Currently in 13th year of incarceration without furlough.

17. Payam Shakiba, accused of assembly and collusion against national security and propaganda against the regime. Arrested in 2016, sentenced to 11 years. Anticipated release date: 2027. Currently in 2nd year of incarceration without furlough.

18. Saeed Shirzad, accused of assembly and collusion against national security, damaging prison property, and disrupting prison order. Arrested in 2014, sentenced to 6.5 years. Anticipated release date: 2020. Currently in 4th year of incarceration without furlough.

Baha’is incarcerated in Ward 11:

1. Vahed Kholousi, accused of assembly and collusion against national security, Baha’i membership, activism, and proselytizing, propaganda against the regime, and activism in defense of Baha’i student rights. Arrested in 2015, sentenced to 5 years. Anticipated release date: 2020. Currently in 3rd year of incarceration without furlough.

2. Afshin Seyyed Ahmad, accused of assembly and collusion and propaganda against the regime. Arrested in 2016, sentenced to 3 years. Anticipated release date: 2019. Currently in 2nd year of incarceration without furlough.

3. Farhad Fahandoj, accused of Baha’i proselytizing and involvement in Baha’i associations. Arrested in 2012, sentenced to 10 years. Anticipated release date: 2022. Currently in 6th year of incarceration without furlough.

4. Afif Naimi, accused of assembly and collusion, blasphemy, and propaganda against the regime. Arrested in 2008, sentenced to 10 years. Anticipated release date: 2018.

Ailing prisoners deprived of medical care:

1. Majid Assadi: gastrointestinal disease, duodenal ulcers
2. Shahram Pourmansouri: herniated disc, syringomyelia requiring immediate surgery (per doctor)
3. Mohammad Banazadeh Amir Khizi: joint pain
4. Hassan Sadeghi: joint pain
5. Aboulghassem Fouldadvand: arterial plaque requiring hospitalization (per doctor)
6. Arash Sadeghi: chondrosarcoma, surgical site infection in the right arm
7. Saeed Shirzad: herniated disk, lower back spasm

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.

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.

Appeals Court Convenes for 4 Baha’i Residents of Mashhad

Posted on: August 27th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On August 26, 2018, the Appeals Court of Razavi Khorasan Province met to process the appeal of four Baha’i residents of Mashhad convicted of propaganda against the regime.

Dori Amri, May Kholousi, Saghi Fadaei, and Shayan Tafzili each face a sentence of one year in prison, issued by Branch 3 of the Revolutionary Court of Mashhad in March 2018.

An informed source told HRANA that an appeals decision is anticipated soon.

The accused were apprehended in June 2014 by Mashhad security forces and later released on bail. They were tried in two court sessions that met on December 17, 2014, and June 17, 2017. These trials culminated in a sentencing from Judge Soltani of one-year discretionary imprisonment each.

In Iran, Baha’i citizens do not enjoy the freedom of religion. Their systematic oppression flouts both Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights, affording all individuals religious freedoms, i.e. the right “to have or to adopt a religion or belief of one’s choice and freedom, either individually or in community with others, and in public or private to manifest one’s religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.”

Unofficial reports indicate that over three hundred thousand Baha’is currently reside in Iran. However, the constitution of Iran only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism as official religions, and does not extend this recognition to the Baha’i faith. For this reason, the rights of the Iranian Baha’i community are systematically violated.

Latest Report on Baha’is Detained in Shiraz

Posted on: August 21st, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Friday, August 17, 2018, security forces detained a number of Baha’i residents of Shiraz and transferred them to the Detention Center of the Intelligence Office of Shiraz (No. 100). Dorna Isma’ili, Negar Mithaghiyan, and Hooman Isma’ili were released later that day. Pezhman Shahriyari, Mahboob Habibi, and Koroush Rowhani remain in custody.

On Friday, HRANA issued two reports about the seizure and detention of Baha’is via Intelligence Office No. 100. In the hours following HRANA’s report, news networks affiliated with Iranian security agencies buzzed with accounts of unexplained and coordinated arrests of at least 40 Baha’i residents of Shiraz. As of the date of this publication, HRANA has not been able to confirm their reports and continues to investigate.

Baha’is in Iran do not have freedom of religion. This systematic repression is in violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as Article 18 of the International Covenant on 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.

Video Report: Baha’i Citizen Mehrdad Heyrani Temporarily Released from Evin Prison

Posted on: August 11th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Saturday, August 11, 2018, Baha’i citizen and Tehran native Mehrdad Heyrani, after three months of detention by Intelligence agents, was temporarily released on a bail of approximately $110,000 USD (1.2 billion rials), and awaits trial.

An informed source had previously told HRANA: “On Friday, May 11, 2018, Intelligence agents went to apprehend [Heyrani] in his home, but failed to do so since he was not there. After learning that he was at a friend’s house in Baghestan, Karaj (just west of Tehran), they travelled there, arrested him, escorted him back to his home, and transferred him to an unknown location after searching his residence and confiscating his personal belongings, such as his computer and religious books.”

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.

Baha’i Student Jailed to Serve his Sentence

Posted on: August 9th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA)- Mehran Eslami Amirabadi, Yazd native and member of the Baha’i religious minority, has turned himself in to serve an 18-month jail term, 12 months of which must be served in exile in Saravan (located in Sistan & Baluchestan, a southeastern province known for extreme heat, drought, and few natural resources).

A source close to Eslami confirmed the news to HRANA, adding that he decided to turn himself in upon the detainment of his co-defendant Mehran Bandi Amirabadi, who is subject to the same sentence.

Five others who were tried in the same court face a 3-year suspended prison sentence: Sorour Foroughi Mehdi Abadi, Farzad Rouhani Monshadi, Ramin Hosri Sharaf Abadi, Mohammad Ali Tadrisi, Ahmad Jafari Naimi.

Along with several other Baha’is, Eslami was tried several months ago in Branch 3 of Yazd Provincial Appeals Court on the charges of “disseminating propaganda against the regime” and “propaganda on behalf of groups or organizations acting against the regime.” All were sentenced in that trial to one year in prison, and a one-year suspended prison sentence. Given this prior sentence, Eslami will likely spend a year and a half behind bars.

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.