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

Posted on: November 14th, 2018

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.

Update on Arrested Shirazi Baha’is

Posted on: November 6th, 2018

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – Baha’i citizen Bahareh Ghaderi, who was arrested September 15th, was released Saturday, November 3rd on a bail of 200 million tomans [approximately $13,500 USD] pending completion of her investigation.

On October 18th, Niloufar Hakimi and Ehsan Mahboob Rahvafa also went free on bail. Their fellow Baha’is Nora Pourmoradian, Soudabeh Haghighat, and Elaheh Samizadeh were released October 10th.

Two Baha’i prisoners remain in the custody of Shiraz Intelligence Ministry detention center No. 100.

Shiraz, the capital of Fars province located 425 miles south of Tehran, is the birthplace of Ba’b, who formulated the Baha’i religion there in the 19th century. It is home to one of the largest Baha’i communities in Iran.

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.

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.

Baha’i Arrests in Iran; 20 and Counting

Posted on: September 28th, 2018

UPDATE: Hooman Khoshnam was released from prison on bail on October 29, 2018.

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Hooman Khoshnam, a Baha’i resident of Karaj, became the sixth Baha’i citizen to be arrested by Ministry of Intelligence security forces in the city on September 25th, 2018.

In addition to arresting him, security forces also sealed the door to Khoshnam’s workplace. Khoshnam’s arrest is the latest in a series intensified persecution of Baha’i citizens, thus far affecting 20 citizens in Karaj, Shiraz, and on the outskirts of Isfahan.

Before Khoshnam’s arrest, Payam Shabani, another Baha’i resident of Karaj, was arrested by security forces only one day earlier on September 24th. HRANA also reported on the arrest and transfer to Evin Prison of four other Baha’i Karaj residents on September 16th: Peyman Maanavi, Maryam Ghaffaramanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh.

A close source told HRANA that “Maryam Ghaffarmanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh – participants in an environmental education session led by Ghaffarmanesh and hosted in the private residence of Ramin Sedghi – were arrested when intelligence agents showed up demanding their cell phones and pressing them to fill out personal information forms.”

The source said that after the search of Sedghi’s personal property, including his hard drive, pamphlets, and religious materials, agents moved on to search Pakrou’s residence. Ghaffarmanesh, Pakrou, and Salmanzadeh were then transferred to Evin Prison. Ghaffarmanesh’s family learned of her bail some 20 hours later, on a call with her from ward 209 of the prison.

HRANA reported on the arrest of six Baha’i Shiraz residents on September 15th and 16th: Sudabeh Haghighat, Noora Pourmoradian, Elaheh Samizadeh, Ehsan Mahbub-Rahvafa, and married couple Navid Bazmandegan and Bahareh Ghaderi.

HRANA also covered the arrests of eight Baha’i residents of Baharestan, a newly-built city about 18 miles south of Isfahan, on September 23rd and 24th. The detainees were Saham Armin, Afshin Bolbolan, Anush Rayneh, Milad Davardan, Farhang Sahba, Bahareh Zeini (Sobhanian), Sepideh Rouhani and Fuzhan Rashidi.

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, 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.

Fifth Baha’i Karaj Resident Detained

Posted on: September 28th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The crackdown on Iran’s Baha’i community continued September 24th with the arrest of Payam Shabani, a Baha’i resident of Karaj, a northwest suburb of Tehran.

Shabani became the latest Baha’i citizen to be arrested by authorities at his home in Karaj, bringing to five the total number of Baha’i Karaj resident arrested so far. On September 16th, HRANA reported on the arrest and transfer to Evin Prison of Peyman Maanavi, Maryam Ghaffaramanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh.

A close source told HRANA that “Maryam Ghaffarmanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh – participants in an environmental education session led by Ghaffarmanesh and hosted in the private residence of Ramin Sedghi – were arrested when intelligence agents showed up demanding their cell phones and pressing them to fill out personal information forms.”

The source said that after the search of Sedghi’s personal property, including his hard drive, pamphlets, and religious materials, agents moved on to search Pakrou’s residence. Ghaffarmanesh, Pakrou, and Salmanzadeh were then transferred to Evin Prison. Ghaffarmanesh’s family learned of her bail some 20 hours later, on a call with her from ward 209 of the prison.

Baha’i citizens in various cities of the country in recent weeks have faced increasing pressure from the Iranian judiciary and security establishment. In recent weeks, HRANA also reported on the arrests of Baha’i citizens by security forces in the central cities of Shiraz and Isfahan.

In Shiraz, HRANA reported on the September 15th and 16th arrests of Baha’i residents Sudabeh Haghighat, Noora Pourmoradian, Elaheh Samizadeh, Ehsan Mahbub-Rahvafa, and married couple Navid Bazmandegan and Bahareh Ghaderi.

HRANA also reported on the arrest of eight Baha’i residents of Baharestan, a newly-built city about 18 miles south of Isfahan, on September 23rd and 24th: Saham Armin, Afshin Bolbolan, Anush Rayneh, Milad Davardan, Farhang Sahba, Bahareh Zeini (Sobhanian), Sepideh Rouhani and Fuzhan Rashidi.

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, 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.

Shirazi Baha’i Arrestee Released on Bail

Posted on: September 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – After 37 days in the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center, Baha’i Shiraz resident Kourosh Rouhani was released Monday, September 24th on 1 billion rials (approximately $6000 USD) bail, and now awaits trial. As of the date of this report, no further information is available on his charges or the reasons behind his arrest.

According to HRANA reports, Rouhani was among a group of six Baha’is arrested August 18th by security forces in Shiraz: Pezhman Shahriari, Dorna Esmaili, Hooman Esmaili, Negar Misaghian, and Mahboob Habibi.

Notably, Negar Misaghian, Dorna Esmaili, and Hossman Esmaili were released within hours of their arrest, while Rouhani, Shahriari, and Habibi were transferred to the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in Shiraz.

Shiraz has seen a notable increase in the arrests of Baha’i citizens this month, including the arrest and detention of Noora Pourmoradian, Elaheh Samizadeh, Ehsan Mahboob Rahvafa, Navid Bazmandegan, and his spouse Bahareh Ghaderi on September 15th and 16th. [2]

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.

Authorities Continue Pursuit of Baha’i Citizens in Isfahan Province

Posted on: September 26th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Sunday, September 23rd, Saham Armin became the eighth Baha’i citizen to be detained by Ministry of Intelligence forces after having his home searched in Baharestan, a city 12 miles southeast of Isfahan on the route to Shiraz.

HRANA previously reported on the arrest of Afshin Bolbolan, Anoosh Rayeneh, Milad Davardan, Farhang Sahba, Bahareh Zeini (Sobhanian), Sepideh Rohani, and Fojan Rashidi by security forces in the same city [1]. As of the date of this report, no further information was available on their location or the reasons behind their arrest.

A close source to the group previously confirmed to HRANA that Bolbolan’s books, laptop, tablet, and mobile phone were seized by authorities during a search of his home.

In recent weeks, members of the Baha’i religious minority have faced increased pressure from Iranian security and judiciary establishments all over Iran, resulting in several arrests on specious grounds. In the last month, HRANA published reports on the arrests of Baha’i residents of Shiraz and Karaj who were swept up in this trend: Maryam Ghaffarmanesh, Jamileh Pakrou (Mohammad Hossein), Kianoush Salmanzadeh, and Peyman Manavi were arrested and transferred to Evin Prison from Karaj on September 16, 2018. Shiraz security forces arrested Soudabeh Haghighat, Noora Pourmoradian, Elaheh Samizadeh, Ehsan Mahboob Rahvafa, Navid Bazmandegan, and his wife Bahareh Ghaderi on September 15th and 16th.

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.