Update: Authorities Continue to Hold Back Aspiring Baha’i Students

Posted on: September 15th, 2018

Baha’i enrollment numbers in Iranian universities are still under threat

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) Additional Baha’i college applicants have had their university entrance exam results invalidated on the National Organization for Educational Testing website, effectively barring them from continuing their studies.

As part of a larger anti-Baha’i discrimination policy administered by the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, the e-dossiers of Parham Mokhtari from Saravan (ranked #397), Basir Zeinali Baghini of Bandar Abbas (ranked #1506), Yahya Mousavi Tangrizi from Karaj, and Anita Rastegar have all been flagged “deficiency on file.”

The flagging of results on this nation-wide competitive test, known as “Konkur,” is a well-known technique for repressing Baha’i college hopefuls. HRANA previously reported on a number of Baha’i student test results that were blocked from further processing using the same method. As of the date of this report, sixteen students have been prevented from pursuing higher education because of their Baha’i faith.

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.

Update: Systematic Religious Discrimination Curbs Twenty-three Baha’i College Hopefuls

Seven more would-be college students have been plucked from the pool of candidates by a government-sanctioned process designed to thwart the educational pathways of Baha’i citizens.

Nabil Bashi Ardestani, Tara Bahamin, Bita Charkh Zarrin, Nona Ghadiri, Sayeh Aghaei from Tabriz, Pegah Siroosian, and Sadaf Misaghi Seysan of Tehran have joined the growing number of Baha’i youth whose results on the competitive National University Exam, known as “Konkur,” have been flagged “deficiency on file” on the National Organization for Educational Testing website, rendering them ineligible to apply to college.

Over the past few days, HRANA reported on 16 prospective Baha’i college applicants who are now at the same impasse: Parham Mokhtari from Saravan ranked # 397, studying mathematics; Basir Zeinali Baghini from Bandar Abbas ranked # 1506; Yahya Mousavi Tangrizi from Karaj, Anita Rastegar, Tarannum Mu’tamedi Broujerdi from Shahin Shahr of Isfahan, Faran Abbaspouli Mamaghani from Tehran, Sahand Ghaemi from Shahin Shahr of Isfahan, Vahid Sadeghi Seysan, Shaghayegh Ghassemi, Shamim Idelkhani, of Ardebil, ranked #139; Farnia Iliyazadeh of Tehran, studying Mathematics; Parmida Hosseinpooli Mamaqani, ranked #4500, studying Mathematics; Sarvin Azarshab of Tehran, studying business, ranked #19000; Parand Misaghi; Shahrzad Tirgar; and Melina Ghavaminik, from Tehran, studying mathematics, ranked #10545.

The Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution flags the e-dossiers of Baha’i students as part of an organized effort — in the words of one HRANA source — “to keep them from moving forward.”

The most recent seven targets of this campaign bring the current total to 23 Baha’i students being deprived of the opportunity to pursue higher education because of their faith.

Second Dervish Arrested in Dashti Village

Posted on: September 14th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Hadi Karimi, Dashti village resident and member of Iran’s Dervish religious minority, has been arrested and taken to an undisclosed location, Majzooban Noor reported.

The Dervish-interest news agency reported that Karimi was taken away around 8 p.m. on Monday in Dashti, Isfahan province, when four plainclothes officers pulled up to the village’s body shop in a Samand vehicle and swarmed him.

The identities of the agents and the reason behind Karimi’s arrest remain unknown. It is speculated that his arrest is connected to violent clashes that took place in Tehran this past February, when scores of Dervishes were arrested during protests of restrictions being placed on their spiritual leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh.

Karimi’s detainment marks this summer’s second instance of Dervishes being arrested in Dashti village. On July 3rd, Hossein Ghazavi, also a Dervish, was arrested during a raid on his home in which his personal belongings and spiritual books were confiscated.

At Least Six Ahwazi Arab Citizens Arrested For Reasons Undisclosed

Posted on: September 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – A number of Ahwazi Arab citizens were arrested by intelligence agents Wednesday, September 12th in Molashiyeh, located in southern Ahvaz County in Iran’s Khuzestan Province, near the Iran-Iraq border.

HRANA was able to identify six of the arrestees as Lami Shamoosi, age 31; Eidan Shamoosi, 28; Shani Shamoosi, 29; Farhan Shamoosi, 27; Amir Shamoosi, 19; and Jasem Heydari, 21.

Many more than these six have been detained, according to estimates from local sources. At the time of this report, no further information was available on their location or the reason for their arrests.

An annual report published by Human Rights Activists in Iran (HRAI) states that in 2017, 6883 citizens were arrested in Iran on ideological or political grounds. Among these were the arrests of 1281 individuals accused of posing a political, ideological, or security-related threat to Iranian citizenry.

The demographics of the arrest pool include 66 media activists, 14 environmental activists, 222 religious minorities, 114 women protesters and women’s rights activists, and 60 laborers and labor activists.

Number of Barred Baha’i Students Increases on 2018 National University Entrance Exam

Posted on: September 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – A large number of Baha’i students who participated in the 2018 National University Entrance Exam, known as “Konkur,” have had their applications flagged “deficiency on file” on the National Organization for Educational Testing website, a known harbinger of educational aspirations dead in the water.

As an informed source told HRANA, “The ‘deficiency in file’ flag is used on Baha’i citizens to keep them from moving forward in their studies, a practice that’s been prevalent since 2006.”

The barred Baha’i students are Shamim Idelkhani, of Ardebil, ranked #139; Farnia Iliyazadeh of Tehran, studying Mathematics; Parmida Husaynpuli Mamaqani, ranked #4500, studying Mathematics; Sarvin Azarshab of Tehran, studying business, ranked #19000; Parand Mithaqi; Shahrzad Tirgar; and Melina Qavaminik, from Tehran, studying mathematics, ranked #10545.

Yesterday, HRANA reported on a number of Baha’is at the same impasse: Tarannum Mu’tamedi Broujerdi from Shahin Shahr of Isfahan, Faran Abbaspouli Mamaghani from Tehran, Sahand Ghaemi from Shahin Shahr of Isfahan, Vahid Sadeghi Sisan, and Shaghayegh Ghassemi.

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 barred in this way from the university enrollment process.

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, particular in preventing these citizens from furthering their studies. According to the Rapporteur, such directives demonstrate a blatant disregard of multiple international treaties.

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.

Five Shirazi Baha’is Sentenced to Exile in Absentia

Posted on: September 13th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – In the absence of both the defendants and their attorneys, Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz has sentenced five of its Baha’i citizens –Farhad Sarafraz, Shahram Mansour, Vahid Dana, Saeid Abedi, and Adib Haghpajouh– to one year in prison and one year in exile each.

”All five men were accused of ‘Propaganda against the regime,'” an informed source told HRANA. The verdict stipulates that all five will serve their sentences in different cities of the Fars province: Sarafaraz is to be exiled to Jahrom, Mansour to Eghlid, Dana to Arsanjan, and Haghpajouh to Larestan.

On August 5, 2014, HRANA reported the arrest of Haghpajouh, Abedi, and Dana; Mansour and Sarafraz were detained by Shiraz security forces four days prior.

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.

Forty Days Later, Whereabouts of Imprisoned Dervish Amin Alizadeh Still Unknown

Posted on: September 12th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The family of Amin Alizadeh–a member of Iran’s Gonabadi Dervish religious minority who was arrested in Tehran on June 29th with fellow Dervish Jalal Mousavi–has now been in the dark about his whereabouts for 40 days.

Alizadeh and Mousavi were arrested amid the “Golestan Haftom” incident in February 2018. The incident, named after the street in Tehran on which it took place, broke out when a gathering of several hundred *Gonabadi Dervishes were violently confronted by Iranian police and plainclothes members of the Revolutionary Guard’s Basij faction outside the residence of their spiritual leader, Noor Ali Tabandeh.

The Dervish community had rallied outside Tabandeh’s residence to prevent his possible detainment, as he has reportedly been placed under extended house arrest by Iranian authorities.

Hundreds of Dervishes were beaten, wounded, and arrested during the Golestan Haftom incident. A similar attack occurred on January 24th after an intervention from security forces on the same street, heightening the sense of fear within the Dervish community.

After their arrests in June, Alizadeh and Mousavi were transferred to Ilam Prison in Iran’s Kurdish region, located over 400 miles west of Tehran. According to Ilam Prison authorities, Alizadeh was later transferred to Damavand Prison, closer to Tehran. Damavand judicial authorities, however, have not allowed any visits or contact between Alizadeh and his family.

Though Iranian judicial authorities estimate that around 300 people have been arrested in connection with Golestan Haftom, HRANA has thus far published the names of 324 arrestees and estimates that the actual number is considerably higher.

* There are various divisions among Dervishes in Iran. In this report, the term “Dervish” refers to Nematollahi Gonabadis, who declare themselves as followers of Twelver Shi’ism, Iran’s official state religion.

Activist in Iranshahr Girls Case Released on Bail

Posted on: September 11th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Abdollah Bozorgzadeh, a civil rights activist who was arrested June 17, 2018 for joining a peaceful gathering in support of the Iranshahr Girls, has been released on a bail of 1,200,000,000 Rials (approximately $12,000 USD).

Upon his arrest, Bozorgzadeh was transferred to a Zahedan detention center run by the intelligence department of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The Iranshahr Girls are a group of 41 girls who were reportedly raped in the southeastern city of Iranshahr. Their case attracted public attention when Sunni Imam Molavi Tayeb Molazehi spoke about them during a sermon at the end of Ramadan, stating the girls had been raped by a group of men “of wealth and power.” The sermon ignited street rallies and social media campaigns against authorities’ failure to prosecute the men accused of the rape.

In July of this year, the IRGC reported the arrest of a number of foreign media heads, releasing video-recorded confessions from Abdollah Bozorgzadeh and six other protester-arrestees.

More than 100 well-known civil and human rights activists have spoken out against the Iranian security apparatus, issued a statement calling for Bozorgzadeh’s immediate release, and demanded an investigation to identify and punish those responsible for the rape. Amnesty International called for Bozorgzadeh’s release in a statement released July 4th.

* Iranshahr is located in Sistan and Baluchistan Province, southeastern Iran. Most of the residents of this city are members of the Sunni religious minority.

Authorities Unforthcoming on Status of Sunni Prisoner

Posted on: September 6th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) Since Sunni prisoner Hafiz Tawhid Quraishi was taken in ambiguous circumstances last month to the Detention Center of the Ministry of Intelligence, his family has remained in suspense over his wellbeing.

An informed source told HRANA that Quraishi’s wife and father were insulted and thrown out of Evin Prison’s Prosecution Office when they attempted on September 1st to arrange a visit with him there. “Prison officials told Quraishi’s family that he didn’t have the right to visits,” the source added.

Quraishi had five months left of his sentence at Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj when around 80 of the prison’s Special Forces, accompanied by intelligence officers, launched an attack on the Sunni quarters of the prison (Hall 21 of Detention Center 7), injuring a number of prisoners and destroying or confiscating their personal property.

An informed source confirmed that Quraishi was then transferred to Evin Prison’s Ward 209, where the Ministry of Intelligence Detention Center is housed.

The radio silence from authorities thus far on Quraishi’s case has his family concerned about his fate, and the possibility that authorities are working to prevent his release by developing another case against him.

Mawlavi Hafiz Tawhid Quraishi, a resident of Talesh, was arrested in September of 2014 and tried one year later. He was initially sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment, which was reduced to seven years in an appeals court.

Update on Mostafa Daneshjoo: Evin Prison Authorities Won’t Budge on Medical Blockade

Posted on: September 5th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Mostafa Daneshjoo, an attorney, is currently serving prison time for his legal advocacy and defense of the Gonabadi Dervishes, a religious minority. These days, Daneshjoo is sacrificing more than his freedom: he is now being forced to sacrifice his health.

Daneshjoo, despite suffering from acute lung and heart disease, has been barred access to medical attention of any kind since he was arrested on July 7, 2018.

According to Majzooban Noor, the Gonabadi Dervish Community News Website, when Daneshjoo was first detained, his family was cut off from contact with him for months. When they were finally permitted to see him in Ward 4 of Evin Prison, their relief was mingled with shock at the sight of his severely declining health.

Mostafa Daneshjoo is the former managing director of the Majzooban Noor website. While the clinic at Evin Prison has Daneshjoo’s medical file on hand, authorities–citing Daneshjoo’s prior arrest–are preventing him from seeking help, even from the generalists at the Evin Prison Clinic.

Daneshjoo was arrested in his mother’s home by seven armed officers in the early morning of July 7th. After spending 45 days in solitary confinement in Ward 209 of the Ministry of Intelligence detention center, he was transferred to Evin’s Quarantine Ward before being taken to Ward 4, typically reserved for prisoners with financial charges. Daneshjoo, who is asthmatic, experienced a sharp increase in symptoms after spending 45 days in a solitary cell without ventilation. While he was taken to Taleqani Hospital on July 21st, he was turned away without receiving care within a few hours.

Daneshjoo’s case file indicates that his current arrest warrant was issued by Branch 3 of the Shahid Moghaddas Prosecutor’s Office in Evin Prison. In a phone conversation at the time, he explained he was being pursued by authorities for his affiliation with the Dervishes who were involved in the Golestan Haftom incident. Authorities have reportedly wielded further punitive measures against him, according to a letter published in May 2017 by the Azad University Security Office, which announced that Daneshjoo was being prevented from pursuing his graduate studies in Penal Law and Criminology.

During prior defense proceedings of a number of Gonabadi Dervishes, following punitive reports from Iranian security agencies, Daneshjoo’s licence to practice law was revoked. He was sentenced — along with other attorneys, Dervish advocates, and his Majzooban Noor co-managers– to imprisonment on charges of “Membership in the Dervish anti-security sect,” “Acting against national security,” “Propaganda against the regime,” and “Disrupting public opinion.” Between 2011 and 2015, he served his sentence in Ward 350 of Evin Prison and was released in May 2015.

Yamani Followers Detained in Holy City of Qom

Posted on: September 3rd, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – As part of a crackdown on an alternative religious movement called “Yamani”, at least five more of its members were recently arrested in Qom and taken to an undisclosed location.

Ali Akbar Jokar, a Yamani devotee, was arrested on August 24th; one day later, at least four more members of the group were detained. A source close to the group disclosed the identities of two of these individuals to HRANA, Abbas Fathieh and Sadiq Doustkaam. The remaining two have yet to be identified. Jokar, Fathieh, and Doustkaam were reportedly detained by brute force and physically assaulted while in Qom, central Iran, home to a prominent Shiite Seminary and several holy shrines.

As of the date of this report, authorities have not responded to inquiries from the detainee’s families with their whereabouts.

HRANA previously reported on crackdowns on Yamani supporters in Torbat-e Heydarieh.

Believers of the Yamani faith revolve around their leader, Ahmad al-Hasan Yamani, who claims to be in contact with the Shiites’ 12th 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.