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.

Baha’i Student Expelled from University for Her Religious Beliefs

Posted on: August 19th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA)- Romina Asgari, who was enrolled in a Master’s program in Tehran’s Islamic Azad University (IAU) (1), has been expelled for her Baha’i faith. She was enrolled for four semesters before being barred from continuing her education.

In a letter by the IAU, the reason for her expulsion was cited as “non-conforming social behaviour and attempts to disturb the country’s security, peace and order”. However, Ms Asgari was reportedly absent from the University for the past six months and had been on academic leave for one semester.

Contrary to the letter of the law (2) , the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council (3) has adopted a policy that bars members of the Baha’i religious minority group from university education and employment in public services. Every year, many reports are published about Baha’i students who have been barred from university. The ban includes students who have been accepted to university but have not yet started the school year.

UN special rapporteurs on the situation of human rights in Iran have continuously protested against the Iranian authorities’ anti-Baha’i policies and practices – in particular barring Baha’i students from university education – and deemed these practices as instances of the Iranian authorities violating their international commitments.

Based on unofficial reports, there are 300,000 members of the Baha’i faith in Iran, but lack of recognition of their religion by Iran’s constitution has been used as justification for the systematic denial of their rights. Systematic infringements on the rights of Baha’is contravenes Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (4) and Article 18 of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (5) , both of which guarantee the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion.

—–

(1) Islamic Azad University is a network of universities established after the 1979 revolution with branches all across Iran. Unlike Iranian public universities, they charge, at times hefty, tuition fees, and they impose much stricter disciplinary and Islamic dress code. However, they provide access to university education in remote areas. It is governed by a board of trustees who have been taken over recently by hardliners close to Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader.

(2) Iran’s constitution does not recognize Baha’i followers as religious minorities, but articles of the Constitution guarantee the right to association for everyone.

(3) The Council was founded in 1984 on the order of Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder of Islamic Republic, to ensure Islamization of universities, survey academia to ensure their allegiance to the regime and their adherence to Islamic values.

(4) http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/
(5) https://www.ohchr.org/…/professionalint…/pages/ccpr.aspx

Increase in Arrests of Baha’i Citizens in Shiraz

Posted on: August 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – On Friday, August 17, 2018, Baha’i citizens Pezhman Shahriari, Dorna Esmaili, Hooman Esmaili, Kourosh Rouhani, Negar Misaghian and Mahboob Habibi were arrested by security forces and transferred to the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in the city of Shiraz.

An informed source told HRANA: “Negar Misaghian and Dorna Esmaili were released hours after [their arrest].”

Unconfirmed reports from sources close to the security apparatus say at least 40 Baha’i citizens in Shiraz were arrested today, during a planned operation. HRANA is in the process of investigating this claim.

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.

Kerman Authorities Prevent Burial of Local Baha’i Resident

Posted on: August 18th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Kerman security forces prevented the burial of local Baha’i resident Abbas Kholousi, who passed away on August 7, 2018, forcing the deceased’s family to bury him in the faraway city of Rafsanjan.

“Mr Khoulousi passed away August 7th,” a source close to the matter revealed to HRANA, “and despite his family’s insistence on a burial in Kerman where he lived, local security forces prevented them from doing so, forcing them to bury him in Rafsanjan four days later. The security forces had summoned and pressured Khoulousi’s son, saying that if the family did not comply with the order, security forces would transport Mr Kholousi and bury him in Rafsanjan themselves.”

The source added, “Authorities made this demand in spite of Baha’i Law, which says that the journey between the deceased’s residence and burial place should not exceed an hour, and the distance between Kerman and Rafsanjan is greater than that. Regardless, the funeral was held today, with a great number of Kerman and Rafsanjan locals in attendance.”

Last March, HRANA reported on the shutting down of the Baha’is Golestan-e-Javid cemetery by the Kerman municipality.

Kerman’s judicial authorities ordered the shutdown of the cemetery on March 15, 2018, and Baha’i burials on the cemetery grounds have been forbidden since. This shutdown followed a 2015 judiciary order mandating that each province designate at least one city for Baha’i burials. On the morning of March 16, 2018, Baha’i visitors to the Golestan-e-Javid cemetery learned of its shutdown by arriving there to find its gates locked and a written notice of its closure. The visitors were prevented from entering the cemetery.

The notice outlined the graveyard’s closing and a ban on further burials within it, reading: “By the order of judicial authorities, adherent to article 688 of the Islamic Penal Code, due to environmental and sanitation issues, and observing clause 6, article 96 of Municipal Law, interment here is forbidden, effective March 15, 2018.”

Reports by HRANA in recent years have documented a consistent pattern of institutional and judicial orders that have resulted in the shutdown or demolition of Baha’i cemeteries across the country.

The 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.

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.

Christian Convert Couple in Bushehr Face Prison Sentence

Posted on: August 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – The Revolutionary Court of Bushehr has ruled to sentence Christian converts Shapour Jozi and his wife, Parastou Zariftash, to one year in prison.

Jozi and Zariftash are among a group of Christian converts residing in Bushehr (capital of the southern province of Bandar Abbas) who were arrested in 2015, and among the 12 of whom were accused of “propaganda against the regime” for founding Christian churches in local homes. So began a 2-year deliberation in the Revolutionary Court of Bushehr that would finally convict Jozi, Zariftash, and their ten comrades to one year of imprisonment each.

Jozi and Zariftash told Mohabbat News: “Judge Abbas Asgari, the head of Branch 1 of the [Bushehr] Revolutionary Court, accused us of propaganda against the regime by way of Christian Zionism, because we gathered in family circles, inviting people to Christianity and drawing them to the land of Christianity*.”

The charge of “drawing people to the *land of Christianity” is unprecedented in Iran, making their case particularly noteworthy.

Jozi added, “The verdicts say that a number of books, booklets, publications, CDs, banners, Bibles, sermons, group prayers, and invocation books bearing the sign of the cross, computers, Christian paintings, USBs, tablets, cell phones, and statues have been discovered and confiscated by the government.”

Despite promises from Iranian president Hassan Rouhani, a self-proclaimed moderate, to increase government tolerance in view of rights to religious freedom, Christians have recently faced considerably mounting pressure from authorities.

“The Iranian people enjoy few, if any, freedoms, least of all the freedom of religion,” Mike Pence, Vice President of the United States, recently said.

“Christians, Jews, Sunnis, Baha’is, and other minority religious groups are denied the most basic rights enjoyed by the Shia majority, and they are routinely fined, flogged, arrested, assaulted, and even killed.”

In reference to the same issue at a gathering of Iranian-Americans in Los Angeles, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also affirmed that the Iranian authorities violate the rights of religious minorities.

*With “the land of Christianity,” Iranian authorities are likely referring to Jerusalem.

Dervish Woman Handed Prison Sentence on National Security Charges

Posted on: August 8th, 2018

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) When 324 members of the Dervish Muslim minority [1] were arrested February 3, 2018, Sepideh Moradi was among them. According to Human Rights Watch, a sense of injustice over intensified government surveillance of their spiritual leader prompted Moradi and her comrades to organize a protest, which flagged them as threats in the eyes of authorities.

Sure enough, Dervish news agency Majzooban Noor reported that when a detained Moradi–in protest of a lack of due process and legal representation for Dervishes–refused to attend her trial on July 28th, she was sentenced in absentia by Judge Salavati and is now beginning a five-year sentence at Gharchak Varamin Prison [2] for “Collusion to Act against National Security.”

Salavati leaned on section 23 of the Islamic Penal Code to stiffen Moradi’s sentence with two-year bans on travel, membership in political groups and parties, and media or cyber activity. She had already been barred from pursuing her master’s degree in Computer Science on a prior charge.

“The accused is the daughter of Hamidreza Moradi, an extremist figure and one of the directors of the Majzooban Noor website,” her verdict read. “She was raised in a dogmatic Dervish family, and joined the Gonabadi Dervish sect under the influence of their deviant beliefs.”

Moradi and her fellow women Dervishes reportedly endured mistreatment and torture over the course of their interrogation and detention. At one point Moradi went on hunger strike to protest a violent raid conducted June 13th by the Special Guard Force of the prison. HRANA previously published the identities of these attackers.

She received medical care from an outside facility on July 25th after weeks of follow-ups; as of the date of this report, no further information was available on her health condition.

Tehran General Prosecutor Jafari Dolatabadi announced on July 24th that 330 sentences had thus far been handed down in Dervish cases. He added: “In the cases of those 25 who refused to attend their court sessions in attempts to thwart trial proceedings, the court […] followed through with procedure. Their verdicts were delivered in person.”

[1] There are various divisions among Dervishes in Iran; those featured in this article are Nematollahi Gonabadis who consider themselves followers of Twelver Shia Islam, the official state religion in Iran. According to Human Rights Watch, Noor Ali Tabandeh, spiritual leader of the Nematollahi Gonabadi Dervish faith, published a video on March 8th stating that he is not allowed to leave his residence in Tehran.

[2] For more information on deplorable conditions in Gharchak prison, please refer to pages 18 to 20 of the following document compiled by UK Home Office:
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/565834/CIG-Iran-Prison-Conditions-v1-February-2016.pdf