February 13, 2015
By Kian Sabeti
Translation by Iran Press Watch
Human Rights activists report of intensified pressures on Baha’i citizens and incarceration of a large number of them in the past year. The statistics on the number of Baha’i prisoners are constantly changing, as many of the sentences that were issued in the past few years have been carried out in recent months.
Among the latest, we can refer to the imprisonment of more than 10 Baha’i citizens in Kerman, Tonekabon, Arak, Semnan and Urumieh in the last two months. These widespread arrests have been so extensive that some families have more than one family member in prison.
For example, Jamaleddin Khanjani is serving 20 years at Karaj’s Rajai-Shahr prison together with his grandson, Foad Khanjani, who is serving a four-year prison term.
Another example is the case of two sisters, Nika and Nava Kholousi, who are serving six-year and four-and-a-half-year sentences respectively, at Mashahd’s Vakil-Abad prsion. Recently, their father Manouchehr Kholousi was also sentenced to six years of imprisonment by Mashhad’s Revolutionary Court, and is waiting for his sentence to be carried out.
In addition to the above-mentioned cases, there are other examples, such as the imprisonment of two brothers, or of a father and son or daughter, a mother and daughter or son, and married Baha’i couples in different cities of Iran.
Moreover, five Baha’i couples have been in prison in Karaj and Urumieh; of course this number has been increasing in recent months, with a number of Baha’i citizens in Yazd, Shiraz and Gorgan beginning their sentences.
It should be mentioned that similar situations for Baha’i families occurred in the 1980s, when a number of Baha’i couples were executed in Tehran, Shiraz and Birjand.
Read more: Imprisoned couples
On the occasion of this Valentine’s Day, Baha’i couples in Karaj and Urumieh prisons are introduced in this report. These prisoners can only hope to see each other during periodic visit days arranged by officials. Even such visits can be cancelled due to different reasons, such as the inmate not wearing the prison uniform, or for government holidays.
Shahab Dehghani and Shomeis Mohajer (Dehghani)
On the morning of July 11, 2012 the homes of a large number of Baha’i residents of Tehran were raided and inspected by agents of the Ministry of Information.
During the course of these raids, several Baha’is were arrested and transferred to Evin prison. Among them were Shahab Dehghani and his wife, Shomeis Mohajer. Shahab was in detention for 33 days, 24 of which were spent in solitary confinement. Shomeis was released after 26 days detention, after [ayment of a bail of $12,300 bail.
Charged with “propaganda against the regime” and “membership in the illegal Baha’i organization”, On August 3rd of the following year Shahab Dehghani was tried at Branch 28 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran, presided over by Judge Mohammed Moghiseh. Later, his wife was faced with similar charges, and was tried at the same court.
The court sentenced Shahab Dehghani to four years and Shomeis Mohajer to one year of prison. These sentences were upheld by the appeals court.
Upon receiving a summons on May 24, 2014, Shahab Dehghani reported to Evin prison; he was transferred to Rajai-Shahr prison in Karaj a few days later.
Shomeis had been summoned to report to prison before Shahab. However, because she was undergoing cancer treatment at the time, her prison term was scheduled to start at a later date. She started serving her sentence on June 28, 2014.
Shomeis Mohajer is currently serving her prison term together with seven Baha’i women and other prisoners of conscience.
The following was reported to Radio Zamaneh about the current health condition of Shomeis: “Shomeis is doing well, and has been sent out of prison for various medical tests. The last time she was very uncomfortable, as she was taken to the hospital with shackles both on her hands and ankles. She is currently in prison, is feeling well, and her cancer is under control.”
Adel Naeemi and Elham Farahani (Naeemi)
This Baha’i couple was also among those arrested on July 11, 2012. The agents inspected their home for several hours, and confiscated many of their personal items, books, photos and CDs that were related to Baha’i Faith.
On July 23rd of the same year, their son, Shamim Naeemi was also summoned to the Shahid Moghadas [Holy Martyr] Court at Evin Prison, and was arrested after showing up at the court. After approximately one month, Elham and Shamim were released on bail, but the father was kept in solitary confinement for three months. He was finally transferred to the public ward, and taken to Rajai-Shahr Prison after a while.
Adel Naeemi was the only Baha’i who was not released on bail after the July arrest of Baha’is. He has been in Rajai-Shahr prison now for approximately 30 months, and is not allowed to go on furlough.
At the time of Adel Naeemi’s transfer to Rajai-Shahr Prison, his younger brother Afif Naeimi, who used to be a member of the governing body of the Iranian Baha’i community (the Yaran, or Friends of Iran*) was serving a 20-year prison term there.
The trial of Adel Naeemi together with seven Baha’i citizens of Gorgan and Gonbad-Kavus, who had also been transferred to Rajai-Shahr Prison, was held on April 24, 2013.
Even though there was no connection between the case of the Baha’i prisoners from Gorgan and that of Adel Naeemi, Branch 28 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran headed by Judge Moghiseh reviewed all their cases at the same session.
These eight Baha’i citizens were charged with propaganda against the regime, establishing and managing the illegal Baha’i organization, and membership in the illegal Baha’i organization.
According to the verdict issued for Adel Naeemi, he was sentenced to eleven years and each of the other defendants was sentenced to between five and ten years incarceration. All these individuals are serving their prison terms at Rajai-Shahr prison.
A source aware of Adel Naeemi’s health condition has told Radio Zamaneh: “ Mr. Naeemi is 63 years old, and most of his health problems are age related. The prison officials have so far taken good care of him and have twice – accompanied by guards – transferred him to the hospital for observation and treatment. He is scheduled to be transferred to the hospital in the near future due to clogged arteries in his heart.”
Elham Farahani (Naeemi) was tried a few months after being released on bail, charged with propaganda against the regime and membership in the Baha’i organization. She was sentenced to four years imprisonment by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, and her original sentence was reconfirmed at the appeals court.
Their son, Shamim Naeemi, was also sentenced to three years in prison by Judge Moghiseh, based on similar charges.
On Sunday, May 11, 2014, while Shamim was preparing to report to Evin prison, he was arrested by agents at his home and transferred to prison.
Elham Farahani, together with Shamim’s sister and brother-in-law, went to Evin prison to say goodbye, at which time Elham was arrested (without a written summons) and transferred to the Women’s Ward to serve her sentence.
Shamim was also transferred to Rajai-Shahr prison, and is currently serving his sentence near his father.
This Baha’i couple has one son and one daughter. Their daughter is currently following up all their cases from outside the prison.
Sarang Ettehadi and Nasim Ashrafi (Ettehadi)
Sarang and Nasim Ettehadi are the third couple among whose who were arrested as a result of the raids made on Baha’i homes on July 11, 2012. They were transferred to prison after receiving their sentences.
Sarang Ettehadi was released on bail after 33 days in solitary confinement. Nasim Ashrafi was released on bail after 23 days in detention.
Charged with propaganda against the regime, and membership in the Baha’i organization with the intention of disrupting national security, on June 12, 2013 Nasim Ashrafi was sentenced to three years imprisonment by Branch 28 of Tehran’s Revolutionary Court presided over by Judge Moghiseh. Charged with the same accusations, Sarang Ettehadi was tried at Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court, and sentenced to five years in prison on January 15, 2014. However, at the appeals court the couple were acquitted of the charge of membership in an illegal organization, and their sentences were reduced to one year in prison each.
In a conversation with the International Campaign for Human Rights, Sarang Ettehadi said: “ During the interrogations they kept telling us we were not Iranian citizens and must leave Iran. The tenor of the interrogations and our sentences were not fair at all, either. Religious activities cannot be considered to be propaganda against the regime. I have never participated in any rebellious or armed activities against the regime. All my activities have been peaceful; overall, I have had nothing to do with the government. We basically performed our own religious rites. However, our cases have been handled without any consideration for whether or not there was any evidence or based on any normal legal proceedings.”
A source familiar with the couple has told Radio Zamaneh: “Two months before her arrest, Nasim was inflicted with medical shock, which is very dangerous. She was undergoing treatment, and Sarang obtained a letter from the Forensics Office, confirming that her wife had to be in a quiet and stress free environment and not to go to prison throughout the course of her treatment. We expected them to give Nasim more time until she recovered. Unfortunately however, on Tuesday May 6th, while at a laboratory on Amir-Abad Avenue for medical tests, she was detained and directly transferred to Evin Prison. Nasim has so far been out of prison for treatment only once.”
This source continued: “ Sarang was also summoned in early July. After visiting Nasim at Evin on July 19th, he turned himself in, and is currently serving his sentence at Rajai-Shahr prison. Before turning himself in, he expressed joy at having been summoned, as they expect their prison terms to be over around the same time, and after three stressful and troubled years they hope to continue their married life in comfort and peace.”
Kamran Rahimian and Faran Hessami (Rahimian)
Following the raid on the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE)** and the arrest of its professors and administrators in May 2011, Kamran Rahimian and his wife Faran Hesami ,who were instructors in the Psychology Department of BIHE, were summoned to Evin prison for questioning in early August, and were subsequently arrested.
The primary reason given for their arrest was that their academic credentials were labeled invalid by the educational system of Iran.
This Baha’i couple had obtained their Master of Science degrees from Carlton University in Canada.
After returning to Iran, they engaged in forming classes and group therapies to share their knowledge. These two young Baha’is have written and translated books in the field of Educational Psychology.
“Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life” and “Raising Children Compassionately” by Marshall Rosenberg are among the books translated by Kamran Rahimian, and “Feeling Good Again: a Recovery Guide for Parents and Psychologists Dealing with Sexually Abused Children” and “If Your Child” are among the books translated by Faran Hesami.
Faran Hesami was released after spending 75 days in custody and posting bail of $50,000.00 while Kamran was still being interrogated in Section 209 of Evin prison. On December 14 and 17 of the same year, these two Iranian Baha’is were accused of membership in Baha’i institutions, and assembly with the intention of disrupting national security, and were sentenced to spend four years in prison, by Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Tehran with Judge Abolghassem Salavati as presiding Judge. The ruling was upheld in the appeals court.
Kamran Rahimian was transferred to Rajai-Shahr prison directly at the end of the court session where he is still serving time without the right to a prison furlough.
Faran, however, was arrested on the spot, and sent to the women’s section of Evin prison on July 16th 2012, while pursuing her husband’s case in Evin court, without prior notice or being allowed to say goodbye to her then three year old son.
Artin Rahimian, the son of Kamran and Faran, was two years old when his parents were arrested. Initially, he stayed with his grandmother (his grandfather was executed in 1984 for his belief in Baha’i Faith) and his uncle, Keyvan Rahimian; however, Keyvan was also sentenced to five years of incarceration in September 2012, and was sent to Rajai-Shahr prison. Artin is now five years old. His only experience of his parents’ loving presence is from short prison visits from behind glass windows at Evin and Rajai-Shahr prisons.
Fardin Aghsani and Farahnaz Moghaddam (Aghsani)
On Wednesday, January 30, 2013, agents of the Ministry of Information in Urumieh raided the office of Fardin Aghsani. After a complete inspection of the office, they arrested him and took him to his home. After a thorough inspection of the house and confiscation of all their belongings and Baha’i books, the agents also arrested Fardin’s wife, Farahnaz Moghaddam, and transferred both of them to the Ministry of Information.
This Baha’i couple was detained at Urumieh Prison for a few months, and was finally released on bail.
Fardin and Farahnaz were deprived of the most basic prison facilities during their detention.
There was news that during their temporary detention, these Baha’i parents were denied a visit with their children for a long time.
These two individuals who were detained along with four other Baha’i citizens, and were forbidden from talking to other prisoners or performing personal acts of worship such as obligatory prayers in front of other inmates.
In the Spring of 2014, Fardin Aghsani and Farahnaz Moghaddam were tried at Branch 1 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Urumieh, headed by Judge Chabok.
They were charged with propaganda against the Islamic Republic through teaching activities in favor of the Baha’i Faith and attracting Muslims, and with cospiracy and plotting through membership in the Baha’i Assembly (The governing committee of the local Baha’i community). Based on these charges each of these Baha’i citizens was sentenced to six years of imprisonment. However, the original sentences were reduced to three years in the appeals court.
Farahnaz is currently serving her prison term in Urumieh Prison.
Fardin, who during the Iran-Iraq war was in prison in Iraq for three years, and is therefore considered to be a POW (Prisoner Of War), is now serving another three years at the Urumieh Prison.
* Profiles of the seven Yaran can be found here: http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/yaran-special-report/profiles
** Profiles of BIHE educators, many arrested in the May 2011 raid, can be found here: http://news.bahai.org/human-rights/iran/education/profiles