In a fresh crackdown on Iran’s Baha’i community, one of the most persecuted religious minorities in Iran, 15 followers of the faith were simultaneously arrested in Tehran, Isfahan, and Mashhad on November 15, 2015, by Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence agents.
Padideh Sabeti, a spokesperson for the Baha’i International Community, told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that all the arrested individuals are ordinary Baha’i citizens, and that the reason for the arrests is unknown. Two of those arrested, Sahab Rouhani and Matin Janamian from Isfahan, were released that same night.
A source close to the family of Sahba Farnoush, a 41-year-old Baha’i stationery distributor who was one of the individuals arrested in Tehran, told the Campaign that Farnoush was transferred to Evin Prison, but that the reasons for his arrest are as yet unknown.
“Sahba’s wife had taken the kids to school in the morning. As she entered their building’s parking lot upon her return, a car with six passengers entered the parking [area] behind her. Sahba’s wife says they entered so quickly, she thought they were burglars, so she honked her car horn continuously to get her neighbors’ attention. One of the agents got into her car and showed her the warrant for Sahba’s arrest and for searching their home. But the warrant did not contain the reason for the arrest,” said the source.
“That agent then called someone and said, ‘We have entered. It’s your turn.’ Apparently all the arrests that day had been organized,” the source continued. “While the agent remained in Mrs. Farnoush’s car, [other] agents went upstairs and knocked on the apartment door. When Sahba opened the door and saw them, he shut the door on them, but they broke the door and entered. They searched the home for a couple of hours and took Sahba’s laptop and cell phone. One of the agents on the scene said, ‘We will arrest a whole lot of you today and your names will be all over the Internet in a few hours’.”
“That night of the arrests Sahba called his wife on his cell phone and said he and five other Baha’is from Tehran were being held at Evin Prison. The conversation was brief and we don’t know what he has been accused of,” added the source.
According to this source, on June 22, 1980, when Sahba Farnoush was five years old, his father, Hashem Farnoush, was executed on the orders of Judge Mohammadi Gilani for being a member of the Baha’i organization in Karaj and his properties were confiscated.
The names of Baha’is arrested in the current sweep, as disclosed by the spokesperson for the Community, are as follows. In Tehran: Sahba Farnoush, Negar Bagheri, Nava Monjazeb, Yavar Haghighat, Navid Aghdasi, and Helia Moshtagh. In Isfahan: Keyvan Nikaeen, Parvin Nikaeen, Yeganeh Agahi, Matin Janamian, and Arshia Rouhani. In Mashhad: Sanaz Eshaghi, Nika Pakzadan, Farzaneh Daneshgari, and Naghmeh Zabihian.
The latest arrests bring the total number of Baha’is in Iran’s prisons to 79, Padideh Sabeti told the Campaign.
In addition, a number of Baha’i-owned shops in Kerman, Rafsanjan, and Qaem Shahr have been shut down in recent days for unspecified reasons.
The Baha’i faith is not recognized in the Islamic Republic’s constitution. Many of their leaders and members were executed in the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Revolution. In his annual reports, Ahmad Shaheed, the U.N. Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran, has repeatedly detailed widespread abuse and discrimination against Baha’is in Iran, and called on the Iranian government to end its religious intolerance.