Translation by Iran Press Watch
According to an exclusive report in “BahaiNews”, the business of a Baha’i citizen named Payam Vali still remains closed after eight years.
“BahaiNews” reports that despite numerous attempts to follow up by Mr. Payam Vali, by writing letters to relevant authorities, that the seal on his business be removed, up to the present not only is the seal still in place, but he has also been reprimanded.
A reliable source close to Payam Vali told “BahaiNews” that “in the first half of the year 2009, six shops for making reading glasses existed in the city of Nazarabad. Five of these six shops belonged to Baha’is and one to a Muslim.
“Suddenly the Office of Public Places decided to close and seal the shops belonging to four of the Baha’is. Following up on the case in the Prosecutor’s Office in Nazarabad to ascertain the reason, it became clear that the sealing of the shops was approved by the Security Council of Nazarabad’s Municipal Office. The majority of the government’s staff in the city indicated that the main reason for this action was religious prejudice.
“This was the first time this had happened in Iran. It was done to ascertain the reaction of Baha’is as well as the general populace. After the assessment, they had in mind to extend it to other cities in Iran; one after another, systematically. Also they asked all (Baha’i) shop owners to try their best to remove the seals through legal means.”
The same source emphatically continues: “In fact, they were looking for an apparent legal excuse to seal the businesses of Baha’is in order to show to the public that their action had nothing to do with the religious beliefs of the shop owners.” Initially after one week the seals on the shops were removed by the Commander of the Security Forces of Nazarabad, but, due to his disagreement with the Office of Information, he was removed from his position and the shops were resealed.
With regard to the arrest of Mr. Payam Vali, the same reliable source told the “BahaiNews” reporter: “After complaining to the Prosecutor’s Office of Nazarabad and also to the Office of Administrative Justice, he was threatened that if he continued his legal actions, he would be arrested. Finally agents of the Office of Information of Karaj, on 12th February 1st 2010, arrested and interrogated him, on baseless accusations, for two months.
Regarding Mr. Payam Vali’s release on bail, the same source continued, that “after submitting documents of property ownership worth approximately $16,000 for bail, he was released temporarily. When the Prosecutor General realized how the case had developed, he issued a writ to stop the arrest based on false accusations of rising against the state.”
The same source added: “After stopping the arrest of Payam Vali, the shop of one of his relatives was sealed; after summoning him to the Prosecutor’s Office in Karaj, he was arrested. Also the prosecutor who finally acquitted Mr. Vali was himself suspended from his job.”
The same report continues that Mr. Vali, after the arrest of one of his relatives, wrote a letter to the judiciary and copied it to all government offices. In the same letter he objected to the incompetence of the judiciary and the loss of its independence. He also mentioned the suspension of a judge who had acquitted a Baha’i from any charge. He wrote: “In truth they want to send a message to other judges that if they act in the same way, they will face a similar fate.”
The reaction to this letter was highly public. After one week the head of the judiciary, in a conference attended by all the judges of the country, said, “Agents of the Office of Information do not have a right to express any view, and certainly are unable to exert any pressure on judges.”
This statement by the head of the judiciary was well publicised on TV networks as well as other media, and resulted in this judge receiving two promotions.
Again the same informed source told the “BahaiNews” reporter: “From existing documents it became evident that although Mr. Vali had a business permit from the relevant union to operate his business, in order not to give officials any excuse to prevent him from running his business, he decided to apply for permission to employ an optometrist in his own name from the Office of Health Network. Upon employing him, the authorities summoned this optometrist to the Office of Public Places and warned him to stop working for a Baha’i. Because of this action, Mr. Vali decided to apply for an employment permit for another optometrist, but the Health Network refused to issue the relevant permit. This ultimately led to the seal being left in place. When Mr. Vali went to discuss the issue with the Head of the Office of Health Network of Nazarabad, the officer mercilessly told him that the blood of Baha’is can be shed with complete impunity, and that ‘you should be thankful to God that you are permitted to breathe in Iran.'”
The “BahaiNews” reporter enquired from this reliable source whether further follow-ups were fruitful. In response he said: “The case which was based on this writ has been current with the Administrative Justice Department for the last eight years. About five years ago one of the judges of the Department of the Judiciary mentioned to Mr. Vali that the Ministry of Information is behind the case, and they cannot do anything.”
The “BahaiNews” reporter in another question asked about the daily life and earning income of this Baha’i citizen. The reply was: “After his shop was sealed, as Mr. Vali was in need of an income, he and his wife started to sell personal hair and skin products. In order to exert more pressure, the Information Office summoned one of the best and most famous skin specialists in Karaj and threatened him so that he would not work with Mr. Vali, because he has some political issues. This news spread very quickly among other physicians and caused more disruptions to his earnings.
Another question was raised by the “BahaiNews” reporter as to whether this pressure was only economic or whether other pressure was also exerted?
The answer was yes. During the last eight years, on numerous occasions, he was summoned to the Office of Information and repeatedly threatened not to attend Baha’i activities such as the regular Nineteen Day Feast, and that if he did not follow this instruction, he would be arrested again. In response to the interrogating officer of the Office of Information, he said, “These kinds of meetings are among the tenets of my religion; you don’t need to arrest me then. If you wish you can reprimand me now, because as soon as I leave the premises, I am going to a similar Baha’i meeting straightaway.”
Naturally, Mr. Vali made a protest to the latest summons by telephone, from the Office of Information. He protested against that office, as they have no right to summon people by telephone. A summons must be served through legal procedures and in a written format. After this protest, the Office of Information did not contact him for nearly two years.
As has been mentioned previously, during these eight years Mr. Vali and members of his family received death threats. On one occasion they forcibly took his old father by car and drove him to the outskirts of town without harming him, then brought him back. They did this to show that they were serious about the threat. Naturally he protested against this action of the Office of Information to the Office of the Prosecutor General of Nazarabad. When he mentioned this incident to the government staff of Nazarabad, they knew the details of the incident, and even knew the color of the car.
At the end, the reporter asked whether all these follow-ups were fruitful. The reliable source indicated: “In the last eight years there were many officials who sympathized and were sorry for all the discrimination heaped upon him.”
In another development, before taking the file of Mr. Vali to Parliament, they wanted to implement Article 79 of Administrative Justice. The person responsible for enforcing this article was the head of the Administrative Justice Office. But the view of all the judges in the Office was that the case must go directly to Parliament.
The brother of this Baha’i, Afshin Vali, on 9th June 1990, was killed in Hussainabad, a satellite town of Nazarabad, because of mere blind prejudice.
1. “BahaiNews” is an independent non-Bahá’í initiative and is not affiliated with any Baha’i institutions.