Translation by Iran Press Watch
On the 22 and 23 of May 2013, Iranian intelligence agents, in a coordinated and widespread move across the country, stormed the homes of dozens of Baha’is affiliated with “the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education” (BIHE). A number of professors and students were arrested. Textbooks, computers, all educational supplies, teaching aids and recording supplies were confiscated, as well as two buildings in which the classes were held.
For the past six years, the Iranian regime, in various ways, has mounted a campaign to shut down the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education. Tactics include raiding and shutting down classes, confiscation of electronics and educational texts and supplies, and arrests of the professors, who are given heavy sentences. Throughout this campaign, Baha’i students continue to be denied entrance to university in Iran, solely because of their Faith.
Keyvan Rahimian is one of the professors arrested for his work with BIHE. Keyvan received a five-year prison sentence and a fine of 97 million rials. He was convicted on charges of teaching Baha’i youth. He has served more than four and a half years of his prison term in the “Rajai Shahr” prison.
Despite the fact that Keyvan is the sole legal guardian of his minor daughter, all his requests for leave or parole have been denied.
In the early 1980s, following the Iranian Revolution, hundreds of Baha’is were arrested in Iran’s towns and villages, and dozens of them were executed. Rahim Rahimian, Keyvan’s father, was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security in May 1983 in Tehran.
His father’s arrest coincided with Keyvan’s final exams during his senior year of high school. Distressed about his father’s situation, and tasked with daily fruitless trips to the revolutionary courts, the Intelligence and Security Offices, as well as other related government institutions, this 18-year-old student still managed to prepare for his final exams. Despite all the difficulties, he successfully completed his finals and obtained his high school diploma.
Keyvan, like many other Baha’i youth, knew the Iranian government would not allow him to study at any of the Iranian universities. Therefore, immediately after completion of the final exams, he set out to find a job to provide a living for himself and his family. Keyvan now had his father’s responsibilities on his shoulders and had to provide for his mother and younger brother Kamran. While many close to him advised him to go to a foreign country to continue his education, this youth, well aware of all the hardships and difficulties faced by Iranian Baha’is, chose to stay in Iran, provide for his family, and work in his homeland side by side the rest of his fellow citizens.
Being barred from university, however, did not cause Keyvan to give up his passions and interests. Keyvan loved art, especially photography and cinema. That’s why in the very first months after earning his diploma, Keyvan began work in a photography studio. Over the years, he continued working in the field of photography, gaining skills and experience, as well as participating in private classes. Over time, Keyvan was able to become a professional photographer.
On December 26th, 1983, the Tehran Islamic Revolutionary Court ordered the confiscation of all Rahim Rahimian’s properties and belongings. Immediately after the verdict, agents of the court evicted Keyvan, his mother and his brother from their home.
Their difficulties had grown exponentially, but the Rahimian family was still hopeful for the release of their father, until the day after the Norouz break of 1984. On the 4th of April, Rahim Rahimian, along with two other Baha’is, were executed on charges of adherence to the Baha’i faith. The confiscation of the Rahimian home and the father’s execution in less than a year, doubled the hardships for the family. Keyvan as the eldest son, was now responsible for his mother and brother Kamran (who was still studying).
Kamran completed his education through BIHE in 1998. Keyvan then started working on his degree in Psychology and Educational Sciences at BIHE. One year later he married Fereshteh Sobhani. The fruit of their marriage is a girl named “Zhina”, born in 2000.
In addition to working in the photography studio, Keyvan continued to study and graduated in 2004. In March that same year Keyvan along with his wife and another Baha’i were arrested on charges of Baha’i religious activities. They were later released.
One year later, Keyvan started working on his graduate degree in Educational Psychology at the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education. In 2009, he obtained his master’s degree. While the degrees of the graduates of BIHE are not approved by Iran’s Ministry of Sciences, it is however a confirmation of completion of their degree by BIHE.
Since 2005, Keyvan had been engaged in educational activities in his field of study. In the years before his imprisonment, he had engaged in consulting classes and workshops on “Nonviolent Interaction” (language of life), pre-marital preparations, and translations. He also worked on an eight-volume collection of “needs and strategies” in addition to his other educational work. Keyvan continued his activities with BIHE, and up until the time of his arrest, he was continually engaged in teaching and guiding students.
Following the arrest of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education professors on June 2011, on 13 September of the same year four other Baha’i professors were summoned to “Evin” court system: Keyvan Rahimian, Kamran Rahimian, Faran Hesami, (Kamran’s wife), and Shakib Nasrollah. However, before they had a chance to appear before the court, they were all arrested. On 21 September Keyvan and Shakib Nasrollah were freed on bail until the trial date, but Kamran and his wife Faran remained in prison.
We are privy to the details of Keyvan’s trial and verdict, through a letter written by Keyvan from prison to his wife:
June 20, 2012; After the end of her exams, Zhina went on a trip. I am going to get her report card in the morning. As soon as I got to the third floor of our house and opened the door, Mom said the Revolutionary Court has called Uncle “Iraj” who posted my bail, to ask why I didn’t go to receive my verdict, and ask that I go to them today. Without taking even a moment to rest, I left for the court. I told myself that my trial was on June 10th, how come the verdict was given so quickly, what was the rush!! All the way there, I dwell on what my verdict might be? The branch secretary of the court pretended to be friendly and said I told you before the court, if you are a Baha’i and have worked in education, Haji will issue the sentencing, … I asked how many years? She said five years. I asked for the sentence in writing, she said it is impossible, and asked me to sign, because my verdict has been already delivered. I said I want you to at least see the verdict in writing. She finally accepted… the writeup of the sentence had many grammatical mistakes, to the extent that I had to go back and re-read to make sure I did not make a mistake in reading?
After 50 days, Keyvan’s preliminary sentence was confirmed on appeal. On September 3rd he was summoned by the circle court via telephone, to report for serving his five-year prison sentence. He asked for 15 extra days to settle the affairs of his daughter and finally on 9 October 2012 reported to prison to serve the judge’s verdict.
It was only a few months from the passing of his wife when Keyvan Rahimian headed to prison. He was now the sole guardian of their 12-year-old daughter. He was also responsible for the care of his elderly mother and the three-year-old nephew, whose parents were both imprisoned. None of these were reason enough for judge Salvati to show any leniency or to allow a delay in serving his sentence. In a letter to his daughter from prison, Keyvan wrote, “I am convinced that in no time the dark clouds will dissipate and the sun will shine again from behind the clouds, the life-giving rays will again prevail and Winter’s cold will give way to warmth of the Spring.”
Battle of sorrow versus hope.