After being repeatedly interrogated while spending a month in solitary confinement, Iranian singer Behnam Rohani-Fard was released on 100 million tomans bail (approximately $30,156 USD) from Tehran’s Evin Prison on October 3, 2017.
Rohani-Fard, a member of Iran’s persecuted Baha’i faith, was interrogated “at least 20 times, each time for three or four hours,” during his month-long detention in solitary confinement in Ward 209, which is under the control of the Intelligence Ministry, a source with knowledge about the case told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“The interrogators accused him of holding concerts in Europe to celebrate the life of Baha’i spiritual leader Baha’u’llah,” added the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in an interview with CHRI on October 4, 2017.
“He responded that his performances were in public municipality halls in countries where people don’t care about religion,” said the source. “He said he was not promoting the Baha’i faith; he was only performing his songs.”
Rohani-Fard was arrested by agents of the Intelligence Ministry on September 4, 2017, upon returning from a European concert tour and charged with “propaganda against the state,” “disturbing public opinion” and “membership in the illegal Baha’i organization,” according to the source.
He previously spent nine months in a prison in Yazd, southeastern Iran, in 2010 for his song “Zendani” (Prisoner), allegedly composed in solidarity with imprisoned leaders of the persecuted Baha’i community.
Iran’s Constitution does not recognize the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Although Article 23 states that “no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief,” followers of the faith are denied many basic rights as one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in the country.
“Behnam went to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance many times to get a license to perform his songs, but he never got one because he would disclose his religion on the official forms,” the source told CHRI. “In Iran, the authorities will not allow you to sell albums or perform concerts if they find out you are Baha’i. So Behnam decided to go abroad instead.”
“This summer he and his band members went on a European tour and held concerts in several countries,” added the source. “When they returned to Tehran on September 4, they were interrogated at the airport by security agents who confiscated their passports, phones, laptops and other personal items.”