Security forces in Isfahan province have launched a fresh campaign of intimidation against the local Baha’i community, carrying out raids on the homes and businesses of 11 Baha’is in the city of Shahin Shahr between June 9 and June 15.
IranWire has received reports that the agents confiscated religious books and images, as well as personal possessions and business equipment.
According to the informed source who spoke to IranWire, the Baha’is targeted in the crackdown have so far been unsuccessful in their efforts to reclaim their seized belongings. Responsible judicial and Intelligence Bureau officials have offered no reasons or explanations for the searches and seizures.
“From Sunday June 9 through Saturday June 15, agents of the Intelligence Bureau and Shahin Shahr police went to the homes of 11 Baha’is in the city,” the source said, “and the only thing that they [authorities] showed was a handwritten and illegible piece of paper that they claimed was a warrant from the prosecutor. But the paper lacked a judiciary letterhead, there were no charges specified and only the name of the owner was legible. Two of them were absent from their homes so then the agents searched the other nine homes to find them. There were between five and eight agents at each location and, in searching the homes, they seized whatever they suspected had anything to do with the Baha’i faith.”
According to him, the agents also seized documents, including national ID cards, driver licenses and passports. They also seized personal computers, laptops, flash memory drives, printers, mobile phones, chargers and even packaging boxes for mobile phones.
“After searching one of the homes, they took the owner to his hairdressing shop and, without a warrant, confiscated all the beauty products from a lawful company that this citizen worked as a representative for in Shahin Shahr,” the source said. “They also confiscated work tools belonging to another Baha’i who makes a living by bookbinding at home. In another case, they first searched the business of a Baha’i and then took him to his home and searched those premises as well.”
According to this source, when asked about searches and seizures, the agents said that they did not know about them, or replied that the reason would be explained in court. In one case, the agent frankly told the owner of one of the houses raided that the reason was because he was a Baha’i.
Mahboubeh Hosseini, Bahram Safaei, Mesbah Karambakhsh, Naeim Haghiri, Peyman Imani, Derakhshandeh Shakibai, Azita Yazdani, Cyrus Golzar and the Afshar family are among the Shahin Shahr Baha’is whose homes were searched. The agents searched the living quarters of two members of the family, who live in the same building one floor apart.
According to latest reports received by IranWire, during the last week of June, Mesbah Karambakhsh was summoned to court to retrieve his ID papers but when he responded to the summons, he was interrogated and was unable to retrieve his papers. In addition, Naeim Haghiri, who worked for an air travel agency, has been suspended from his job under pressure from the Intelligence Ministry.
The constitution of the Islamic Republic only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism as legitimate religions. In the four decades since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Iranian Baha’is have been denied many of their civil rights including freedom of expression and the right to education.
However, throughout these years Iranian government representatives have claimed that Baha’is enjoy religious freedom and have denied that they are harassed or face discrimination. In an address to the American Council on Foreign Relations on April 23, 2018, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif denied that the human rights of Baha’is in Iran have been consistently violated. “No Baha’i individual is in prison for the crime of being a Baha’i,” he said, the usual refrain used by Iranian officials, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.
In addition to the crackdown on Baha’i businesses and properties, in only 10 days, from June 11 through June 20, eight Iranian Baha’is were hit with heavy prison sentences because of their faith:
– Sophia Mobini was sentenced to 10 years in prison on the charge of “founding and organizing an illegal Baha’i group with the intent of harming national security,”
– Negin Tadrisi, a resident of Isfahan who was arrested two years ago in a religious ceremony, was sentenced to two years in prison on a charge similar to the one handed down to Sophia Mobini, and
– Six Baha’i residents of Tabriz — Kambiz Misaghi, Monica Alizadeh, Shabnam Isakhani, Farzad Bahadori, Shahriar Khodapanah, and Kheirollah Bakhshi — were each sentenced to six months in prison on the charge of “membership to the illegal Baha’i organization.”