Intelligence agents raided the homes of 10 Baha’is on the morning of October 21, and arrested three of them.
According to a report sent to IranWire, the raids took place simultaneously in Shiraz in the southwest province of Fars, and were carried out by agents from the province’s intelligence unit. The agents presented search warrants before inspecting and confiscating religious texts, laptop and desktop computers, and cellphones. The homes of Baha’i citizens Kiana Shoaee-Foad, Hoda Khadem, Farzan Masoumi, Soroush Abadi, Adib Sabet, Mina and Elahe Mahboubi, Farzaneh Loghmani and Varjavand Mostaghim were all targeted.
After the two-hour inspections, agents arrested Kiana Shojaee, Soroush Abadi and Farzaneh Masoumi and transferred them to the intelligence department’s detention center in Shiraz, which is known as “Number 100.” As they left the home of Varjavand Mostaghim, agents warned him that he would be called and summoned to answer questions at a local security office.
On the same day as the arrests, at 5.47pm, Iranian state television broadcast a program called “Uncovering a Deviant Baha’i Network in Shiraz.” Three hours later, several state news agencies published another article jointly, entitled “Destruction of Baha’i Network in Fars Province.”
A report from the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), stated: “Baha’is, guided by their representatives abroad, who organized private events and meetings on the pretext of the anniversary of one of their cult leaders were identified and arrested.”
This type of state-endorsed propaganda is a usual tactic the authorities use against Baha’is to maintain the pressure on them, and to turn Shia Muslims and followers of other authorized religions in Iran against them — a strategy that is increasingly unsuccessful.
The IRIB also claimed that the Baha’is in question had plotted to disrupt the Shia Muslim holiday of Arba’een, which took place on October 20 and October 21, but that they had been identified and arrested just at the right time and their plans had been foiled.
“On the occasion of the Bab’s 200th Anniversary, Baha’is around the world are organizing ceremonies and gatherings in October,” a Baha’i from Shiraz told IranWire. “Although these ceremonies have a religious aspect, they are free for anyone to attend. People from other faiths are attending. In some countries, the governments even help Baha’is to organize these events. in Belgium, for example, the government printed a stamp on the occasion of the Bab’s 200th anniversary. In Iran, however, where this religion was born, Baha’is are always under pressure and controlled, and are not allowed to hold their religious ceremonies or events for religious figures and values. Baha’is were holding these events in their own houses with a maximum of 15-20 attendants over the last years. Being able to organize religious events for the followers of any religion is a basic right for citizens.”
He also said the claim that Baha’is wanted to “disrupt” the Shia holiday was unfounded.
“Baha’is didn’t hold any events on the day and month of the mentioned ceremony [Arba’een] as a sign of respect for Shia faith. Therefore their charges are completely false and baseless. The Baha’i faith does not act against the Ashura ceremony and some Baha’is organize events to mourn Imam Hussein’s martyrdom. They even collectively read the salutatory prayer to Imam Hussein, written by Bahaullah, founder of the Baha’i faith,” he said.
Baha’is living in Shiraz and other cities have had to endure pressure from Islamic Republic authorities for the last 40 years. Since that time, more than 30 Baha’is have been executed because of their beliefs, including 10 Baha’i women on June 18, 1983. Hundreds of Baha’is have been prosecuted and imprisoned. Their cemeteries have been defaced and destroyed. The Bab’s house in Shiraz, a sacred place for Baha’is around the world, was expropriated and converted into a mosque known as Shah Cheragh. The new arrests yesterday are simply the latest in a long line of repeated acts of aggression against the Baha’is of Shiraz, and against Baha’is in many other cities and towns across Iran.