Kamran Shahidi never expected his life to change forever after a regular customer entered his jewelry shop in Tehran. But that is exactly what happened just over two years ago – resulting in a court verdict condemning him to spend the next five years in jail.
Shahidi is a Baha’i. He owned a jewelry shop where one of his businesses was to make jewelry embedded with symbols from the Baha’i faith and to sell them to Baha’is.
A person close to Kamran Shahidi told IranWire: “In November, a woman named Mahshid Ziaei, who claimed to be a Baha’i, went to Mr. Shahidi’s shop to buy jewelry with Baha’i symbols. Kamran accepted the request because he already knew Mahshid. The woman then gave fruit juice to Kamran Shahidi laced with a sedative. Kamran fell unconscious after drinking the juice and the woman took all the jewelry inside the safe and left the shop.”
According to an informed source, Mahshid Ziaei, who had introduced herself as a Baha’i, said in an interview with Fars News Agency that she had converted to Islam since November 2016. Nevertheless, she went to Shahidi’s shop in December, a few days after becoming a Muslim, pretending to be a Baha’i and asking for jewelry produced with symbols of the Baha’i faith.
Kamran Shahidi filed a complaint which soon went to court. The informed source said that “At first, this woman tried to accuse Mr. Shahidi through slander, and by filing a lawsuit, but the court acquitted Mr. Kamran Shahidi’s of her accusations. Subsequently, by sending threatening messages to Kamran Shahidi’s mobile phone, Ziaei threatened him to drop his complaint otherwise she would report him to the intelligence agencies. Mr. Shahidi did not revoke his complaint, but after a while he realized that the court’s opinion had abruptly changed and the case was closed without reaching a conclusion.”
Agents from the Ministry of Intelligence arrested Kamran Shahidi in September 2017 at his shop: “On the morning of 25 September, Ministry of Intelligence agents went to Kamran Shahidi’s shop in Tehran and searched the place, confiscating about two kilograms of gold and quantities of coins, silver, dollars, and cash from the safe, without a warrant. Mr. Shahidi was then arrested and taken to Evin Prison.”
At the same time as Shahidi’s workplace was being searched, agents visited his home, as well as his daughter’s and his sister’s homes in Karaj. As nobody was at the first two residences, agents searched Shahidi’s sister’s home and confiscated all religious books as well as all items made of gold such as rings and necklaces. One week later, the agents, along with Kamran Shahidi, again inspected Kamran’s workplace and home.
An informed source told IranWire that Mr. Shahidi was released after three weeks on a bail of 500,000,000 tomans, or $37,000.
Shahidi’s trial was held in May 2018 – but a court ruling has only recently been issued. He was sentenced to five years in prison by Branch 2 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Mohammad Moghiseh, for allegedly acting against the security of the country through the administration of Baha’i religious organizations, by manufacturing gold and silver Baha’i symbols in accordance with paragraph 499 of the Islamic Penal Code. He was further charged with propaganda against the regime by attending Baha’i meetings on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the founder of the Baha’i faith, inviting others to participate in these meetings through online interactions, pursuant to paragraph 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, and was sentenced to one year of imprisonment, the maximum punishment according to Article 134 of this law. The judge also ruled that, in view of the criminal activities of the accused, the gold and silver made by him would be confiscated in the interest of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in accordance with paragraph 215 of the Islamic Penal Code.
A person close to Shahidi said that despite, Kamran’s jewelry shop being leased, it has not been returned to its owner since his arrest two years ago.
Iran’s constitution only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism as official religions and does not recognize the Baha’i faith, although Baha’is are Iran’s largest religious minority. The rights of Baha’i citizens have been consistently and systematically violated since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Persecution of Baha’is has taken the form of arbitrary arrests, imprisonment on trumped-up charges and the denial of livelihoods; all three of which combined to destroy Kamran Shahidi’s life.