Iranian security agents have raided the homes of dozens of Baha’i citizens in different parts of the country, arresting several well-known community leaders.
Radio Farda correspondents have confirmed the arrest of Mahvash Sabet Shahriari and Fariba Kamalabadi in Tehran and Afif Naimi and Saman Astvar in Karaj during the July 31 raids.
Sohi Thabeti, a resident of Sari, and Behnam Mumtazi, a resident of Qazvin, are also among those arrested on July 31.
Arash Sadeghi, a civil activist and former political prisoner, confirmed on Twitter the names of 15 people arrested as part of the action.
Naimi, Sabet Shahriari, and Kamalabadi are well-known leaders of the Baha’i community. They were recently released from prison after serving 10 years on charges of acting against Iran’s national security, collaboration with foreign countries, and “corruption on earth,” among other things.
In an interview with Radio Farda, Simin Fahandej, the spokesman for the Worldwide Baha’i Community in Geneva, said the Iranian government is increasing pressure on Baha’is, including the issuance of stiff prison sentences against them as part of a “new wave of persecution” against them by the government.
Baha’is — who number some 300,000 in Iran and have an estimated 5 million followers worldwide — say they face systematic persecution in Iran, where their faith is not officially recognized in the constitution.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has on several occasions called the Baha’i faith a cult and in a religious fatwa issued in 2018 forbade contact, including business dealings, with followers of the faith.
Since the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979, hundreds of Baha’is have been arrested and jailed for their beliefs. At least 200 have been executed or were arrested and never heard from again.
Thousands more have been banned from receiving higher education or had their property confiscated, while vandals often desecrate Baha’i cemeteries.