History is a stark reminder that much evil is perpetrated in darkness when we either don’t know or don’t care to know about the challenges and difficulties faced by so many in our world.
In a cruel escalation, the Ministry of Intelligence issued an oppressive and hateful statement against the persecuted Baha’i minority, with government agents raiding 53 Baha’i homes and businesses across Iran on July 31.
Two days later on Aug. 2, up to 200 Iranian government and local agents sealed off the village of Roushankouh, in Mazandaran province, where many Baháʼís live, and are using heavy earthmoving equipment to demolish their homes.
To hide these efforts the authorities have sealed off roads into and out of the village, arresting anyone who tried to challenge the agents. They have confiscated the mobile devices of those present and prohibited filming.
Neighbors have been warned to stay in their homes and are barred from filming or photographing. Four homes that were under construction have been destroyed. The authorities are installing robust metal fences to restrict access of the Baháʼís to their own homes.
“We receive fresh news of persecution of the Baháʼís in Iran, demonstrating unmistakably that the Iranian authorities have a step-by-step plan that they are implementing, first blatant lies and hate speech, then raids and arrests, and today land grabs, occupations, and the destruction of homes,” said Diane Ala’i, representative of the Bahá’í International Community to the United Nations in Geneva, referring to the past several weeks.
Among the scores arrested in recent weeks have been some of the main leaders of the community, including Fariba Kamalabadi, Afif Naemi and Mahvash Sabet, a winner of the Pinter prize for writers of courage issued by PEN, the literary freedom of expression group. These three were released from prison in 2018 after serving 10 years each.
Bijan Masumian a family member of Mahvash Sabet said, “The news of the re-arrest of Mahvash Sabet, Fariba Kamalabadi, and Afif Naeimi (who were jailed previously and released after 10 years) — as well as all the other Baha’is who have been recently arrested throughout Iran — is particularly troubling. Government officials have also begun confiscating the personal belongings of Baha’is. In one case, they refused to return the laptop and mobile phone of a Baha’i who, after multiple attempts to reclaim his devices, was told, ‘Be thankful that you are allowed to breathe. Do not come back for your property.’”
The Baha’i Community of Austin calls on all concerned citizens to raise their voice and call for these dreadful acts of blatant persecution to be immediately stopped.
Ajit Giani is a member of the Baha’is of Austin and the secretary of Interfaith Action of Central Texas.