Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.
In recent months, violations of the rights of the Baha’is of Iran and harassment have escalated.
Even though more than one year has passed since the arrest of the seven informal leaders of the Baha’i community of Iran, the Revolutionary Court has not yet issued a verdict. The detainees spend their days in confinement, uncertain of their eventual fate. Summonses, arrests, detentions, harassment and pestering of members of the Baha’i community continues.
This report is a summary of the human rights violations from March 21 to May 21, 2009. However, it should be noted that this report only covers encroachments that have been reported in the media.
Summonses of Baha’is to Offices of the Ministry of Intelligence
From the start of the Iranian New Year (March 21, 2009), numerous Baha’i citizens have been summoned to various offices of the Ministry of Intelligence across the country and have been pressured to denounce their religious beliefs.
On April 4, Sima Habibian, Nasrin Ghadiri, Nahid Ghadiri, Kaviz Noozdahi, Houman Bakht Avar, Davood Nabil Zadeh, Rozita Vaseghi, Mahsa Aghdas Zadeh, Nima Nabil Zadeh and Noora Nabil Zadeh were summoned and interrogated in the city of Mashhad. Attempts were made to pressure them to agree that they would not participate in any type of activities related to their religious beliefs and convictions.
In Hamadan, Farz Pour Hamzeh was summoned and interrogated.
On April 22, Izzat’u’llah Ahmadian, Babak Rouhi, and Soheil Hamed Nasir Zadeh were called to the office of the Ministry of Intelligence in Mashhad. Attempts were made to pressure them into signing a written contract that would forbid them from participating in Baha’i activities. Ramin Ghadiri was also called to the office of the Ministry of Intelligence in Tonekabon.
On May 3, two of the Baha’is of Hamadan, Parviz Saifi and Behrouz Rashedi, were transferred to the local office of the Ministry of Intelligence. They were required to sign a contract, agreeing that they would not accept any type of responsibility or commitment in their Baha’i community whether educational, training or service-oriented.
On May 12, seven Baha’is, Rozita Vaseghi, Nasrin Ghadiri, Sima Rajabian, Nahid Ghadiri, Kaviz Noozdahi, Houman Bakht Avar and Davood Nabil Zadeh were summoned to the Revolutionary Court of Mashhad and were charged with “propaganda against the regime”, and “activities against the security of the country”.
Attacks on the Homes of Baha’is
Pressure, aggression and harassment of Baha’is have not been limited to arrests and detentions. In different cities, they have also been subjected to numerous threats and their homes have been targets of mob attacks.
On March 31, in Semnan, a gang unknown to Paymon Shadmon, pounced on his car and damaged it. They sprayed paint and wrote slogans on his car. The same individuals appeared at Mr. Shadmon’s work place and wrote inflammatory anti-Baha’i remarks on the walls.
A gang riding on motor bikes attacked, threw stones and broke windows in the home of Yahya Hedayati in the middle of the night, on three different occasions.
On April 23, the clothing store of Siamak Ebrahimi Nia in Tonekabon was padlocked. Previously he had spent time in jail, charged with “teaching activities for the misguided Baha’i sect”
On April 24, a gang attacked and shattered the windows of the vehicle of Yahya Hedayati. Attackers had left a note reading, “this is the ultimate fate of the Baha’is”.
In Semnan, the vehicle of Nezam’u’din Fanaian, (spouse of Sahba Rezwani, who was arrested on March 6, 2008, and is spending her three year sentence in Tehran) was subjected to an attack.
Arrests and Detentions
The arrests of Baha’is in the past two months have continued as before. At present many Baha’i citizens are in jail under unknown and/or unclear charges. The first arrest of a Baha’is in the current Iranian New Year was that of the 24-year-old Sahba Khademi Deljoo on April 2, in Hamadan. In February, the Islamic Militia had gone to her residence to arrest her, but she had not been at home.
The second arrest of the year was that of Ali Ehsani, a resident of Semnan, on April 6. It should be noted that prior to this date, his store had been the target of an attack.
On April 9, Afshin Ahsanian of Shiraz was arrested after he was summoned to the Ministry of Intelligence Office. On the same day, Mohammad Reza Kondi was arrested at his home in Sari.
On April 10, three Baha’i youth by the names of Soroor Savarian, Samira Ayoobi and Paymon Aghdasi were arrested in Hamadan.
On April 14, agents of the Ministry of Intelligence arrested Moshfegh Samandari in Babol.
On April 21, Michelle Esmail Pour was arrested in Tonekabon in the province of Mazandaran.
On April 25, Vahdat Dana was arrested in Shiraz. He had been summoned twice before the date of his arrest, once by telephone and another time by agents showing up at his home without an arrest warrant. On the third time, he was arrested by authorities, who appeared at his door with a warrant.
On April 26, Shahram Safajoo was arrested at his home in Karaj.
On April 27, Siamak Ighani and Susan Tebyanian, residents of Semnan, were arrested while they were at their respective homes.
On March 30, Behnam Rouhani Fard was arrested in Yazd.
Issuance of Verdicts
In the past two months, the Revolutionary Court has issued verdicts against some Baha’i citizens. Most of these Baha’is had been charged with “promotion of the Baha’i sect”. Among those charged was Simin Gorji of Ghaem Shahr who has been sentenced to a prison term of one year at hard labor.
She had been arrested previously as well.
Twenty-four year old Pouya Tabyanian, a Baha’i resident of Semnan who was arrested on Feb 9, 2009, was sentenced to a jail term of 2.5 years. Mohammad Reza Kondi was sentenced to 7 months in prison.
Gatherings of Baha’i Students Deprived of Obtaining Higher Education
Baha’i citizens, due to their religious beliefs, are deprived of higher education. In some cases gifted students are prohibited from attending special schools that require declaration of their religious beliefs. There have been a few instances in which Baha’i students were permitted to enter universities; however, they were subsequently expelled.
Deprivation from higher education started 30 years ago when the Islamic Republic was established, and it has continued to this date. Recently a number of Baha’i students who had been denied access to higher education attended a forum on the right to education in Tehran to express their objection to this violation of one of their most basic human rights.
Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states:
Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.