Document Vindicating Baha’i Youth Prisoners in Shiraz

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[On Thursday, 23 October 2008, the prestigious organization Human Rights Activists of Iran published the following report vindicating the position of the Baha’i youth presently incarcerated solely for providing educational and socio-economic assistance to the underprivileged children of Shiraz: http://www.hrairan.com/Archive_87/1135.html. A translation of this report follows. It should be noted that in this discouraging time, when there are so many clerics and members of government in Iran who are glad to lie about the activities of Baha’is, Vali Rustami is worthy of praise for the seemingly simple fact that he is telling the undistorted truth. Ahang Rabbani.]

Our organization has gained access to the attached two-page document belonging to the office of the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei]. According to this document discovered in relation to the humanitarian activities of the 54 Baha’is in Shiraz arrested on August 2007 [N.b. correct date is 19 May 2006] on the charge of “participating in activities against state security”, these individuals are indeed innocent.

It is necessary to note that three of these individuals, namely, Raha Sabet, Haleh Rouhi and Sasan Taqva, have by now completed 10 months of their four-year sentence and continue to be incarcerated in the prison facility of the Ministry of Intelligence (known as Pelak 100), which is reserved only for interrogations and temporary arrests.

The remaining 51 individuals were sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence, which according to Ali-Reza Jamshidi, the spokesperson for the Judiciary, requires them to attend classes given by the national Ministry for Teaching Islam.

Despite the fact that this newly discovered document, which is based on investigations carried out by Vali Rustami, the inspector and legal advisor to the office of Supreme Leader, it rejects charges brought against the Baha’i youth; yet, so far no steps have been taken by the authorities to release the aforesaid three prisoners, and the classes on Islamic teaching continue as before.

It is noteworthy that when the verdict was issued for the Baha’i youth to attend these Islamic orientation classes, it was stated that these classes would consist of “expositions on Islam’s principles, the oneness of God, Resurrection, Prophethood, and nothing else”. However, in practice, these classes have no other purpose than to insult and denigrate the teachings of the Baha’i group and to undermine their beliefs.

The attached document is a complete vindication [of the Baha’i youth], and completely supports what the accused have stated in their own defense; namely, that their activities were solely aimed at furthering the education and learning of children and youth, and improving their health, in regions surrounding Shiraz, who to this day remain deprived of basic necessities – while the authorities presented these efforts as subversive activities against the national security of Iran.

According to this recently discovered document, no excuse should remain to continue the unjust and inhumane sentences against these 54 Baha’i youth, and this evident fact demands that the 3 Baha’i prisoners should be immediately and unconditionally released from prison, and that attendance of the Baha’is at Islamic classes should be suspended forthwith

The following is the complete text of the aforementioned document, which has been written in the handwriting of the inspector and legal advisor to the office of the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], over the signature of its author, Vali Rustami:

To the presence of the esteemed representative of the Supreme Leader in the province [of Fars] and the honored Friday Prayer Leader in Shiraz, upon him be peace.

With my greetings, respect and reverence. In accordance with your honored wishes, the written appeal of the three individuals accused of Baha’i activities, which was adorned with a subsequent note by your excellency, was carefully investigated and the details of these inquiries and research are hereby submitted to the presence of your excellency for whatever decision you deem advisable.

Two of the imprisoned accused, individuals by named Raha Sabet and Haleh Rouhi, stated during the course of their interrogations while not yet incarcerated, “At no time in the past, whether in Shiraz, or Fars, or anywhere else in the entirety of Iran, have we participated in any activity that was political in nature or would result in propagation of the Baha’i sect. All of our efforts and activities were broadly aimed at helping all the people and society as a whole. During this period, we have given no indication, sign or evidence of being Baha’is in any of our tutorial classes, nor to anyone else, and we were solely engaged in public service and promotion of better health among the general population. All of these classes were conducted in the underprivileged areas, including Sahal-Abad, Mihdi-Abad, etc, and we carried out these humanitarian and charitable activities with the explicit permission of the city’s Islamic Consultative body.”

In a meeting with the parents of these three detainees, they repeated the same points and emphasized and believed that, “In investigating this matter and failing to provide legal representation [to the Baha’i accused], the Shiraz judiciary had no interest in issuing a just verdict and our children’s rights were violated. We hereby request and submit before the presence of the representative of the Supreme Leader in the Province [of Fars] and the Imam-Jum‘ih [Friday Prayer leader] of Shiraz to restore justice in this case.”

After hearing the testimony of the accused and their parents and studying their legal file, I proceeded to the district of Mihdi-Abad and sought and spoke with one of the residents of that area, who introduced himself as retired police Colonel Jeddi. After I had presented my questions, he stated the following regarding the activities and conduct of the aforesaid group [of Baha’is]: “From the beginning of their activities until now, these individuals regularly conducted these charitable and humanitarian classes once a week for junior youth and youth. Most of these classes have focused on writing, drawing, teaching hygiene and moral values, and there was no mention of religious or political matters. There was never any mention or any statement regarding Bahaism.”

He was very pleased by the manner of training and the Baha’i presence among the teenagers and youth in this district and believed that ever since they came into the Mihdi-Abad area, the manner of conduct, association and social dealings of the youth had greatly improved, to the point that the families in that region were deeply encouraged about the future and the education of their children.

I also spoke with 8 of the teenagers and youth who had participated in the said classes. After asking my questions, They stated that this group had been involved in activities such as teaching moral education, drawing, calligraphy, social skills, and that there had been no discussion concerning politics, or discussions which were against religious, legal and cultural standards. They further added, “All of us teenagers and youth have truly benefited from the presence of this group, and would like them to come back to us again.”

Vali Rustami

Inspector and Legal Advisor

27.3.87 [16 June 2008]

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