Baha’is in Semnan do not have permission to work. This is happening at the same time as Mohammad Javad Larijani, the Secretary General of Islamic Human Rights, and Sadegh Larijani, the head of the Judicial System of Iran, claim that Baha’is have absolute freedom in Iran, and like other citizens have the right to work and study. According to Radio Zamaneh, the last Baha’i owned business in Semnan, which was an optmetry shop, owned by Afrasiyab Sobhani, has been closed (1) by the order of Amaken (a branch of the security forces which oversees business and public places). This happened while Mr. Sobhani was spending his days in prison. By shutting down his optician shop, the last Baha’i-owned business in Semnan was closed. There is no longer a single Baha’i-owned business in Semnan.
In this city, at least 16 shops, three distribution centers for consumer goods and two factories by the names of Pouya Navar and Farzan Lens were shut down (2), and all the employees, Baha’is and Muslims, lost their jobs.
Even Bahai’s who worked for Muslims have lost their jobs, as their employers have come under pressure to fire them. An example was a Baha’i who had worked for a taxi company who lost his job due to pressure on his employer to fire him. There were other examples, such as an optometry shop owned by Ali Akbar Pourhosseini (3). After shutting down the shop, all the merchandise, which was worth 200 million tomans (approx $200,000 at the time), were confiscated and the owner was fined 361 million tomans (approx $361,000).
During the last few years the pressure on Baha’is in different parts of Iran has increased. The condition of Bahai’s in Semnan is worst; because they are also being deprived of their jobs, they have had a hard time making ends meet.
Susan Tebyanian (4), who is one of the Semnan Baha’is, told Radio Zamaneh : “Afrasiyab Sobhani has been in prison for 11 months in Semnan.” Afrasiyab has been condemned to one year of prison for the allegations of teaching the Baha’i faith and propaganda against the regime. During his prison time, one of his friends has run his optometry shop until the shop’s permit was revoked on April 9th without any reason by “Amaken”. The store has been closed ever since. When this store was closed, there was no longer any Baha’i owned business in Seman; in other words, all shops and stores belonging to the Baha’is have been closed, and not a single Baha’i has permission to work.
This Baha’i, who was in prison for one year, said: “ The head of special police who oversees public places (Amaken) in 2009 told me before my conviction that since you are a criminal you cannot have a permit for a business. At that time I had a shop for sewing women’s clothing. After he was imprisoned, my husband’s shop closed and sealed by the government, and both of us became unemployed. With the help of one of my friend we start to sell educational materials to kindergartens and schools. Some time later the Amaken ordered that no Baha’i has a right to enter to these places and sell goods, so we became unemployed again.
Mrs. Tebyanian, in response to the question stating on what basis the Amaken or any other agency shut down these Baha’i-owned businesses, replied “Even before proving any of the allegations in court for those who were arrested for their beliefs, Amaken started the process of revoking their permits and use the accusation that they were criminals to justify their actions. In addition, some permits were revoked because the shop’s female employees did not wear proper Islamic hijab or finding a picture of a singer in the computer used in the shop”.
According to her, the Bahai’s of Semnan cannot even hold jobs such as private tutoring, because as a result of negative propaganda against Bahai’s in the city, people are afraid to speak or conduct business with Baha’is. In this way, Bahai’s have been isolated in the city of Semnan.
So far Baha’is have gone to the union of shopkeepers, the Office of the Imam Jomeh, and the city Intelligence service, but no answer has yet been given. Mrs. Tebyanian continues “We even protested to the Department of Administrative Justice, Members of Parliament, and Tehran Provincial court, but there has been no clear answer so far, and the shops remain closed.”
Economic pressure on Bahai’s are everywhere in Iran, but in Semnan, due to “the support of government agencies in oppressing religious minorities” and “an absence of attention to Baha’is’ compliants from government”, it is the worst in the country. She said “They want Baha’is to leave their home towns and leave not only the town of Semnan but Iran itself… they want to expel us from our motherland. In the interim they warn people to avoid us. The good thing is that many people sympathize with us.”
As to how Baha’is support their families, she said “most of the men are doing jobs which are usually done by women, such as drying vegetables or making pickles and jams. Since they cannot sell their products in Semnan, they have taken their wares to Tehran, and sell them to the Baha’is of Tehran. Some, like Siyamak Eighani after his 3 years of prison time, have left the town to try to find a job; some, like my husband, go to cities far from Semnan for work. Some have had to leave their birthplace for work, and have ended up residing in other cities.”
According to the 28th amendment of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, “each person has the right to have a job he/she likes, unless that activity is against Islam, the public, and the rights of others. The government is responsible to provide equal opportunity for all with respect to work.”
In the last two years, many Semnan Baha’is have been arrested and have spent time in Semnan prison or Evin prison. Among them were four women, named Taraneh Torabi, Mona Majidi, Zohreh Nikaeen, and Elham Roozbehi, who were in prison with their infant children Barman, Sourena, Rassam, and Aysan (5). Currently, eight Baha’is by the names of Pouya Tebyanian, Adel Fanaeian, Afrasiyab Sobhani, Behfar Khanjani, Ardeshir Fanaeian, Golrokh Firouzian, and Shidroukh Firouzian are in Semnan prison (6).
In addition, the workplaces of these Baha’is have been locked and sealed, their permits have been revoked, and the young Baha’is have been arrested at their houses and sent to military services before the legal age.
1. See the earlier IPW article on this event here: http://iranpresswatch.org/tag/afrasiyab-sobhani/
2. This incident is described in the following report (paragraph 5) by Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Pouya Navar (called “Puya Navar” in the report) produced vertical blinds, and employed 51 people, of whom only 15 were Baha’is; Farzan Lens was a lens grinding company which employed 8, of whom 2 were Baha’is. http://shaheedoniran.org/english/sources/reported-cases/2012-report-supplement/
3. Mr. Pourhosseini was sentenced to 28 months in prison. See http://iranbriefing.net/tag/akbar-pourhosseini/
4. An earlier IPW article on Ms. Tebyanian’s arrest and sentence is here: http://iranpresswatch.org/2009/08/a-bahai-sentenced-to-imprisonment/.
5. The conditions endured by women in Semnan prison are described here: https://hra-news.org/en/bahai-women-are-in-intolerable-condition-in-the-semnan-prison
6. See “The Baha’is of Semnan: A Case Study in Religious Hatred”, at https://www.bic.org/bahais-semnan-case-study-religious-hatred
Translation by Iran Press Watch
Source : http://www.radiozamaneh.com/139701