From a Business Allegation to a Religious Allegation ‒ Consistency of a Lie

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Translation by Iran Press Watch

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It has been almost one month since a bridal store was sealed under the pretense of publishing vulgar pictures (posting a photo of a bride in a bridal gown on Instagram). The main topic of this article is not the question of the sealing and other illegal actions related to it, including the authorities obtaining the Instagram password, as well as posting a picture on the Instagram page containing this text: “This page was shut down owing to its vast production and publication of vulgar photos, and the stimulation and encouragement of others to commit indecent acts…”, or installing a sign with the same sentiments on the entrance door of the store. These question have to be answered by lawyers and professionals. Can a business be sealed without prior warning or mention of the matter during business permit classes? Can such allegations be made and displayed in public about a business owner without court proceedings? What is meant by “vast publication”? What is meant by “vulgar photos”? What is the meaning of “stimulating others to commit indecent acts”? Are these not generic and vague phrases?

Now, we reach the main subject. An individual who introduces himself as ___ contacts the person who holds the business permit, and says: “We have investigated your case, and there is no problem. Tomorrow come to the court with your colleague, who was present at the store at the time of the sealing (Mrs. Sara Akhlaghi),, and sign the sealing form, so that the legal procedures for unsealing may take place.” The next day, two people (the permit holder and the individual who signed) enter the court together. The presiding judge says there is no problem ‒ you just need to attend a propaganda class until noon. However, it is 12 PM, and the two of them do not leave the building.

Meanwhile, one of the neighbors of Mrs. Sara Akhlaghi contacts her husband and says, “Just now, someone who introduced himself as a representative of the water company rang my doorbell. When I opened the door, five or six people entered the house and parked their car inside the parking garage.” A few minutes later, an unidentified person contacted Mrs. Akhlaghi’s husband again, and said: “We are at your home. “Please come and sign a form, so that the work may be completed more expeditiously.” When the owner of the house arrives, he sees individuals waiting at the door of his apartment unit. He opens the door and they enter. The first question is: Are you a Baha’i? Yes. Is your wife also a Baha’i? Yes. And the response is: “Oh, your case is problematic.”

They collected all the books, photos and CDs related to the Baha’i Faith, and a number of poetry, history and psychology books, and left after more than one hour with several boxes. They say: “We will return your books after the investigation… And your wife will hopefully be released today. If not, we will hopefully contact you tomorrow so that you may come to the court and post bail. In the afternoon, the Muslim individual who held the business permit was released. It appears that she was completely frightened. She is now afraid to hear the word Baha’i. And for the time being, Mrs. Akhlaghi has been detained.

I put all these events together, and subconsciously remember the statements of the Iranian government officials who repeatedly have said that no one is arrested for being a Baha’i. Reflecting on these events, however, my understanding is something else.

Finally, I remember all the wrongful acts committed in the process of Mrs. Sara Akhlaghi’s incarceration, ranging from inviting her to be present for the unsealing of the business, to entering the apartment building under the pretense of being a Water Company representative, telling her to attend a propaganda class till noon, and this last one, the truth of which will be known shortly. The day is over now. We will see if tomorrow will bring freedom for either Mrs. Akhlaghi or the books.

Follow up note: Mrs. Akhlaghi contacted her husband to inform him about her well-being on the evening of 15 June 2016, the day she was arrested. However, there has been no information regarding the location at which she has been detained. To be just, I finish this text by mentioning the respectful attitude of the officials, both in the store and at home.

Shiraz, morning of 16 June 2016


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