Forgotten Discrimination in Iranian President’s Speech

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Kian Sabeti

Translation by Iran Press Watch

Barred from education, businesses closed, cemeteries desecrated: where are Baha’is’ Citizenship Rights?
Barred from education, businesses closed, cemeteries desecrated: where are Baha’is’ Citizenship Rights?

Announcing the results of the Nationwide University Entrance Examination, as in previous years, Baha’i applicants were put off with “Incomplete Records”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani began his speech at the seventy-fourth annual session of the United Nations General Assembly, pointing to the burning of the Middle East in a fire of religious fanaticism and extremism, and the continued discrimination, land acquisition, settlements and killings of the oppressed people of Palestine.

These words were spoken even as the followers of the Baha’i faith, the largest religious minority in Iran, have been subjected to all kinds of discrimination over the past 40 years in their home country of Iran.

During this period, more than two hundred Baha’is, from a seventeen-year-old girl in Shiraz to a ninety-two-year-old man in Yazd, have been executed for their religious beliefs. During these years, thousands of Baha’is have been subjected to interrogation by the security forces – many of them were sentenced to prison terms ranging from several weeks to life.

Three years prior to the very day at the UN General Assembly when Hassan Rouhani recalled the killing of the Palestinian people, on Monday, September 26, 2016, during his presidency, Farhang Amiri, a Baha’i living in Yazd, was murdered by two brothers because of his belief in the Baha’i Faith. After the arrest, the killers confessed that they had killed Mr. Amiri as a because of their religious fanaticism and discrimination, as well as the persuasion of clerics who declared Baha’is to be against Islam. At the time of the trial, the father of the two brothers expressed his grievance regarding the cleric’s influence that had led his children to extremism. The murderers were released after a few months in prison. In the Iranian Penal Code, blood money and retributions are limited to Muslims and adherents of the three official religious minorities named in the constitution, so Baha’is are legally deprived of their right to justice.

From the very beginning of the Islamic Republic, the seizure of Baha’i property and the confiscation of many Baha’is’ homes on the order of the revolutionary courts began. Many Baha’i-owned factories and shops were closed by the revolutionary courts. Baha’i religious sites and cemeteries were demolished in all Iranian cities, and instead mosques and government buildings were built on the confiscated land. Baha’is were fired from all government jobs, and in the private sector they have faced denial of work permits or the renewal of work permits on a daily basis. Baha’is are not permitted to work in private sector jobs such as internet cafes, hair salons, butcher shops, bakeries and restaurants.

As a result of harassments and threats, Baha’i farmers were forced off of their lands and out of their villages. Goldaneh Alipour, a Baha’i resident of the village of Roshan Kooh in Mazandaran, was burnt alive in his own home. With the encouragement of the local cleric, Mohammad Hossein Masoumi and his wife Shekar Nesa’ Masoumi were thrown into a pit in front of their home and set on fire in the village of Nook in Birjand. Mir Asadollah Mokhtari was murdered in an attack by a group of fanatical prejudiced local villagers in the village of Andaroon in Birjand.

After the Cultural Revolution, Baha’i professors and students were expelled from the country’s universities. Under a resolution of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, over the past 40 years Baha’i citizens have not been permitted to study at the university level, and Baha’is have continuously and systematically been denied access to higher education in Iran. The Baha’i online university which was set up by Iranian Baha’is to address the lack of education for Baha’i youth was shut down by the Iranian government, and its facilities and equipment were confiscated, to be used to benefit the government. The professors were arrested and sentenced to prison.

Courts refuse to issue inheritance probate certificates if the deceased and heirs are Baha’is, because issuing inheritance certificates to Baha’is would mean that the Baha’i Faith was being officially recognized, contrary to the Constitution of the Islamic Republic and the laws related to this subject. By law, individual status is reserved only for followers of Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. If the deceased is a Baha’i, their Muslim heirs will receive their inheritance, but if the deceased is a Muslim, the Baha’i heir will not receive their inheritance; instead their inheritance will be turned over to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for a decision.

The above is but a glimpse of the discrimination and pressure of the Islamic Republic on believers in the Baha’i Faith in Iran. Following is a look at discrimination against Baha’is just a month before the Iranian President’s speech at the UN General Assembly:

By written order from the Provincial Education Department, the principal of Sa’adat High School in Semnan refused to enroll Borna Pirasteh, a Baha’i student who finished last year with a high class ranking.

In response to this news, on Wednesday, September 11, 2019, The Education Minister Mohsen Haji Mirzaie, after a meeting of the Presidential Council of Ministers, told reporters: “if students reveal that they are followers of a religion other than the country’s official religions, and this somehow can be construed as teaching, their education in schools will no longer be allowed.” This may be a prelude to depriving Baha’i children of their education in Iranian elementary schools. In the past, however, Baha’i students have been permitted to attend pre-university education.

In announcing the results of the nationwide  university admissions examination, as in previous years, Baha’i applicants were faced with the words “incomplete application” on the organization’s website. As reported by Iran Wire, this year at least 22 Baha’i applicants were denied university admission to continue their education.

Over the last month, three Baha’i citizens were sentenced to a total of 17 years in prison. Kiana Rezvani and Kimia Mostafavi, two Baha’i youth from Kerman, were each sentenced to six years in prison. These two Baha’is were sentenced to one year in prison for propaganda against the regime (teaching the Baha’i Faith) and five years in prison for mere membership in the Baha’i religion.

Samin Maghsoudi, a Baha’i from Tehran, was arrested and released on bail at a religious event to commemorate the prophet of the Baha’i Faith at her home on October 21, 2017. She was arrested at her house and released after a while on bail, but later was sentenced to the maximum sentence of five years of imprisonment under the charge of holding a meeting, based on Article 499 of the Islamic Penal Code.

The arrest and execution of prison sentences were ongoing in the month of September. Shahnaz Sabet was arrested on Sunday, September 1, at her home in Shiraz and released on bail after two weeks, until her trial. Parisa Sobhanian, a Baha’i resident of the Mehrabad Village of Rood-e-Hen, was released on bail after thirty-eight days in solitary confinement. Her brother, Siavash Sobhanian, is still in custody.

Also, three Baha’i citizens, Yalda Firouzian, Ardeshir Fanaian, and Behnam Eskandarian, have been jailed for more than four months in Semnan Prison, with no resolution in sight.

On Tuesday, September 3, Rouha Imani, a Baha’i from Kerman and a resident of Yazd, was sent to Kerman prison to serve a nine-month prison sentence. The sentence relates to her four-year-old case in the Yazd court. This Baha’i was arrested at her home four years ago, on May 12, 2015, and released on bail after forty-five days.

Mitra Badrnejad was sent to Sepidar prison in Ahvaz to serve a year in prison on September 21. This Baha’i had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and two years of exile in the lower court on charges of membership in the Baha’i religion and teaching the Baha’i Faith, which was later reduced to a one-year prison sentence in the appeals court.

Currently, not counting the temporary detainees, 18 Baha’is are serving sentences in various Iranian prisons. The names of these prisoners of conscience are:

Evin Prison:

1- Hassan Momtaz: Five years

2- Peyman Koushkebaghi: Five years

Evin Prison Women’s Ward:

3- Negin Ghedmian: Five years

4- Azita Rafizadeh (Kouskebaghi): Four years

Rajai Shahr Prison in Karaj:

5- Adel Naimi: Eleven years

6- Farhad Fahandej: Ten years

7- Vahed Kholousi: Five years

Gonbad Kavous Prison:

8- Shahnam Hosseini: Five years

Isfahan Dastgerd Prison:

9-Afshin Bolbolan: Six years

10- Anoush Raayene: Six years

11- Milad Davardan: Six years

12- Farhang Sahba: Six years

13- Ali Saani: Six years

14- Bahareh Zeini: Three years

15- Foujaan Rashidi: Three years

16- Sepideh Rouhani: Three years

Kerman Prison:

17- Rouha Imani: Nine months

Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz:

18- Mitra Badrnejad: One Year


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