Majid Tavakoli, a well-known student rights activist, was beaten about a month ago while being held in Ward 241 of Evin Prison. News of this beating went viral on social media at the time.
It later emerged that Tavakoli had been beaten and transferred to solitary confinement because of his support for a Baha’i prisoner named Arash Zamani Farahani. Tavakoli had condemned the severe physical mistreatment of Zamani by prison guards.
Evin guards had entered the ward that day and began to abuse and beat Arash in front of other prisoners, including Tavakoli, who protested at the treatment. The guard had not expected such resistance given that Arash is a member of the Baha’i religious minority – they retaliated by beating Tavakoli to silence his protest and transferring him to solitary confinement along with Arash and several other prisoners.
Tavakoli and Zamani were both released from solitary after one or two days. Arash was then sent to Ward 350 at Evin and Tavakoli to a different prison.
Arash is one of dozens of Baha’i citizens who have been arrested in recent weeks. He and his wife, Armaghan Zabihi Moghadam, were arrested at 230am on September 24 after security forces stormed their house in Tehran, and have been held for 80 days without due process.
Armaghan mother spent more than a year in Mashhad’s Vakil Abad Prison in the 1980s for being a Baha’i. Her older brother was born in prison. Sirous Zabihi Moghadam, Armaghan’s father, was repeatedly arrested and imprisoned in Mashhad in the 1980s and 1990s. He and two other Baha’is were due to be executed in 1998 before the Supreme Court reviewed the case and commuted the sentence.
Arash, 33, and Armaghan, 28, like other young Baha’is in Iran, were barred from entering university. They continued their studies at the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, known as BIHE, an informal or “underground” university established by the Baha’is in the 1980s to overcome the denial of their right to higher education. Both Arash and Armaghan studied computer science. The couple met during their studies and married in 2017.
Armaghan’s father Sirous was preparing to travel to Tehran to follow up on his daughter and son-in-law’s case when agents went to his house and arrested him after searching the premises. The 61-year-old Baha’i was released on bail after 73 days of temporary detention at the Mashhad Intelligence Department.
The authorities have since informed the families that Arash’s and Armagh’s interrogations are over and that the prosecutor has issued the indictment and sent it to the court. Officials have not responded to information requests and the couple’s lawyer is not allowed to access their case.
Arash reportedly had a short meeting with his family in recent days during which he expressed no hope of being freed. On November 26, he was transferred to Fashafuyeh Prison in Tehran without any apparent reason. Given the physical abuse he received last month, Arash’s family is worried that this transfer may be intended as a way to continue mistreating him.
Armaghan’s family has sought for her to be given medical treatment and are meanwhile worried that she will be transferred from Ward 209 of Evin to the even worse conditions of Qarchak Prison. Her family has little actual information about her wellbeing.
The couple’s repeated requests to contact and see each other over the past 10 weeks have also been ignored.