Friday, June 10, 2005

Baha'is Arrested in Iran

I still rather feel like I'm not firing on all cylinders as far as my Internet activity is concerned, but this is important news -- and even though most of my Baha'i readers have probably heard this by now, I felt I should post it here, just on the principle that information is the greatest weapon in opposing human rights abuses. The story does not appear to be getting much press outside the Baha'i community -- I checked out the "Human Rights Watch", "Amesty International" and "Iran Focus" websites and saw no mention of it. Strange, since *Iran Focus* picked up on the storyseveral months ago, apparently from the Iranian press, about Baha'i missionaries being arrested and deported-- a story that was denied by the Baha'i administration. I find it very strange that a false story about two non-Iranian missionaries would get press, and a true story about eleven arrests would not.

I first heard about the recent arrests on one of the lists I'm subscribed to, a couple of weeks ago, but didn't see any official confirmation until yesterday. The scuttlebutt is that most of the Baha'is arrested were organizing Ruhi study circles.

6 June 2005

State Bahá'í Councils
State Bahá'í Administrative Committees
Selected Local Spiritual Assemblies

Dear Bahá'í Friends,

We are informed by the Universal House of Justice that it "has received
alarming news of a number of arrests in Iran in the span of the last two
weeks, thus worsening the already perilous situation of the Bahá'ís in that

On 16 May 2005, in the city of Simnán, eight Bahá'ís were summoned to appear
before the office of the Public Prosecutor. The very next day, another
Bahá'í in that city received a similar summons. They are Ms. Mahnáz
'Askarínasab, Mr. 'Ádil Faná'íyán, Mr. Afshín Íqání, Mr. 'Abbás Núrání, Ms.
Shádí Núrání, Ms. Zhínús Núrání, Mrs. Shu'lih Tá'if, Ms. Súsan Tibíyáníyán,
and Mr. Bihshád Vujdání.

These Bahá'ís were charged with "creating anxiety in the minds of the public
and those of the Iranian officials" and "propaganda against the government
of the Islamic Republic of Iran". The charges were associated with
distributing to various Iranian officials copies of the letter of appeal
dated 15 November 2004 addressed to President Khatami on behalf of the
Iranian Bahá'í community. When they arrived at the Prosecutor's office on 18
May 2005, they were asked to post bail ranging from 30 to 60 million Iranian
rials (approximately US$3,360-US$6,720) each. As they were concerned that
producing this sum could lead to further arrests and bail demands on other
Bahá'ís, they declined to do so. They were detained overnight and
subsequently freed on their own recognizance on 20 May 2005, with the
understanding that they would appear for a hearing at a later date. Mrs.
Shu'lih Tá'if's husband also provided personal guarantees that they would
return to court.

Soon after this incident, on 25 May 2005, the Iranian authorities entered
the homes of six other Bahá'ís in Tehran and six Bahá'ís in Shiraz, where
they conducted searches and confiscated Bahá'í documents, computers, CDs,
cheques, financial records, and other belongings. All six in Shiraz and four
of the six in Tehran were taken to an unknown location. The other two
Bahá'ís from Tehran, Mr. Násir Mansúr and Mr. Jamál Thábit, were not home at
the time. However, Mr. Thábit was later arrested as he was returning from a
trip. Those arrested in Tehran are Mrs. Zhínús Jiddí Farnúsh, who is the
wife of Mr. Háshim Farnúsh who had previously been killed for being a
Bahá'í and the sister of Mr. Shahrám Jiddí who was arrested on 16 March 2005
and is still in custody; Mrs. Faríbá Kamálábádí Tá'ifí; Mr. Táhir Safájú;
Mrs. Mahvash Shahríyárí Thábit; and Mr. Jamál Thábit. Those from Shiraz are
Mr. Vahdat Dáná, Mr. Adíb Haqpazhú, Mr. Fúád Ithádu'l-haq, Mr. Shahrám
Mansúr, Mr. Sa'íd Ridá'í, and
Mr. Farhád Sarafráz. All of the Bahá'ís arrested were playing key roles in
the educational programmes of the community.

On 30 May 2005, the nine Bahá'ís from the village of Katá in the province of
Buyír-Ahmad and Chármahál-Bakhtíyárí, whose arrest was communicated in our
letters dated 28 April 2005 and 8 May 2005, were released from prison after
a business license was used as collateral. They will be required to attend a
hearing at a later date.

These arrests and confiscations of property signal a new phase in the
government's implementation of its strategy to eradicate the Bahá'í
community in Iran, which was, as you know, set out in the Supreme
Revolutionary Cultural Council's confidential memorandum dated 25 February

Since the beginning of the Iranian Revolution in 1979, Bahá'ís have been
subject to a series of egregious acts of persecution, such as having had
their religious institutions banned; been executed for their beliefs;
deprived of rights enjoyed by other Iranians, including their right to
employment and to receive their pensions following long and faithful service
in their jobs; suffered destruction and desecration of properties held as
sacred by Bahá'ís throughout the world in a concerted effort that has been
described as cultural cleansing; been assaulted and had their businesses and
means of livelihood destroyed or confiscated; denied fair trials; and been
prevented from admission to universities despite empty promises to rectify
this gross violation of their right to higher education. There was, however,
a period in which it appeared to many that the situation had been improving,
but which was no more than a chimera. Students who had been barred from
admission to universities had been led to believe that the prohibition had
been removed; they remain unable to enrol in institutions of higher
education. Almost all prisoners had been released; there are now sixteen
Bahá'ís in prison and an additional eighteen out on bail awaiting trial.

The last few months have witnessed the destruction of Bahá'í holy places,
the desecration of Bahá'í cemeteries, beatings of members of the community,
destruction and confiscation of businesses, arrests, and searches and
seizures of private property, which apparently have led the authorities to
identify and now arrest those who have leadership roles in educating the
community. The Iranian Bahá'ís are once again being exposed to
ever-escalating intimidation, harassment, arrests, imprisonment, and
arbitrary detention. The Bahá'ís in prison and those released on bail are
now awaiting trial on preposterous charges."

Whilst the National Spiritual Assembly, through its Office of Diplomatic
Affairs is taking the necessary actions to appraise our Government and
requesting for their assistance on behalf of the Bahá'ís in Iran, we urge
friends in every community to pray for the safety and well-being of all our
beloved spiritual brothers and sisters in the Cradle of the Faith.

With loving Bahá'í greetings,

Dr. A.K. Merchant

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