Iranwire – A campaign by Iranian authorities to uproot the Baha’i community in Shiraz took a dark step forward, earlier in June, when Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court sentenced 26 Baha’is to a combined total of 85 years in prison. Each individual was sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to five years.
Travel bans and orders to report daily to a provincial intelligence office were also issued. A number of the Baha’is also received in addition a combined total of 24 years of internal exile—with the individual banishments set for two years.
Many of the 26 sentenced to prison are couples with young children.
“How can parents care for their young children when they are being unjustly imprisoned?” said Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. “Separating children from parents is inhumane and designed to torment and destroy Iran’s Baha’i community. And just as these parents have a responsibility to their children, so too does Iran’s government, to all its citizens and in particular its children. The government is committing a gross injustice against these children by separating them from their parents.”
Each of the 26 Baha’is were charged with assembly and collusion “for the purpose of causing intellectual and ideological insecurity in Muslim society.” The Baha’is had, in fact, been gathering across Shiraz as part of their efforts to address local community needs and to assess the severity of the region’s water crisis.
“The sentencing of 26 innocent Baha’is to long prison sentences, exile and travel bans is the latest in more than 40 years of systematic persecution of Iranian Baha’is,” added Ms. Dugal. “Two years ago, 40 Baha’is in Shiraz were summoned before the court, where an official threatened to ‘uproot’ the community in the city. We are troubled that the authorities are now carrying out their threat and criminalizing the mere fact of being a Baha’i.”
- Yekta Fahandezh Saadi, Lala Salehi, Bahareh Norouzi, Rezvan Yazdani and Mojgan Gholampour, were each sentenced to 5 years in prison under tazir law, banned from leaving the country by revoking their passport for two years and reporting themselves daily to the provincial intelligence office for two years.
- Nabil Tahzib, Sahba Moslehi, Behnam Azizpour, Esmail Rousta, Ramin Shirvani and Saied Hasani, were each sentenced to 5 years in prison under tazir law, banned from leaving the country for 2 years by revoking their passports and forced residency (exiled from Shiraz) for Nabil Tahzib in Izeh, Sahba Moslehi in Ferdows, Behnam Azizpour in Dehdasht, Esmail Rousta in Bafq, Yazd, Ramin Shirvani in Baghmalek, Saied Hasani in Lordegan, along with daily reporting to the provincial intelligence service.
- Maryam Eslami, Parisa Rouhizadegan, Marjan Gholampour, Shadi Sadegh Aqdam, Ahdieh Enayati, Samareh Ashnaie, Nasim Kashaninejad, Sahba Farahbakhsh and Noushin Zenhari were each sentenced to two years in prison under tazir law, banned from leaving the country by revoking their passports for two years, along with daily reporting to the provincial intelligence office for two years.
- Mahyar Sefidi, Varqa Kaviani, Shamim Akhlaghi, Farzad Shadman, Farbud Shadman and Soroush Ighani were each sentenced to two years in prison under tazir law, banned from leaving the country with the revocation of their passport and exiled for two years forced residency for Mahyar Sefidi in Lamerd, Varqa Kaviani in Kashmar, Shamim Akhlaghi in Semirom, Farzad Shadman in Minab, Farbud Shadman in Firuzabad and Soroush Ighani in Mehriz, along with reporting to the provincial intelligence service on a daily basis for two years.
The Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious minority, have been persecuted in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. A secret memorandum approved by Iran’s Supreme Leader in 1991 calls for the “progress and development” of the Baha’i community to be blocked by barring them from university, disrupting their ability to earn livelihoods, and through other discriminatory means.