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                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

News َJuly 20

The tale of such outrageous conduct, such widespread suffering and loss, if properly expressed and broadcast, cannot fail in the end to arouse the conscience of civilized mankind, and thereby secure the much-needed relief for a long-suffering people. I would, therefore, renew my plea, and request you most earnestly to redouble your efforts in the wide field of publicity, to devise every possible means that will alleviate the fears and sorrows of the silent sufferers in that distracted country. Surely these vile wrong-doers cannot long remain unpunished … (Shoghi Effendi, Baha’i Administration, p. 107)

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Two new arrests in Kashan

Payam News, July 20, 2017.

Faridun Falah (فریدون فلاح) and Neda Payandeh (ندا پاینده), a Bahai couple living in Kashan, were arrested by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on July 17. The agents went to their place of work, which they searched. The couple were then arrested and taken to their home, which was also searched. The agents seized their books, pictures, mobile telephones and pictorial carpets, before taking them back to their business where they were asked to open the safe, and seized all the documents it contained. The two searches lasted about 6 hours. They were taken away, probably to the Ministry of Intelligence detention facility.

On July 3, Amrollah Manuchihri (امرالله منوچهری) and Diyollah Elahian (ضیاالله الهیان), two other Bahai residents of Kashan, were arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence, and are still being detained, although their names are not recorded as prisoners and no charges have been laid.

Noushin Salekian and Farideh Abdi free on bail

Bahai News (Facebook), July 17, 2017.

Noushin Salekian (نوشین سالکیان) and Farideh Abdi (فریده عبدی), two Bahai detainees from Shahin Shahr, in Isfahan Province, were released on bail on July 16. They were arrested on June 13, 2017, when they reported to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Shahin Shar in response to a summons. Their homes had previously been searched. After two hours of interrogation, they were arrested and transferred to the Dolatabad prison, where the female prisoners are held. They were charged with “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the regime.”

Wilmette Institute signs agreement with the United Theological Seminary

Wilmette Institute, June 30, 2017.

On June 13, 2017, the Wilmette Institute completed an articulation agreement with the United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities (UTS), located in New Brighton, Minnesota. The agreement allows seminary students to take a group of core courses on the Bahai Faith for graduate credit. These include:

Bahai History, 1844–Present (HS 305)
The Bahai Faith, a Comprehensive Introduction (RL 370)
Bahai Theology: Concepts of God, Revelation, Manifestation, Creation, Humanity, Covenant, and Afterlife (PT390)
The Bahai Faith and Social Change (SC 305)
Bahai Institutions, the Community, and the Individual (CA 342)
Baha’u’llah’s Revelation, a Systematic Survey (ST331).

Other courses can be included as arranged. Two students have already signed up for ST 340: Introduction to the Kitab-e Iqan, Baha’u’llah’s second most important work.

The United Theological Seminary will include the Wilmette Institute’s core courses in its catalog and will list a group of Wilmette Institute faculty as UTS adjunct faculty. UTS will reimburse the Wilmette Institute for its tuition costs. Bahai students have two options. They can register as special students with UTS, pay UTS tuition, and take individual Wilmette Institute courses for credit. Or they can consider three Master’s degree options that UTS has designed: a Master of Divinity in Interfaith Chaplaincy, a Master of Arts in Leadership for Social Transformation, and a Master of Arts in Religion. All three professional degrees can include up to six courses on the Bahai Faith, and, because UTS is an accredited institution of higher education, its students are eligible for student loans and other financial aid. The Master of Arts degree is available only online, and the Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Leadership in hybrid/online format. An interfaith chaplaincy degree qualifies one to serve as a chaplain in hospitals and prisons and in the military. Such a profession is a remarkable opportunity for Bahais to serve the spiritual needs of people in challenging personal circumstances. It does not require ordination as clergy.

Now that graduate study involving significant Bahai content is possible through UTS, it will be much easier for the Wilmette Institute to help students arrange for credit for Wilmette Institute courses from other universities. The Institute hopes that Bahai undergraduates will take advantage of this new opportunity to include one or more Bahai courses as part of their Bachelor’s degrees.

Afnan library online collection opened to the public

Editorial, July 17, 2017.

The Afnan library has announced the opening of its online collection, including the 99 volumes of the Iranian National Bahai Archives. The works available now include:

English and other European-language publications (books and journals (the latter being ‘The Dawn,’ an important journal containing hitherto unnoticed translations by Shoghi Effendi).

Unpublished English language manuscripts (academic theses)- 1 item

Persian and Arabic publications (4 books and 2 journals)

Persian and Arabic manuscripts, being the very important INBA series (99 volumes plus indexes), and other materials are promised.

There are also categories of “English and other European-language unpublished papers” and “other materials” which have no content yet. News about the Afnan Library will continue to be published on their Facebook page.

Eleven Bahai businesses closed in Ahvaz

Iran Press Watch, July 15, 2017.

Indifferent to a recent verdict of the Administrative Bureau of Justice, the shops and businesses of at least 11 Bahais who closed their businesses in observance of a religious holiday (between the 8th and 10th of July) were closed and sealed by authorities in the city of Ahvaz. According to the law, citizens are permitted to close their place of business for up to 15 days a year without any particular or specified reason. However this law doesn’t seem to apply to Bahai citizens. Whenever Bahais close their businesses in observance of their religious holidays in which work should be suspended, authorities are quick to move in and seal the businesses.

Rostam Derakhshan (رستم درخشان), Sam Derakhshan (سام درخشان), Sohrab Firouzmandi (سهراب فیروزمندی), Khosrou Zohdi (خسرو زهدی), Vargha Derakhshan (ورقا درخشان), Sohrab Derakhshan (سهراب درخشان), Farzad Afshar (فرزاد افشار), Farshid Afshar (فرشید افشار), Jamshid Najafi (جمشید نجفی), Feyzollah Qanvatiyan (فیض الله قنواتیان) and Kianoush Afshar (کیانوش افشار) were among the citizens whose businesses were sealed.

According to an informed source, the official Closure Notification stated that “this closure has been ordered by the Judicial Authority (deputy prosecutor’s office), and will be carried out by security forces.”

The law states that a business owner is allowed to closed their business for up to 15 days a year without any particular or specified reason.

Recently the Administrative Bureau of Justice issued a verdict in favor of the Bahai citizens of Mazandaran, whose businesses had been closed in similar manner, stating that the legal right of these citizens to close their business for up to 15 days a year without any specific reason had been ignored.

Shiva Rouhani begins an 18-month sentence

Human Rights in Iran, July 11, 2017.
Shiva Rouhani ( شیوا روحانی ), a Bahai from Gorgan, has begun serving her 18-month sentence in Amir Abad prison. She joins 12 other Bahais from Gorgan who have begun their sentences in recent weeks. They are among the 22 Bahais of Golestan Province who were arrested on October 17, 2012.

Two arrests in Shiraz

Bahai News (Persian), July 6, 2017.

Varqa Mehdizadeh (ورقا مهدیزاده) and Shiva Ekhaqi (شیوا اخلاقی), a Bahai couple living in Shiraz, were summoned to the Revolution Court in Shiraz on July 3, where they were arrested. They have been taken to Adel Abad prison to serve 8-month prison sentences. On February 14, 2016, they were arrested with violence in the street, and held for 17 days of interrogation before being released on bail of 150 million tumans (40,000 euros ; $US 46,000). They were charged with publishing photographs on the internet, photographs actually posted by someone else, who used their [photographic] studio. After their arrest, their business was also shut down by the authorities. They are also facing charges for taking photographs at a wedding where men and women were present together.

Two new arrests in Kashan

Bahai News (Persian), July 4. 2017.

Amrullah Manuchihri (امرالله منوچهری) and Diyullah Elahian (ضیاالله الهیان), two Bahai residents of Kashan, were arrested on July 3, after being summonsed by telephone. It is not known where they are being detained. The arrests are apparently related to a raid on their homes by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on April 30. The search warrant said they were accused of propaganda against the regime. During the searches, books and other materials relating to the Bahai Faith were seized, along with the mobile phones of the entire family, lap tops, flash drives etc.

Parivash Shoja`i and Rufeya Pakzadan enter prison

Bahai News (Persian), July 3, 2017.

Parivash Shoja`i ( پریوش شجاعی ) and Rufeya Pakzadan ( روفیا پاکزادان), Bahais from Gorgan, have been summoned to begin their prison sentences. They were taken to Amir Abad prison in Gorgan. Parivash Shoja`i faces one year and 9 months in prison for her Bahai beliefs, and Rufeya Pakzadan has an 18-month sentence. In the past week, 11 Bahais in Gorgan have begun serving prison sentences. They are among the 22 Bahais of Golestan Province who were arrested on October 17, 2012. They were charged with collaborating with hostile governments, effective activities to promote the goals of a sect and of anti-Islamic and anti-Shiah hostile governments, and with making propaganda in favour of the Bahai Faith and against the regime of the Islamic Republic, by participating in the ‘Ruhi program’ (Bahai catechism class) in Golestan Province.

Two arrests in Shahinshahr

Iran Press Watch, June 16, 2017.

On 13 June, 2017, Noushin Salekian and Farideh Abdi, two Bahais of the city of Shahinshahr, Isfahan Province, were detained by authorities. An informed source confirmed the news to HRANA reporters, stating, “Yesterday afternoon, Noushin Salekian and Farideh Abdi, two Bahai residents of Shahinshahr, reported to a branch of the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Shahinshar following a previously issued notice of 11 June. Subsequently, after two hours of interrogation, they were arrested and transferred to the Dolatabad prison, where the female prisoners are held.” They were charged with “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the regime.”
[I have not been able to check the IPW report against Persian sources ~Sen]

Four Bahais released on bail in Bandar Abbas

Bahai News (Persian), June 14, 2017.

Maral Rasti (مارال راستی) and Mahnaz Jannethar-Pourmaradeyan (مهناز جانثار( پورمرادیان)) were released from the central prison of Bandar Abbas on June 14. Two days earlier, Mehran Afshar (مهران افشار), whose name was previously reported as Mehrollah Afshar (مهراله افشار), was also released on bail. They were among seven Bahais arrested in Bandar Abbas on April 18. Mr. Adib Haqqpazhouh (ادیب حق پژوه) was released on bail on June 12. He was arrested in Shiraz on April 17, and transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence detention facilities in Bandar Abbas on April 19. All four were held for lengthy interrogations by the Ministry of Intelligence before being transferred to the central prison. Bail in all four cases was 120 million tumans (35,000 euros ; $US 37,000).

Nine Bahais begin prison terms in Golestan Province

Iran Press Watch, June 16, 2017.

At least nine Bahai residents of Golestan Province have been detained by authorities to begin their prison sentences. An informed source, while confirming the news, told the HRANA reporter: “These citizens, who were sentenced to imprisonment with other Bahais in 2015, were arrested today either by agents visiting their residence or while presenting themselves at the prison.” The source was referring to twenty-four Baha’i residents of Gorgan, Gonbad-e Kavous, and Minoodasht, who had been sentenced in 2015 to a total of 193 years in prison by Golestan province Revolutionary Court in the preliminary phase. Individual sentences were reduced on appeal.

On Tuesday, June 13, 2017, Mariyam Dehqan Yazdeli (مریم دهقان یزدلی), Mojdeh Zohori-Fahandezh (مژده ظهوری (فهندژ)), Farah Tebyanian-Sana’i (فرح تبیانیان (ثنائی) ) and Houshmand Dehqan Yazdeli (هوشمند دهقان یزدلی) were arrested in their homes and taken to prison to begin their sentences. On the same day three others, Sheida Qoddusi (شیدا قدوسی), Pouneh Sana’i-Taymori (پونه ثنائی( تیموری)) and Nazi Tahqiqi (نازی تحقیقی) presented themselves to authorities after being summoned by the office of the Ministry of Intelligence to begin their sentences. After these arrests, Parisa Shahidi ( پریسا شهیدی ) and Mitra Nouri ( میترا نوری ) turned themselves into prison. Other reports state that similar visits to the homes of several Bahais in the Province have taken place, and the number of detainees is likely to increase. Details of seven of the detainees’ verdicts follow:

Maryam Dehqan Yazdeli: One year and six months imprisonment
Mojdeh Zohori-Fahandezh: One year and nine months imprisonment
Sheida Qoddusi: Initial sentence 11 years imprisonment; sentencing information from appeal is unknown at this time.
Pouneh Sana’i-Taymori: One year and nine months imprisonment
Nazi Tahqiqi: One year and six months imprisonment
Parisa Shahidi-Kashani: One year and nine months imprisonment
Mitra Nouri: One year and six months imprisonment.

Farhad Fahandezh (husband of Mojdeh Zohori), Farahmand Sana’i (husband of Farah Tebyanian, brother of Pouneh Sana’i), and Kamal Kashani (husband of Parisa Shahidi) are serving their sentences in Rajai Shahr Prison. Parsia Shahidi and Kamal Kashani have a 14-year-old son, Farid, who now has both parents in prison.

Recently ten human rights organisations submitted a joint statement to the European Union, demanding immediate action to prevent further harassment of Bahai citizens, and abolition of their prison sentences issued by the authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This letter referred specifically to the recent challenges of the Baha’i residents of Golestan province.

Seven Bahai youth sentenced in Isfahan

Bahai News (Persian), reports on June 7 and June 8.

On June 1, sentences were announced for Parvin Nik-A’in(پروین نیک آیین), `Arsheya Rouhani (عرشیا روحانی) and Adib Janamian (ادیب جانمیان), who will serve 1 year in prison, followed by a 16-month sentence that is suspended for two years. Zarin Aqa-Baba’i (زرین آقابابایی), Vahid Karami (وحید کرمی) and Keyvan Nik-A’in (کیوان نیک آیین) were sentenced to six months in prison plus a 6-month sentence that is suspended for 2 years. The suspended sentences mean, in effect, two years of probation. They were tried in Isfahan on May 6 by Judge Ravanmehr (قاضی روانمهر). They were charged with propaganda against the regime (by teaching the Bahai Faith), to the benefit of groups opposed to the Islamic Republic, and with membership of Bahai organisations and undermining national security. The sentence mentioned the fact that the World Centre of the Bahai Faith is in Israel, and mentioned that the four were in possession of many Bahai books and CDs. They are among 16 Bahais arrested in raids on Bahai homes conducted by the Ministry of Intelligence in Isfahan, Tehran and Mashhad on November 15, 2015. They are presently free on bail: the original amount of bail has been increased as further charges were laid, and the total amount for the first four is now 1.2 billion tumans (330,000 euros, $US 370,000) (although a previous report said it was 1.2 billion rials, one tenth of this figure).

Murderers of Farhang Amiri released on bail

Bahai International Community, June 13, 2017.

The two murderers of Mr. Farhang Amiri, a Bahai who was stabbed to death in September 2016 in Iran, have been released on bail after having confessed to killing him because of his faith. Mr. Amiri, 63, was murdered outside his home on 26 September 2016 in the city of Yazd, where his family had long resided. On the evening of the murder, the two men, who had come to his residence the night before under the pretense of wanting to purchase his vehicle, returned to ask for Mr. Amiri. When he came to the door, they violently stabbed him multiple times.

The two murderers, who are brothers, were apprehended by local shopkeepers as they tried to run away and were delivered to the police. During their subsequent interrogations and court hearings, they admitted to having killed Mr. Amiri because he was a Bahai.

They disclosed that they were prompted to carry out this act by their religious beliefs and statements made by clerics that Bahais are against Islam. The father of the two men is reported to have complained about a cleric who is responsible for radicalizing his two sons.

“We wanted to kill a Bahai,” said one of the brothers when asked about the reason behind the murder. “I had heard that Bahais are Muslims who have turned away from Islam, and they are apostates, and that the shedding of their blood is a meritorious deed.”

“Our aim was to kill a Bahai, it did not matter who it was,” stated the other brother during another interrogation. The brothers even stated during interrogations that they would kill someone else upon release.

Despite the admission of murder, the court has now released the two men on bail.

Navid Khanjani’s prison term extended

Iran Press Watch, June 11, 2017.

Navid Khanjani (نوید خانجانی) was due for release from Rajai Shahr prison on June 6, 2017, on completion of his five-year prison sentence, but while he and his family were waiting for his release, he was informed by judicial authorities, without a prior notice, that his one-year sentence from a different case was being implemented immediately and he would remain in prison.

Mr. Khanjani’s original 12-year conviction was due to his peaceful activities in defending human rights and the right to education. With the implementation of Article 134 of the Penal Code the charges against him were integrated, and he was sentenced to five years in prison with a release date on June 6, 2017.

Mr. Khanjani was arrested the first time on March 1, 2010, by the Ministry of Intelligence and was released on bail after about two months of interrogation and solitary confinement. On December 20, 2010, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court, presided by Judge Yahya PirAbassi (قاضی یحیی پیرعباسی), sentenced him on the following charges:

+ Spreading false news,
+ Disturbing public opinion,
+ Propaganda against the Islamic Republic through disseminating news reports,
+ Appearing in interviews with foreign TV and radio stations,
+ Membership of the Central Council of the Human rights Reporters Committee,
+ Establishing the “Deprived of Education” group

The initial sentencing was for up to twelve years in prison and the equivalent of $124 fine. This sentence was upheld by the appeals court, but according to Article 134 of the new Islamic Penal Code, only five years of it was applicable. An informed source at the time of sentencing (February 2011) said that “During the trial, the lawyer’s defense was basically not considered.” Mr. Khanjani, has not been allowed any furlough since his detention in August 2012.

Mr. Khanjani’s one-year sentence is due to another case known as the “Sarand Camp Case.” He was one of 35 civil society activists, critical of the government, who had gone to Varzaghan in East Azarbaijan on August 11, 2012 to help the earthquake victims. They were arrested by the police and their camp was shut down. Most of the activists were released, but due to his existing sentence of 12 years, Mr. Khanjani remained in custody.

Mr. Khanjani, a 30-year-old Bahai, is a former member of the “Human Rights Activists,” “Human Rights Reporters Committee,” and founder of ” The Association Opposing Educational Discrimination.”

Three students expelled for Bahai beliefs, Farzan Ma`sumi denied his Diploma

Editorial compilation, June 1, 2017.

Bahai News reports that Wafa Hoveida’i (وفا هویدایی), who was in the second semester of an undergraduate degree in the Department of Physics and Energy Engineering, has been expelled from Amir Kabir Polytechnic University because of his Bahai beliefs. He learned of the expulsion when his user’s page on the University’s site was blocked. When he made enquiries, university officials told him he had been expelled because he was a Bahai.

The same report says that Farzad Safa’i (فرزاد صفایی), who has completed 8 semesters of a degree in Industrial Metallurgy at the Free Islamic University of Ahwaz, was expelled in late May. He received a summons from the University Security office, and his user’s page on the University’s site was blocked.

In a separate report, Bahai News says that Wessal Leqa’i-far (وصال لقایی فر) a student of Chemical Engineering, was expelled at the end of his seventh semester, when he resisted pressure from two officials from the Ministry of Education to renounce the Bahai Faith. At the end of his fourth semester he was also blocked, and in response to his enquiries the university officials told him this was because he was a Bahai. After repeated follow-ups he was able to win a promise that he could complete two more semesters.

A third report from Bahai News states that officials at the Payam-e Nour University campus in Kavar (Fars Province) have refused to issue a graduation diploma to Farzan Ma`sumi (فرزان معصومی). He has completed the courses for a Bachelor in Political Science. The officials said they were acting on orders from the Bureau of Educational Assessments, and protests to the University would be fruitless. Farzan Ma`sumi was arrested on February 12, 2017, along with Farhad Sabet (فرهام ثابت), when their homes were searched and religious and non-religous books, mobile phones and computers were seized, along with family photos and religious images. He was released on bail on February 22.

Kamellia Bidelyan reports to prison for 18-month sentence

Bahai News (Persian), May 31, 2017.

Kamellia Bidelyan (کاملیا بیدلیان), a Bahai from Minudasht, reported to prison on May 31 to begin her 18-month sentence [presumably the Minudasht prison ~ sen]. Security forces attempted to arrest her a week previously, but since her neighbours objected they instead left a message that she should report today to the Ministry of Intelligence. Her husband Navid Mo`allem (نوید معلم) was arrested on March 12, in front of his place of business, and transferred to prison to begin his own 18-month sentence. The couple are among 22 Bahais detained on October 17, 2012, in a wave of arrests of Bahais in Gorgan and Minudasht.

Bahai-run business closed down in Karaj

Bahai News (Persian), May 21, 2017.

On April 13, 2017, ten officers from the Department of Sanctions arrived at the workplace of Farhad Samadani (فرهاد صمدانی), seized all his stock, including 528 spectacle frames, and sealed the business. They were intending to arrest him, but his physical health did not allow this — yet they took his car away with them. Although he had receipts for the purchase of the frames, including the payment of customs duty, his goods were confiscated and he was given a fine for the possession of “contraband” amounting to three times their value. The loss and fine amount to “40 million”, which if it is stated in tumans would be 11,000 euros or $US 12,300.

Samir Khalousi released on bail in Kerman

Bahai News (Persian), May 30, 2017.

Samir Khalousi (سمیر خلوصی) was released on bail from the central prison of Kerman on May 30, after 152 days in detention. He was held at first in the detention facility of the Ministry of Intelligence, and then in the central prison of Kerman. Bail was set at 70 million tumans (19,300 euros ; $US 21,600). His wife, who was also arrested and detained for a short time, is also free on bail, set at 100 million tumans. He has recently been tried on charges of propaganda against the regime and membership of Bahai organisations.

Samir Kahlousi was arrested on December 30, 2016, when five security agents entered his home by breaking down the door. They searched it thoroughly and seized a laptop, hard drive, smart phone and books. The raid is described as very violent: Mr. Khalousi was subject to two hours of interrogation and beating in his home, and was taken in handcuffs to the detention facilities operated by the Ministry of Intelligence. His arrest came 9 days after the arrest of Amrullah Khalqiyan (امرالله خالقیان), whose release on bail was reported here yesterday.

Amrullah Khalqiyan free on bail

Bahai News (Persian), May 25, 2017.

Amrullah Khalqiyan (امرالله خالقیان), a Bahai from Kerman, was released on bail on May 25, after 157 days of detention, first in the detention facility of the Ministry of Intelligece, and then in the central prison of Kerman.

He was arrested on the morning of December 21, 2016, along with his wife Fariba Rouhani (فریبا روحانی), who was released after a few hours’ questioning. On February 8, 2017, security forces in Kerman arrested three more Bahais: Ehsan Amiri-nia (احسان امیری نیا), Arman Bandi (آرمان بندی) and Nima Rajab-zadeh (نیما رجب زاده). On May 22, all four were tried in Kerman, on charges of undermining national security by promoting the Bahai Faith. The four were taken to the court in handcuffs and shackles. So far as I know, their sentences have not been announced.

Seven Bahai detainees moved to prison in Bandar Abbas

Bahai News (Persian), May 19, 2017.

In the past week, seven Bahai detainees who have been held for interrogation in the Ministry of Intelligence detention facility in Bandar Abbas since April 18 were moved to the central prison for Hormuzgan Province, which is also in Bandar Abbas.

Maral Rasti (مارال راستی) and Mahnaz Janethar-Pourmaradeyan (مهناز جانثار( پورمرادیان)) were transferred to the regular jail on May 15, while Nasim Qanawateyan (نسیم قنواتیان), Arash Rasekhi (آرش راسخی), Mehrollah Afshar (مهراله افشار), Farhad Amri-Hesari (فرهاد امری حصاری) and Omid Afaqi ( امید آفاقی) were moved on May 17. Four of the detainees, Maral Rashti, Mahnaz Janethar, Nasim Qanawateyan and Arash Rasekhi, have been allowed to meet their families for 20 minutes, and the others are likely to be allowed to meet their families soon.

The behaviour of local and provincial officials during the interrogation has been described as good, but the interrogators who travelled to Bandar Abbas from Tehran behaved badly, insulting the detainees.

Along with the detention of these seven Bahais in Bandar Abbas on April 18, Mr. Adib Haqqpazhouh (ادیب حق پژوه) was arrested in Shiraz on April 17, and transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence detention facilities in Bandar Abbas on April 19. It is assumed he is still being interrogated. The eight have been accused of undermining national security, membership of Bahai organisations and several other “crimes.”

Non-Baha’i shopkeepers in Noshahr call for the reopening of Bahai shops

Translation by Iran Press Watch, May 16, 2017.

Radio Zameneh reports on May 12 that
a group of Noshahr shopkeepers have written to the governor of the city of Noshahr in Mazandaran province (with a copy to the Prosecutor), demanding the removal of the seals placed on seven Bahai business units six months ago. No investigation has been performed during that time. The signatories say that the closure “causes skepticism towards Islamic practices and leads to economic downturn in the city.”

The shopkeepers wrote that according to Paragraph One of the Trade Union’s Guidelines, and Article 28 of the Executive Regulations, any trade unit closed without investigation should be reopened after six months, until the necessary

The shops were sealed by the Office of Properties on the morning of 01 November 2016, because the owners had temporarily closed businesses during the observance of Bahai Holy Days. According to the Iranian Trade Law, those with business licenses are allowed, by law, to close their units for 15 days per year, and should inform the Office of Properties of longer closures.

For the full report, see the translation by Iran Press Watch.

Two Bahai detainees released in Isfahan

Bahai News (Persian), May 17, 2017.

Sa`id Azimi ( سعید عظیمی ), a Bahai who was arrested in his home by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence on October 25, 2016, has been released on bail after more than 200 days in detention without trial.

Mohsen Mehrgani (محسن مهرگانی), who was arrested along with Manouchehr Rahmani (منوچهر رحمانی) in their home in Isfahan on January 24, has also been released, on bail, set at 500 million tumans. This would be over 130,000 euros if the report is correct, or one tenth of that if the amount is actually in rials, Iran’s official currency. He has been held for over three months, and because of his diabetes and the lack of insulin in prison, his health has suffered. Manouchehr Rahmani is still being detained.

Farhad Eqbali released

Bahai News (Persian), May 16, 2017.

Farhad Eqbali ( فرهاد اقبالی ) a Bahai prisoner of conscience from Gorgan, has been released from Raja’i Shahr prison near Tehran where he has been serving a five-year sentence.

Mr. Eqbali was fired from his work in the poultry sector in July 2004, because of pressure on his employer from the Ministry of Intelligence. Under Iran’s apartheid system, Bahais are barred from working in most food-related sectors because they are regarded as “unclean.” He went on to study radiology at Shiraz University, but was expelled in his second year of study because of his Bahai beliefs. In November, 2012, he was one of about twenty Bahais, and some Muslims accused of associating with Bahais, who were arrested in Gorgan. He was quickly released on bail because of his heart condition. He was tried with 4 other Bahais on charges of propaganda against the regime, participation in Bahai activities and cooperation with foreign governments. His 5-year sentence was confirmed by the court of review on August 27, 2014, and he began his sentence in Gorgan on the same day. Soon after, he was transferred to Evin prison, in Tehran, and was moved to Raja’i Shahr prison in October, 2014.

18 Bahai-run businesses in Shahin Shah reopen

Bahai News, May 14, 2017.

The 18 Bahai-run businesses closed down by the authorities in Shahin Shahr, in Isfahan Province, on May 1 have been allowed to reopen by the Mayor’s office, effective from May 14.

Secret order to close Bahai-run businesses in Mazandaran leaked

Bahai News (Persian), May 7, 2017.

Six months after the closure of 94 Bahai-run businesses in Mazandaran Province, the Provincial Council’s instruction to close them has been leaked to the Press. The businesses were sealed by the authorities after they had closed for business on November 1 and 2, 2016, when Bahais celebrated the birthdays of the religion’s founders, the Bab and Baha’u’llah, in 1819 and 1817 respectively. The Provincial Council. The order specifies that the business premises of members of the erroneous and misleading sect should be closed down, and that Bahais should not be allowed to close their business until further notice [sic]. The order claims that the Bahai sect was founded by the English and Zionists (the Bahai Faith actually predates Zionism, and the period when the English were influential in Iran).

Home search in Shiraz

Bahai News (Persian), May 6, 2017.

The home of Mr. Parsa Shaykhi (پارسا شیخی) and Mr. Mehran Mosallanejad (مهران مصلی نژاد) in Shiraz has been searched by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence, who had a search warrant. The report does not specify the date, which appears to be May 6. The agents seized books, images and electronic goods. They were told to be ready, in the next five days, to report to the Ministry’s Detention Facility 100 in Shiraz if summoned. Before going to the home of Parsa Shaykhi, the agents went to his father’s the workplace and took him along. The agents suggested that the search was in relation to supposed connection with and propaganda for Israel. Parsa Shaykhi is 21 years old and Mehran Mosallanejad is 18.

Six Bahais detained and interrogated in Sistan and Baluchestan Province

Bahai News (Persian), May 5, 2017.

On May 4, security forces in the small city of Chabahar, on the Gulf of Oman in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, security forces searched a Bahai home and issued summons to three Bahais living there: Manouchihr Barqi (منوچهر بارقی) and Bahadar Kamju (بهادر کامجو), who were present, and Fahemiyyeh Ashaqi (فهمیه اسحاقی) who was absent. All three were to report to the Ministry of Intelligence offices in Chabahar. The agents then went to their workplace and searched that and seized some of their personal belongings. These three were summoned and interrogated twice over the following days. Security forces also arrested three other Bahais in the Province: Houshang Mokhtari (هوشنگ مختاری), whose arrest in Saravan has already been reported, Bijan Eslami (بیژن اسلامی) and Ali Anvari (علی انوری). All three were released on Bail on May 5, after one day of interrogation.

House of Justice letter on political involvement

Editorial, May 6, 2017.

The National Spiritual Assembly of the United States has distributed a letter written on behalf of the House of Justice to an individual believer regarding political involvement. The file name (which may be given by the NSA) is “Guidance on social action and public discourse” which reflects the broad scope of the letter. The letter will be of especial interest not only to the Bahais in the United States, but to the Bahais in every country where the fever cycle of partisanship is peaking at the moment. While emphasizing the limits of political involvement for Bahais, the letter it is not silent on the recent resurgence of nationalisms in western countries, stating that “prejudice, factionalism, and virulent nationalism are the very negation of Baha’u’llah’s message of peace and oneness.” (paragraph 8)

I have placed a plain text copy of the letter, with paragraph numbers and links to the sources, in the documents archive of my Bahai studies blog.

Among the notable points are the expected admonition to Baha’is not to vilify specific individuals, organizations, or governments (paragraph 2) in whatever we may have to say, and not to judge governments as “just or unjust – for each believer would be sure to hold a different viewpoint, and within our own Baha’i fold a hotbed of dissension would spring up and destroy our unity.” (paragraph 3) Yet Bahais “must also guard against the other extreme of never taking part … in conferences or committees designed to promote some activity in entire accord with our teachings.” (Paragraph 5)

The new letter refers to the 2 March 2013 message of the House of Justice to the Baha’is of Iran as setting out how Baha’is seek to effect social change. This letter is also online in my documents archive. This approach includes active involvement in the life of society as well as the possibility of influencing and contributing to the social policies of government by all lawful means. (Paragraph 4) In certain circumstances this can include taking part in demonstrations. (Paragraph 5), but demonstrations are not the only, or even the most effective, means available (paragraph 10). The fundamental partisanship in contemporary political life means policies are often implemented without building consensus (paragraph 7). Bahais are called to three overlapping areas of action: community-building. projects and activities for social action, and involvement in the discourses of society, (paragraph 12)

There is a distinction between activities that can be supported explicitly by Baha’i institutions and those where Baha’i institutions should not participate but individuals can make a personal decision to take part, without implying that they are representing the Bahai Faith (paragraph 6).

The letter is also interesting for containing the first explicit acknowledgement that I know of, that the unity of nations – like the Lesser Peace – was not achieved in the twentieth century, describing this an uncompleted project that has left dangerous gaps in international relations (paragraph 8).

Number of Bahai businesses closed in Shahin Shahr reaches 18

Bahai News (Persian), May 3, 2017.

The number of Bahai-run businesses closed down by the authorities in Shahin Shahr, in Isfahan Province, has risen to 18. The closures all took place on May 1. The businesses all have operating licences which were shown to the Bureau of Public Places, the agency that has closed them down. A source stated that the majority of Bahai-run businesses in Shahin Shahr, a town with a population of 150,000, have been closed down.

The eighteen businesses are all in trades such as television repair, clothing or stationery, except for one seller of dried fruits and nuts. Under Iran’s apartheid system, Bahais may not work in cultural, educational or financial institutions, or in the sectors of periodicals, jewelry, watchmaking, print-making, tourist agencies, car rentals, publishing and bookshops, photography, film-making, internet gaming, computers, or internet cafes. They may not own printing works or hotels and other accommodation for travellers, or teach tailoring skills. Because of the widespread Iranian belief that Bahais are unclean, they are barred from working in restaurants, cafeterias and catering, food ingredients and foodstuff sales, takeaways, cafes, butchers shops, supermarkets, the production and sale of ice-cream, fruit juice, soft drinks, pastry and sweets, and coffee. (See an earlier explanation on this blog).

One arrest in Saravan

Bahai News (Persian), May 4, 2017.

Agents from the Ministry of Intelligence searched the home of a Bahai, Houshang Mokhtari (هوشنگ مختاری) in Saravan today, and arrested him. He was taken to the Ministry of Intelligence detention facility for the region. Later they searched his workplace as well.

Nine Bahai-run businesses shut by authorities in Shahin-Shahr

Bahai News (Persian), May 2, 2017.

Nine Bahai-run businesses in Shahin-Shahr, in Isfahan Province, have been closed down by the city’s Bureau of Public Places because they observed days of rest on the past week’s Bahai Holy days. The businesses are:
– a clothing business run by Mr. sa`id Qa’emi and Mrs Marjan Golshani (آقای سعید قائمی و خانم مرجان گلشنی)
– a hair-dresser’s run by Mr. Iraj Kushkaki (ایرج کوشککی)
– a retail supplies shop run by Mr. Hojjatollah Rouhani ( حجت الله روحانی)
– a dried fruit business run by Mr. Gulzar (گلزار )
– a mechanic’s business run by Mr. Ardavan Farougheyan (اردوان فروغیان)
– a rubber goods shop run by Mr. `Erfan Karamzadeh (عرفان کرمزاده)
– a sewing machine business run by Mr. Mial Azadi and Houssein Shaker (میلاد آزادی و حسین شاکر)
– a stationery shop run by Mr. Hakim and Mr. Navidi (آقایان حکیم و نویدی),
– a business selling burglar alarms and sports goods run by Puya Azadi (پویا آزادی).
Officers from the Bureau of Public Places went looking for Bahai-run businesses yesterday, asking for their business licences and other documents. They told the Bahais that next time they came, they would close the Bahai-run businesses. Today, the majority of the Bahai-run businesses have been closed down.

On June 23, 2016, the Universal House of Justice issued new guidelines for the observance of Bahai Holy Days in Iran, which allow for various compromises between the Bahais’ desire to close their businesses on the Holy Days and authorities’ desire to reduce the visibility of Bahais in commercial centres. For example, Bahais who have businesses could close the business one day before and one day after the Holy Day as well as on the Holy Day, they could leave the lights of a business turned on although nobody is working, or have a worker present although no trading is done. But the guidelines reject the idea of seeking official permission to close for a day, where this is neither provided for in legislation nor imposed on non-Bahais, since this would be to accede to government interference in the freedom of conscience.

Navid Mo`allem allowed a prison visit

Bahai News (Persian), April 30, 2017.

Navid Mo`allem (نوید معلم), a Bahai resident of Minudasht in Golestan Province who was arrested on March 13, has been allowed to meet his wife Kamellia Bidelyan (کاملیا بیدلیان) in prison, 48 days after his arrest. He and his wife were amnong 22 Bahais of Golestan Province who were arrested on October 17, 2012. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

Adib Haqqpazhouh transferred from Shiraz to Bandar Abbas

Bahai News (Persian), April 23, 2017.

Mr. Adib Haqqpazhouh (ادیب حق پژوه), a Bahai who was arrested in Shiraz on April 17, was transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence detention facilities in Bandar Abbas on April 19. He was able to see his wife and daughter in Shiraz before he was taken away. He suffers from a heart ailment. His transfer to Bandar Abbas suggests a link between his arrest and the arrests of seven Bahais in Bandar Abbas on April 18.

One-year sentences announced for 3 Mashhad Bahais

Bahai News (Persian), April 23, 2017.

Khoshayar and Shayan Tafazolli ( خشایار و شایان تفضلی ) and Sina Aqdas-zadeh ( سینا اقدس زاده ), Bahais from Mashhad, have been sentenced by Judge Mansouri (قاضی منصوری) to one year in prison on charges of propaganda against the regime. Shayan Tafazolli was among the eight Bahais arrested in February 2012, in relation to a handcrafts exhibition organised by Bahai youth in Mashhad. On July 11, 2012, security forces searched the homes of these three Bahais and arrested them. Sina Aqdas-zadeh was detained by the Ministry of Intelligence for 47 days, Shayan Tafazolli for 46 days, and Khoshayar Tafazolli for 23 days, before they were released on bail of 100 million tumans (at the time, 65,000 euros; 81,000 US dollars). They were tried in January this year, and the sentences were announced on April 22.

Shayan Tafazolli has been arrested on two other occasions, on February 17, 2012, when he was held for 66 days, and June 2, 2014.

Twin siblings expelled from two universities

Bahai News (Persian), April 22, 2017.

Two separate universities in Iran have expelled twin siblings, Shekib Muhammad-Alipour (شکیب محمدعلی پور) and his sister Shima Muhammad-Alipour (شیما محمدعلی پور), because of their Bahai beliefs. When Shima Muhammad-Alipour (-Dastgerdi) was filling in the enrollment forms for the School of Art and Architecture at the University of Kashan, she chose the option ‘other religion,’ but in the forms for accommodation she filled in “Bahai Faith.” On October 1, 2016, which was her first day at the University, she was summoned by the security office and her student card was taken away. She was told that she could apply to the national Office of Educational Assessment for permission to continue her studies, but several months have passed and she has received no reply.

Her brother Skekib was enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering in the Faculty of Engineering of the Khorramabad State University, in Lorestan Province, and gave his religion as “Bahai” on enrollment. At the end of the first term, when he found he had no grades for his courses, he discovered — via one of his teachers — that he had been expelled.

20 Bahais arrested in Yemen

Bahai News (Persian), April 19, 2017.

On April 18, twenty Bahais living in Sana’a, in Yemen, were arrested because of their Bahai beliefs. Four are women, the remainder men. In August, 2016, the authorities in Sana’a arrested 65 men, women, and children who were attending a youth training seminar organised by the Yemeni Baha’i community and sponsored by the Nida Foundation for Human Development. About half of them, who were not Bahais, and all the girls under 18, were released quickly. The Bahais were detained, but most were later released on bail. The women were well treated, but the men were tortured. Hamed Kamal Muhammad bin Haydara (حامد کمال بن حیدرا), who has been detained since December 3, 2013, has also been tortured to obtain a ‘confession.’

Seven arrests in Bandar Abbas

Bahai News (Persian), April 18, 2017.

On the morning of April 18, security agents arrested Mahnaz Janethar-Pourmaradeyan (مهناز جانثار( پورمرادیان)), Maral Rasti (مارال راستی), Farhad Amri (فرهاد امری), Arash Rasekhi (آرش راسخی), Mehrollah Afshar (مهراله افشار), Omid Afaqi ( امید آفاقی) and Nasim Qanawateyan (نسیم قنواتیان) in Bandar Abbas. They are believed to be detained in the Ministry of Intelligence’s detention facilities. Their houses were thoroughly searched and religious and other books and images were seized, along with computers, laptops and mobile phones.

The report mentions that Mr. Adib Haqqpazhouh was arrested in Shiraz on the same day, but that there is no evidence so far that the eight arrests are connected.

Adib Haqqpazhouh arrested in Shiraz for the third time

Bahai News (Persian), April 18, 2017.

On April 17, four security agents went to the home of Mr. Adib Haqqpazhouh (ادیب حق پژوه) in Shiraz. Finding only his wife at home, they searched it and seized some personal belongings including books, personal and religious photographs, a mobile phone, some cheques from Mr. Haqqpazhouh’s customers and some cash and bookkeeping records. Meanwhile, two agents went to his workplace, which they searched, and brought Mr. Haqqpazhouh to the door of his home, where he was detained in his own car until the search of his home was complete. The agents are said to have been well behaved during the search. Mr. Haqqpazhouh was arrested previously, on December 30, 2010, and August 5, 2014. On both occasions he was later released on bail.

Azizollah Samandari released from prison

Bahai News, April 15, 2017.

Azizollah Samandari (عزیزالله سمندری) was released from Raja’i Shahr prison, near Tehran, on April 17. He has completed a five-year term on charges of membership of the Bahai community, creating and distributing a computer programme, and providing technical support for the Bahai Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). He was arrested on January 14, 2009, and released on bail two months later. He was sentenced to a five-year prison term by Judge Moqiseh (قاضی مقیسه), in October 2011 after a 10-minute trial, in which the only question he was asked was whether he belonged to the Bahai community. He began his sentence on July 7, 2012.

While he was in Raja’i Shahr prison, he was selected for the New Zealand Parliament’s “Supreme Commitment Award.” The Award flowed from his participation in the 2010 Global Enterprise Experience (GEE), which is supported by Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand. GEE founder Deb Gilbertson said, “The Supreme Commitment Award is to recognise the exceptional sacrifice he is making to pursue higher education and global communication.”

Mr Samandari’s father, Behman Samandari (بهمن سمندری), was executed for his Bahai beliefs following the 1979 Revolution. His grandfather, Hasan Mahbubi (حسن محبوبی), was killed when he was deliberately run down by a car, which has never been traced. He too is counted in Iran as a Bahai martyr.

Sima Keyani free on bail in Tehran

Bahai News (Persian), April 8, 2017.

Sima Keyani (سیما کیانی), a Bahai who was arrested in Rey (on the outskirts of Tehran) on the morning of March 8, has been released on bail of 200 million tumans (58,000 euros ; $US 61,000). Since her arrest she has been in solitary confinement in Evin Prison. At the time of her arrest, her home was also searched, and a pickup truck was used to take away her religious books, along with religious images and family photographs. Her place of detention is not yet known, but it is likely she would be taken to Evin prison.

For older news, see the “old news” archive on Sen’s Daily blog.

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