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News َMay 19

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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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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