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                                  Reflections on the Bahai teachings

News Jan 14

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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Bahai student expelled from Razi University of Kermanshah

HRANA, January 11, 2018.

Sadaf Vajdani (صدف وجدانی), a student of architectural engineering, was expelled from Razi University of Kermanshah because of her Bahai beliefs. She was notified of her expulsion just before the beginning of the first term examinations.
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Behzad Dhabihi leaves prison in Sari

HRANA, January 12, 2018.

Behzad Dhabihi Mahforujaki (بهزاد ذبیحی ماهفروجکی ), a Bahai from Sari, has been released from prison at the end of his six-month sentence. He was originally sentenced to one year in prison and two years in internal exile, but this sentence was reduced by the Court of Review to six months in prison. It is not clear whether the internal exile was also annulled. He was convicted in the Islamic Court (that is, not in a criminal court) in Sari on a charge of propaganda against the regime in the form of teaching the Bahai Faith, although at the court sitting the charges were presented as “propaganda against Islam and the Quran.” He begin serving his sentence on September 4, 2017.

Mr. Dhabihi has been arrested four times in the last six years, and shops he ran have been shut down three times in the same period. On February 22, 2016, his shop in Sari was closed by the authorities, and remains closed despite efforts by his family to reopen it.
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18 Bahai-run businesses in Tabriz allowed to reopen

HRANA, January 10, 2018.

Eighteen Bahai-run businesses in Tabriz that had been closed down by the authorities were allowed to re-open on January 10, following a court order. It would appear that they are among the Bahai businesses in East Azerbaijan province that were closed by the authorities in late December. Of these, three were allowed to reopen soon after, and the new move appears to mean that all Bahai-run businesses are now operating normally.
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Eight Bahai businesses in Chabahar reopen

HRANA, January 7, 2018.

Eight Bahai-run businesses in the southern city of Chabahar were allowed to reopen on January 7, 68 days after they were closed by the authorities there, but Bahai-run businesses elsewhere in the Sistan and Baluchistan Province remain closed. The businesses are named as optician’s shops of Habib Tauhidi (حبیب توحیدی), Ahmad Ali Shaukati (احمد علی شوکتی) and Bahadar Kamju (بهادر کامجو), the glass-cutting workshop of Roushan Barqi (روشن بارقی), a stationary shop run by Adharakhsh Barqi (آذرخش بارقی ), a building supplies shop belonging to Behrouz Gholamreza’i (هروز غلامرضایی) and the electrician’s business of Bijan Gholamreza’i (بیژن غلامرضایی) and a computer supplies shop run by Andalib Taudi`i (عندلیب تودیعی). They were sealed by the authorities on October 31, 2017. At that time, 18 Bahai-run businesses in Zahedan, four in Iranshahr and three in Saravan were also closed.

Bahadar Kamju and Roushan Barqi (along with four others) were recently sentenced to three years in prison for “membership of the deviant sect.”
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Wafa Rasti free on bail in Isfahan

HRANA, January 4, 2018.

Wafa Rasti (وفا راستی), a young Bahai living in Isfahan, was released on bail on January 2. He was arrested on December 27, at the same time as his friend Mo`in Namjuyan (معین نامجویان) was released on bail.
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Imprisoned Bahai teacher told to repent in exchange for furlough

Center for Human Rights in Iran, January 5, 2018.

The authorities At Tehran’s Evin Prison have told imprisoned Bahai educator Azita Rafizadeh (آزیتا رفیع‌زاده), that she will only be considered for furlough if she apologizes for teaching online classes in computer engineering to members of her faith.

“The prison authorities said she must sign a statement to repent for her work and promise that she will not work there again,” a family source told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) on January 3, 2018. “But Azita said she has done nothing to repent for. She said she is proud of her work and if she went back in time she would do it again.”

Since October 2015, Rafizadeh and her husband Peyman Koushk-Baghi have been behind bars for teaching at the Institute for Higher Education (BIHE), an online learning service that is banned in Iran. Relatives are raising their eight-year-old son.

“For the Iranian New Year [March 21, 2017], Azita was granted furlough for six days but she returned to prison three days later. They told her she had committed a violation and never granted her furlough again,” said the source, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“The prison authorities said they had made a mistake granting her furlough the last time,” said the source, adding that they claimed Bahais are not eligible for temporary leave.

Furlough, temporary leave typically granted to prisoners in Iran for a variety of familial, holiday, and medical reasons, is routinely denied to political prisoners as a form of additional punishment.

Iran’s Constitution does not recognize the Bahai faith as an official religion. Although Article 23 states that “no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief,” followers of the faith are denied many basic rights as one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in the country.

Bahais are also denied access to higher education in Iran, either by being banned from entering university or being expelled without a proper explanation once enrolled.

Rafizadeh, 35, is a former BIHE graduate who returned to Iran after receiving a master’s degree in computer engineering from a university in India. She began teaching the subject at BIHE in 2002.

In 2014, Judge Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced Rafizadeh to four years in prison and her husband to five years in prison on the charge of “membership in the illegal and misguided Bahai group with the aim of acting against national security through illegal activities at the BIHE educational institute.”

The source told CHRI that the imprisoned couple’s son, Bashir Koushk-Baghi, is being raised by another Bahai family. “He knows his parents are in prison for a noble cause,” added the source. “He sees his father and mother as heroes.”
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Hammid bin Haidarah sentenced to death in Yemen

Al-Arabiyya, January 2, 2018.

Houthi militia in Yemen have sentenced Bahai detainee Hammed Kamal Mohammed bin Haidarah (حامد كمال محمد بن حيدرة) to death on charges of disseminating the beliefs of his faith and spying for Israel. The judgment issued by the Houthi-controlled Criminal Court in Sanaa also confiscated his funds and ordered the closure of all Bahai centres in the country. He has been detained since December, 2013.

Amnesty International responded with a statement that, “Hamid Haydara … is a prisoner of conscience who has been tried on account of his conscientiously held beliefs and peaceful activities as a member of the Baha’i community. This sentence is the result of a fundamentally flawed process, including trumped up charges, an unfair trial and credible allegations that Hamid Haydara was tortured and ill-treated in custody. It is also part of a wider crackdown on critics, journalists, human rights defenders and members of the Bahai community that is causing entire families to live in fear for their safety and the safety of their loved ones.”

In late September, the United Nations Human Rights Council, following a unanimous vote, called for the release of all Bahai detainees in Yemen. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion said earlier that the persecution of Bahais in Iran had been reflected in the pattern of persecution that this group is facing in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, which is controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia. Militias have abducted dozens of Bahais. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (ONCHR) has estimated that there are about 2000 Bahais in Yemen, in several Yemeni provinces.

Mr. bin Haidarah is also referred to as Hamid Mirza Kamali Sarvestani (حامد ميرزا كمالي سروستاني), indicating that his ancestors came from Sarvestan, in Iran. In an earlier report, the Bahai World News Service stated that Mr. bin Haydara was born on Socotra Island in Yemen. His father, a physician, moved to Yemen from Iran in the 1940s and was granted Yemeni citizenship by the Mahra Sultan of Qishn and Socotra, in recognition of his service to the poor. Yemeni citizenship was passed down to his son. The Sultan gave Mr. bin Haydara’s father his Yemeni name as an honor and in recognition of his respect for his adopted country.
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Numerous Bahai businesses closed in East Azerbaijan Province, three allowed to reopen

HRANA, December 30 and December 27, 2017.

On December 25 and 26, two more Bahai-run businesses in Tabriz were closed down by the authorities, and many others were issued warnings of impending closure. These two businesses were run by Behnam Aqabala’i (بهنام آقابالایی), who sold household necessities, and `Ali-Reza Aqabala’i (علیرضا آقابالایی), who provided wire windings for electric motors. On December 28, three more Bahai business premises in Tabriz were sealed, bringing the total of recent closures in Tabriz to 18. These three businesses were a reading-glasses repair workshop run by Siamak Rouhani ( سیامک روحانى), an optician’s assembly shop run by Behnam Shukohi (بهمن شکوهى), and the unused business premises of Aziz Nourdel (زیز نوردل).

On the same day, three of the 18 recently closed businesses were allowed to reopen. They were the optical dispensary of Shahryar Khodapenah (شهریار خداپناه), and optical retail shop run by Nader Nourmuhammadi (نادر نور محمدى) and a women’s clothing shop run by Parham Sabari ( پرهام صابرى).

At present about 90 Bahai businesses in East Azerbaijan Province are sealed by the authorities, who have used arbitrary economic discrimination as a means of pressuring the Bahais to convert to Islam, especially during the term of President Rouhani. In addition to those mentioned above, these include (for those who can read Persian) the businesses of:

تورج میثاقی، کامبیز میثاقی (عینک فروشی)، شیوا عیسی خانی (آرایشگاه)، پیام ظفریاب (عینک فروشی)، محمد حکمران (فروش پلاسکو)، انیس حکمران (تعمیر عینک)، فرهاد نباتی (عینک فروشی)، عنایت ملایی (عکاسی)، بهنام شفیعی (فروش لوازم آرایشی)، نوید ایقانی (عینک فروشی)،و بهروز عیسی خانی (لوازم خانگی)
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New arrest in Isfahan, while Mo`in Namjuyan is released

HRANA, December 27, 2017.

Mo`in Namjuyan (معین نامجویان), who was arrested in his home in Isfahan on December 13, was released on bail on December 27, while one of his friends, Wafa Rasti (وفا راستی), aged 21, was arrested.
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Bahai student expelled from Azad University in Kashan

Iran Press Watch, December 25, 2017.

According to the reports by Baha’i Campaign, Paria Foroughi (پریا فروغی) was expelled from the Azad University of Kashan due to her belief in the Bahai Faith.

Ms. Foroughi was expelled by the President of Azad University of Kashan, after having studied Psychology for three semesters.

Ms. Foroughi shared the following:

“I was sitting for an exam when I was summoned to the University President’s office, and there I became aware of this, and an extraordinary sorrow overcame me.”

“The head of the university objected to the incompleteness of my registration form, and then I saw the form, he said ‘you have completed everything but the religion field, why did you not write your religion?’ I said I might have forgotten. He said, ‘no, it was not accidental that you forgot your religion. What is your religion?’ I said, ‘Bahai.’ He said, ‘write it down’, and I did. He said, ‘You know that according to the Islamic Republic’s law, you do not have a right to education?’ I said ‘yes’, he said, ‘Then wrap-up what you need to do and resign.’ I said ‘no you are expelling me from the university, I did not resign. You are expelling me due to my belief.’”

“He then said, ‘This law is for everyone.’ I answered, ‘Excuse me, but students from all the other countries have the right to study at the universities in our country, and I have no right to study in my own country? Is this correct and fair in your opinion?’ He answered, ‘it is certainly correct’, and asked, ‘Why did you say you are a Baha’i, to cause your expulsion?’ I answered, ‘Truthfulness is the foundation of the Baha’i Faith’, he said, ‘You have no right to study at this university, nor any other universities in Iran’, and laughed. I answered, ‘I’m proud that I was expelled due to my pure belief, there is no problem.”
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One arrest in Isfahan

Campaign “No”, December 17, 2017.

Mo`in Namjuyan (معین نامجویان) was arrested in his home in Isfahan on December 13. Agents of the security forces searched his home and seized some personal items, and took him away. It is not known where he is being detained.
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Yashar Rezvani sentenced to 2 years in prison in Tehran

HRANA, December 20, 2017.

Yashar Rezvani (یاشار رضوانی), a Bahai from Kerman who has been living in Tehran, has been sentenced to 2 years in prison for “membership of the Bahai organisation.” At his trial,
Mr. Rezvani pointed out that no such organisation exists [in Iran, where it was banned and dissolved after the 1979 Revolution ~Sen], so he could not be a member. He was represented by a lawyer.

Mr. Rezvani was arrested in a raid on his home on August 3. After 33 days of solitary confinement and interrogation in Evin Prison, he was transferred to a general wing of the same prison. He was released on bail of 200 million tumans (56,000 euros; 64,000 $US), on September 28, pending his trial. He has 20 days to appeal, and his sentence has to be confirmed by the provincial Review Court.
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Negin Qadameyan begins her sentence

HRANA, December 18, 2017.

Negin Qadameyan (نگین قدمیان) a Bahai from Tehran who has been sentenced to five years in prison for educational crimes in relation to the Bahai Open University (BIHE), was arrested at
an airport on December 16, and has been taken to Evin Prison to begin her sentence. She was arrested, along with many others associated with the Open University, in May, 2011. On March 12, 2013, she and nine other Bahais associated with the Open University were tried. After the trial they were freed on bail or with a pledge, until summoned to begin their sentences.
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Faribourz Baghi released in Yazd

HRANA, December 17, 2017.

Mr. Faribourz Baghi (فریبرز باغی ) was released from prison in Yazd after serving three years in prison (counting his original detention) on charges of acting against national security and propaganda against the regime. He began his sentence on March 7, 2015. He is one of 20 Bahais who were arrested in central Iran in August 2012. The were released on bail one month later.

Mr. Baghi’s wife, Nateqeh Na’imi (ناطقه نعیمی), was also among those arrested in 2015, but received a shorter sentence and was released on parole on August 16, 2016.
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Music teacher detained in Yazd

HRANA, December 15, 2017.

Mrs. Heyva Yazdan-Mahdiabadi (هیوا یزدان مهدی آبادی), a Bahai living in Yazd, was arrested in late November. An informed source said she was arrested for teaching music to children. She was at first held incommunicado by the Ministry of Intelligence, and a few days ago was transferred to the central prison in Yazd, where – after the usual quarantine period – she was allowed to use the telephone to contact her family.
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Five Bahai-run businesses in Tabriz closed by authorities

Iran Press Watch, December 7, 2017.

According to reports from the Bahai Campaign, another Bahai-owned business was shut down by officials from the Office of Properties in Tabriz on December 6. The business was operated by Touraj Mithaqi (تورج میثاقی).

According to a source close to Mr. Misaghi, “Over the past few days, Mr. Touraj Misaghi has been interrogated by the security forces and the law enforcement forces, and finally after being summoned and interrogated again, they shut down his business yesterday.”

In recent days, the businesses of four other Bahais in Tabriz, Shahryar Khodapanah (شهریار خداپناه), Anis Hokmran (انیس حکمران) in partnership with his father, Kheirollah Bakhshi (خیراله بخشی) and Payam Zafaryab (پیام ظفریاب).

On December 3rd, Shahindokht Molavardi, a special assistant to the President of Iran on civil rights issues made a statement to the media insisting that she “has made some inquiries, from the President’s Legal Assistant, about the closure and the blocking the Bahai commercial activities, and an attempt is being made to move this conversation forward through legislation until a solution to this issue is found.”
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Four detainees free on bail in Kermanshah

HRANA, December11, 2017.

Burhan Tebyanian (برهان تبیانیان), Noghmeh Shadabi (نغمه شادابی), Soheila Shadabi (سهیلا شادابی ) and Farzaneh Amini ( فرزانه امینی) have been released on bail of 100 million tumans each (72,000 euros ; $US 84,000), pending their trial. They were arrested on December 2 and December 3, and interrogated by the Ministry of Intelligence. There is no indication of the charges they may face.
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Another arrest in Kermanshah

HRANA, December 4, 2017.

On December 2, security forces went to the home of Burhan Tebyanian (برهان تبیانیان), a Bahai living in Kermanshah, when he was not present. They searched it and seized some of his belongings. They then contacted Mr. Tebyanian and demanded that he should go to the offices of the Ministry of Intelligence. When he did so, on December 3, he was arrested. The arrest of Mr. Teebyanian followed the arrest of three other Bahais in that city on December 2: they are Noghmeh Shadabi (نغمه شادابی), Soheila Shadabi (سهیلا شادابی ) and Farzaneh Amini ( فرزانه امینی). All four are still being detained, apparently by the Ministry of Intelligence.
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Behrouz Tavakkoli released after 10 years in prison

HRANA, December 5, 2017.

Behrouz Tavakkoli (بهروز توکلی), one of the seven “Yaran” who once functioned as national facilitators for the Bahai community in Iran, was freed from Raja’i Shahr prison on December 4, at the end of a 10-year sentence which he served in full without any furlough. Two other members of this group, Fariba Kamalabadi (فریبا کمال آبادی ) and Mahvash Sabet (مهوش ثابت) have already been released after serving 10 years in prison for their Bahai beliefs.

Mr. Tavakolli has a degree in psychology. After his military service (with a rank of Lieutenant) he was a social worker specialising in care for mental and physical disabilities, working in government service until the early 1980’s, when he lost his job. He became self-employed, with a carpentry workshop in Gonbad. He was at various times arrested and abused. On one accasion, before the arrest of the “Yaran” in 2008, he was held in solitary confinement without any charge against him for four months, which resulted in serious kidney and joint problems.

Background
The seven ‘Yaran’ served as national facilitators assisting the Bahais of Iran in their dealings with government organs until their arrest and imprisonment. They were appointed following the disappearance and execution of the elected leadership of the Bahais in Iran in 1980, and again in 1981. The elected leaders in many cities were also executed at that time, notably in Tehran, Tabriz, Yazd and Hamadan, where a total of 33 members of the local Bahai “Assemblies” were executed, in addition to the 18 members of the two national “Assemblies” and two assistants. In August 1983, the government declared the elected assemblies illegal. In accordance with the principle of obedience to government, the Bahais then dissolved all elected bodies. Nevertheless, seven former members of the national Assembly were arrested and executed. (see this Wikipedia article).

National and local facilitators were later appointed, principally because government bodies needed to have a Bahai representative to discuss necessary matters and to transmit government instructions to the Bahais, which were not publicised in the media. One of the most important tasks of the facilitators was to arrange for Bahai burials, as Bahais are often barred from burial in public cemeteries, and Bahai practice requires a coffin, which is not allowed in many public cemeteries.

On 5 March 2008, one of the Yaran, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet (مهوش ثابت) – a schoolteacher and mother of two – was arrested having been summoned to the Iranian city of Mashhad to discuss some matters regarding a Bahai burial. Two months later, on 14 May, the other six Yaran were arrested in raids of their homes. Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi was one of these, the others being Jamaloddin Khanjani (جمال الدین خانجانی), Afif Na`imi (عفیف نعیمی), Sa`id Reza’i (سعید رضایی), Behrouz Tavakkoli (بهروز توکلی), and Vahid Tizfahm (وحید تیزفهم).

After twenty months in prison without charge, a trial began on January 12, 2010, under Judge Moqayesseh (قاضی مقیسه, also spelled محمد مقیسه‌ای). Throughout their long wait for justice, the seven had received barely one hour’s access to their legal counsel, and suffered appalling treatment and deprivations, including psychological and physical hardship. They were charged with spying for Israel, propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and the establishment of an illegal administration – charges that were all rejected completely and categorically by the defendants. According to the defence lawyer, the charge of spying for Israel was based only on the fact that the Bahai properties in Israel are tax exempt. However Bahai properties are tax exempt in almost every country, and Islamic holy sites in Israel are tax exempt! The trial of the seven accused ended on 14 June 2010 after six brief sessions, characterized by their lack of due legal process.

The initial sentence of 20 years imprisonment for each of the defendants, met with outrage and condemnation throughout the world. One month later, the appeal court revoked three of the charges, including that of spying for Israel, and reduced their sentence to 10-year jail terms. In March 2011, the prisoners were informed that their original 20-year sentences were reinstated. In November, 2015, the 20-year sentences were again reduced to ten years. Despite repeated requests, neither the prisoners nor their attorneys have ever received official copies of the original verdict or the ruling on appeal.
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Three arrests in Kermanshah, and release of Peyman Qiami

HRANA, December 2, 2017.

Three Bahais living in Kermanshah were arrested by security forced on December 2. They are Noghmeh Shadabi (نغمه شادابی), Soheila Shadabi (سهیلا شادابی ) and Farzaneh Amini ( فرزانه امینی ). So far there is no information on the reasons and circumstances for the arrest.

On the same day, Peyman Qiami (پیمان قیامی), a Bahai who was arrested in Kermanshah about three weeks ago has been released on bail. While he was in detention there were strong concerns about his health, but this report does not say whether he was well at the time of his release.
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For older news, see the “old news” archive on Sen’s Daily blog.

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