Eight people of Bahai faith who had been arrested by the authorities between September 16 and October 17 in Karaj on unspecified charges remain in custody at Tehran Evin prison, according to a report by the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA).
Parvan Manavi, Elham Salmanzadeh, Homan Khoshnam, Payam Shabani, Peyman Manavi, Maryam Ghaffarmanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh have not been arraigned or charged with any specific offenses.
Article 13 of the Islamic Republic Constitution states that “Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities.” It, therefore, does not recognize the Bahai faith as a religion. Over the last four decades, the regime has systematically persecuted the Bahais and violated their human rights.
Dr. Farhad Sabetan, a faculty member at California State University’s Department of Economics in San Francisco, and the spokesman for the Bahai World Center told Kayhan Life: “There is nothing new about these types of arrests. The authorities routinely detain Bahais without the due process of law. Security agents usually carry out raids on homes in the early morning or late at night, and confiscate books and other belongings. People are told that the police doesn’t need a search warrant to enter their homes. In most cases, the Judiciary doesn’t file specific charges against those arrested, yet their families must post bail to secure their release all the same.”
“Police interrogators want to know who the person’s associates are, and whether he or she had been speaking to others about the Bahai doctrine. In other words, all the questions revolve around the individual’s faith which clearly shows that being a Bahai is a crime in the Islamic Republic,” Dr. Sabetan said. “The Iranian regime uses any excuse to persecute Bahais including the recent nationwide civil unrest, and the strike actions by teachers, truckers and pensioners. Bahais are not political and don’t participate in anti-government demonstrations. Nevertheless, the authorities always blame the Bahais for the country’s problems.”
Sabetan added: “Those Bahais who are released from jail aren’t truly free. In most cases, they have to post bail even though the Judiciary hasn’t charged them with any specific offenses. They are free pending a court hearing which may or may not happen. So they are in limbo. We know of nearly 40 instances when the prosecutor’s office has summoned individuals for no apparent reason and imprisoned them without the due process.”
Sabetan explained: “Bahais who post bail can’t return to their normal lives. Police arrest many of them again without any warning or probable cause. There have been instances when security agents have put people in prison years after their initial arrest. When they leave their jail cell, these Bahais enter a bigger prison, because the system deprives them of social and economic opportunities.”
Local authorities routinely revoke business licenses of Bahai-owned shops which close on religious occasions.
Sabetan noted: “They harass and intimidate those who close their stores on Bahai religious occasions and threaten to shut down their businesses. The law, however, allows shop owners to close their businesses 15 days a year without having to notify the municipal government. Bahais, nevertheless, inform the local authorities well in advance about the dates they plan to close their stores. There are hundreds of confirmed cases of Bahai business owners whose shops have been shut down by the police.”
Sabetan noted: “None of the government ministries have hired Bahais since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Authorities threaten to shut down private companies that refuse to fire their Bahai employees. The labor law clearly states that Bahais cannot receive government pensions.”
Sabetan said: “Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has clearly and unequivocally stated that Bahais don’t have the right to obtain higher education, engage in business or occupy a senior post. There have been many occasions when the authorities have banned Bahai students from taking university entrance exams. We also know of instances when the state has seized homes and properties of Bahais. The courts have in these cases thrown out the rightful owners’ complaints because the plaintiffs had been Bahais.”
Sabetan added: “The regime wouldn’t issue passports to Bahais until the mid-1990s, but they’ve changed that policy. Nowadays, Bahais can obtain passports without any problem. The Islamic Republic is urging Bahais to leave the country.”
Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi