April 12, 2011
In an exclusive interview with Rooz, the spokesperson for the Baha’i International Community Farhad Sabetan talks about the Iranian government’s growing pressure on Baha’i citizens to force them to leave their country.
Demolition of Baha’i houses and cemeteries, denial of access to higher education, expulsion from universities, widespread arrests and the prevention of doing business in Iran are among the policies pursued by the Iranian regime against Baha’is, according to Sabetan and human rights activists and organizations.
In the same light, last week it was announced that the motion to reduce the prison terms of seven Baha’i leaders from twenty years to ten was rejected by an Iranian court whose judge cited Sharia law for his ruling.
Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamal din Khanjani, Afif Naeemi, Saeed Rezai, Behrooz Tavakoli, Vahid Tizfahm and Mahvash Sabet are seven Baha’i leaders who were in charge of the Yaran group managing the Baha’i society in Iran. Mahvash Sabet has been in prison since March 2008 and the rest of the group since May of the same year for allegedly committing security crimes, spying for Israel, insulting sacred values and engaging in propaganda against the state. The Baha’i community has rejected the charges.
According to Sabetan, the denial of the request for a reconsideration of the prison terms has been communicated to the Baha’i prisoners only orally while no written document has been issued in this regard and we don’t know exactly under what circumstances and on what grounds was this judgment reached. It seems that they want to put as much pressure as possible on the prisoners.” “The country’s general prosecutor has said the judgment issued by the appellate court is contrary to the Islamic Sharia law in the sense that the prosecutor has applied his personal interpretation of the law, which is most alarming for us,” he further said. According to Sabetan, “The sentence must be delivered in writing to the defense attorneys, which has not taken place. Only when the court decision is announced in writing can we assess how much it follows the legal code of Iran and what is its basis. But the failure to do so itself proves the innocence of these seven prisoners”.
Yaran members are spending their prison term in RajaeeShahr prison; Rooz asked the spokesperson for the Baha’i community whether he was aware of the living conditions of the prisoners, to which he replied, “We cannot speak with the prisoners directly so we cannot report on their living conditions, but as far as we know from their family members who have visited them, they are relatively ok. You know that RajaeeShahr prison is among the most dreaded prisons in Iran where veteran criminals who have committed serious crimes and with heavy sentences are held. Unfortunately, political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, Baha’i and non-Baha’i, are being kept next to these serious offenders, which by itself is another distressing fact.”
Sabetan explained that the Baha’i community intended to continue its protests so that perhaps the Iranian regime would at least respect the rights of its prisoners, Baha’i or not, and also allow international observers to inspect these conditions in Iranian prisons.
On October 29, 2005, the chairman of Iran’s supreme armed forces command general Firuzabadi ordered the ministry of intelligence, the Basij militia, the police force, the Revolutionary Guards and the commander of the armed forces to secretly monitor all the activities of the Baha’is and provide him with a complete report on their political, social, and cultural activities with the purpose of identifying them. A copy of this letter was also sent to the head of the judiciary and the supreme leader’s office.
This issue is also referenced implicitly in a confidential letter that seyed Mohammad Reza Hashemi Golpaygani, the secretary of Iran’s Cultural Revolution council sent to the supreme leader. Rooz has obtained a copy of this letter which specifically references the orders of the supreme leader to draw up policies for the Baha’is and lists the policies as follows:
General Position of Baha’is in the Country
1. Baha’is are not be expelled from the country for no reason
2. They are not arrested, imprisoned or punished for no reason
3. Baha’is must be dealt with in such a manner that their progress and development is blocked
4. They should be accepted in schools if they have not declared themselves to be Baha’is
5. They should be registered in schools that have strong ideological teachers and complete control over ideological issues
6. If they declare themselves to be Baha’is, they should not be enrolled, or if enrolled, should be expelled
7. Their political activities (espionage) have been outlined in laws and regulations and their ideological and propaganda activities should be dealt with through religious, propaganda and cultural issues
8. Propaganda organizations (such as the Islamic Propagation Organization) should set up special divisions to confront the ideological and propaganda activities of the Baha’is
9. Proposals should be submitted for confronting them outside Iran and destroying their cultural roots
10. They should be allowed to have living conditions at the level that others in the country enjoy
11. Baha’is should be allowed to exercise the normal and general rights that other Iranian citizens enjoy, such as owning ration cards, passports, burial permits, the right to work etc only if they do not encourage Baha’ism
12. They should be denied employment if they declare themselves to be Baha’is
13. Privileged jobs and posts (such as teaching) should be denied to them