On Thursday, December 24, eight Iranian Baha’i citizens were sentenced to a collective 14 years in prison, as well as 2 years of banned participation in political and social groups. Judge Ali Blader, presiding over Branch 2 of the Bandar Abbas Revolutionary Court, charged Adib Haghpajooh, Farhad Amri, Maral Rasti, Arash Rasekhi, Mahnaz Jan Nisar, Nasim Qanavatian, Omid Afaghi, and Ruhollah Afshar with “gathering and colluding with the intent to disrupt the security of the country”. It is believed that these eight individuals were targeted for arrest due to their religious and spiritual beliefs, as part of their punishment includes being prohibited from participating in Bahai’s activities, and that they must attend “5 sessions of counseling on sectarian issues.”
As reports Iran Press Watch:
“According to the directive of the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution approved on February 25, 1991, Baha’i citizens are deprived of any citizenship rights and the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran does all kinds of flagrant violations of human rights along with coercion acts. The suppression of the Baha’is of Iran violates international human rights instruments, including UDHR article 2, as well as articles 18 and 19 of this valid international document, adding article 18 of ICCPR. Both of these documents have emphasized the importance of performing religious rites, advertising, and instruction, both collectively and privately.”
In response to the arrests and subsequent charges, USCIRF released a statement in which they assert the following:
“We urge the Trump administration to impose targeted sanctions, freeze assets, and bar travel to the United States for government officials responsible for such discriminatory policies.” – USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer
“Iran’s government denies Baha’is matriculation and entrance to universities, shutters their businesses, and targets them with hateful propaganda. The United States must never cease to speak on behalf of Bahai’s and other religious minorities, and to continue to push for pathways to their resettlement and safety.” – USCIRF Vice Chair Gayle Manchin
Days later, on December 31, Branch 36 of Tehran’s Appeals Court, under Judge Seyed Ahmad Zargar, sentenced nine Baha’i citizens to a total of nine years in prison. Houman Khoshnam, Elham Salmanzadeh, Payam Sha’bani, Kianoush Salmanzadeh, Soruosh Agahi, Parvan Ma’navi, Jamileh Pakrou, Peyman Ma’navi, and Neda Shabani were charged with “propaganda against the state through proselytizing Baha’ism.”
On January 11th, authorities from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence raided the homes of three Iranian Baha’i civilians and confiscated all religious texts and materials owned by Masiholah Mohammadi, Aniseh Daneshgari, and Tina Alavi. Just one month prior, in early December 2020, authorities conducted a similar ambush on the houses of more than 10 Baha’i civilians.