Bahá’ís arrested for inciting “riots” and protests


Kian Sabeti

One of the world’s youngest religions, the Baha’i faith was founded in Iran in the 19th century, but its adherents have long been persecuted in the country, particularly since the founding of the Islamic Republic. Dozens were arrested, imprisoned and attacked. As recently as July, several preschool teachers were arrested in a series of raids by intelligence officials. They were accused of being spies.

“The Iranian government has claimed for more than 40 years that Bahá’ís are spies for foreign countries, but in all that time has not presented a shred of credible evidence,” said Diane Ala’i, representative of the Baha’i International Community at the United Nations nations. “Now they reduce themselves to attacking kindergarten teachers as a threat to national security.”

Since a new round of popular protests began in Iran a month ago, the Baha’i have again been scapegoated and accused of working against the interests of the Islamic Republic. At least a dozen were arrested in Tehran, Karaj, Mashhad, Shiraz and Isfahan. There may, of course, be more families who have not spoken out for fear of making things worse for themselves or those in prison.

Those identified include Cyrus Zabihi Moghadam, his son Armaghan Zabihi Moghaddam, Armaghan’s wife Arash Zamani, Sepehr Ziaei, Payam Vali, Anayatollah Naeimi, Aida Rasti Qalati, Parisa Rouhi-Zadegan and Saman Khadem.

Zamani and the younger Zabihi are a young Bahá’í couple who were arrested at midnight on September 24 at their home and taken to an unknown location. The next day, security forces arrested Zabihi senior, Ziaei and Vali in simultaneous raids in Mashhad, Tehran and Karaj. Payam Vali was beaten during his arrest. Anayatollah Naeimi and Aida Rasti were arrested on September 28.

Amin Sharifi and Elham Salari are two young Baha’i who have been denied university education. They were arrested at their home in Mashhad on October 4 and 9 respectively.

Parisa Rouhi-Zadegan and Saman Khadem were arrested in Shiraz on October 10 and 13. Rouhi-Zadegan had previously been sentenced to two years in prison, so it is likely she was detained to serve her sentence.

All of the recently arrested Baha’i have one thing in common: their situation is unknown and the authorities refuse to answer questions about them. Instead, in many cases, they respond to families by insulting them.

On September 30, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence issued a ten-part statement providing a self-serving explanation of its actions since the protests began. In familiar language, it described protesters as lackeys of foreign governments, foreign media and monarchists, as well as thugs and ruffians. And again it blamed the Baha’i.

The statement alleges that the Baha’i were involved in riots and acts of sabotage on orders from the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Baha’i religion in Haifa, Israel.

“The Bahá’í espionage service, under the orders of Bahá’í headquarters in the occupied city of Haifa, played an important role in the scenes of rioting and rioting and encouraging the destruction of public property. Related to [this information] The main secret core of Baha’ism, consisting of three leaders of Baha’ism and two members of their media team, have been arrested.”

The Intelligence Ministry’s statement does not specify where it uncovered such an order or what evidence it has to support its claim. All statements of the Baha’i House of Justice are put on the internet in different languages ​​including Persian. None of them orders anyone to engage in sedition, riots, sabotage, or destruction of public property. On the contrary, it happens that the House of Justice, in its recent communiqué, urges Baha’i to show solidarity with others and avoid violence.

Nonetheless, IranWire has received reports that in some cases, when security agents searched the homes of arrested Baha’is, security agents looked for notes with dates matching or close to the date the protests began. Such notes could be used to indicate that the Bahá’ís were following orders to incite the protests.

However, in recent years, spokespersons of the international Baha’i community have repeatedly said in various interviews and statements that no official Baha’i organization was established in Iran after the Iranian government shut down the Baha’i organizations in the country. They deny the regime’s claims that the Bahá’ís are being arrested because they form the “main core” of the Bahá’í leadership.

It is interesting to note that since the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979, the government has maintained that no one in Iran is ever arrested for being a Baha’i. This time, however, the Ministry of Intelligence has made it clear that three of the detainees have been arrested for their beliefs with no criminal charges.

The statements said the “anonymous soldiers of the hidden Imam”, ie his own agents, arrested three Baha’i but did not name them. Among the seven Bahá’ís detained as of this date, September 30, three – Cyrus Zabihi Moghadam, Anayatollah Naeimi and Sepehr Ziaei – are over 60 years old. According to the information available, two of them have spent more time in prison than once in the 1980s and 1990s because of their religious beliefs. All three are well known in the Baha’i communities where they live.

These three could be the three Baha’i leaders allegedly arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence, but according to our information, they are not known among the Baha’i communities in other Iranian cities.

We must also point out that on July 11 this year, the Ministry of Intelligence searched the homes of dozens of Baha’i across the country and arrested a number of them. Three of those arrested — Mahvash Sabet, Fariba Kamalabadi and Afif Naeimi — were members of the long-defunct Yaran, or “Friends,” of Iran’s Baha’i community, who until 2008 helped manage the affairs of the community.

All three had previously served a decade each in prison for their faith and service as members of the defunct Yaran group. The Yaran – an informal leadership group established after the Baha’i of Iran dissolved their National Spiritual Assembly by order of the Iranian government – was also dissolved in 2008 after the arrests of all seven Yaran members.

The three are still in detention and no charges have been brought against them, although it is known that the Islamic Republic has brought charges against people who were already detained before the protests began during previous protests. It should come as no surprise, then, that when there are three Baha’i leaders, the Ministry of Intelligence refers to these three.

However, the identities of the two Baha’i “media team” detainees remain unknown. We know that no Baha’i community in the world has a group or organization called “Media Team” and it is a made-up term by the Department of Intelligence used as a pretext to arrest a number of Baha’i citizens.

The only detainee associated with the media is Payam Vali, who published news of the persecution and harassment of Baha’i in Iran on his social media Pages.


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