Baha’i Community at High Risk as State Exploits Political Unrest

(7 January 2010) Iranian authorities have added new charges against 7 Baha’i leaders detained since 2008, under which they could be executed if convicted, and have arrested at least 12 more members of the religious minority, while desensitizing the Iranian population with propaganda campaigns against the Baha’is, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. In news reports broadcast nationally, commentators have claimed that recent Ashura demonstrations were masterminded by Baha’is, although no evidence has been produced to support the accusations.

“Iran and the world are again confronted by the specter of Bahai’s being executed, this time on charges trumped up in the context of current widespread political unrest,” said Aaron Rhodes, a spokesperson for the Campaign.

Since Ashura (27 December), Baha’is known to have been arrested include Jinoos Sobhani, Leva Khanjani, Babak Mobasher, Payam Fanaian, Nika Hoveydai, Mona Hoveydai, Artin Ghazanfari, Farid Rohani, Ahmad Rohani, Negar Sabet, Ebrahim Shadmehr, and Zavosh Shadmehr.

The seven Baha’i leaders arrested in the spring of 2008, Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm, are due to stand trial on Tuesday, 19 January. The charges in their cases have been expanded since their arrest and now include those that can carry the death penalty.

“Given the totally unjustified executions of two national Baha’i leadership groups that took place in the early 1980s, and the inciting rhetoric of the government against Baha’is following Ashura, there is a real concern for the lives of the Baha’i leaders about to be tried,” Rhodes said.

More than 200 Baha’is have been killed by the State following the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Thousands more have been arrested, harassed, surveilled, dismissed from their jobs, or had their finances and property confiscated by the government. Baha’is are prohibited from holding government jobs and their children are not allowed to attend university.

The Campaign calls on the international community and organizations to condemn the actions of the Islamic Republic against the Baha’i community, to release all Baha’is who have been arrested because of their beliefs, and to cease its targeting of Baha’is throughout Iran.