Teacher to Begin Prison Sentence for Her Work at Baha’i University
Azita Rafizadeh, a Baha’i citizen and instructor at the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE) online university, must report to prison on October 24, 2015, to begin serving her four-year sentence, she told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
Her sentence was a result of her work at BIHE, and her refusal to disavow it. The Baha’i are one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in Iran.
Rafizadeh said her main concern now is for her five-year-old son because her husband, Peyman Koushk-Baghi, who has also been sentenced to five years in prison for cooperation with BIHE, will be summoned to prison to begin serving his sentence as well.
“We have a child who is five years and nine months old. He goes to kindergarten. If I go to prison and my husband is also summoned to go to prison, what will happen to our child? None of our relatives have the means to help,” Rafizadeh said.
Azita Rafizadeh was tried by Judge Moghisseh of Branch 28 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court in June 2014, and her husband Peyman Koushk-Baghi was separately tried by him in May 2015. Moghisseh sentenced them respectively to four and five years in prison for “membership in the illegal and misguided Baha’i group with the aim of acting against national security through illegal activities at the BIHE educational institute.”
The Appeals Court upheld their prison sentences.
“I was one of the BIHE professors when the homes of professors of this online university were stormed in June of 2010, said Rafizadeh. “The news was widely reported. They came to our house with a warrant to arrest me and my husband. They searched the house and interrogated us. They asked us to promise not to work for the BIHE. If we had agreed, the case would have been closed, as was the case for a few others. But my husband and I did not agree. So they only let us go temporarily on 50-million-toman [approximately $16,700] bail.”
Rafizadeh, 35, received her Bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from BIHE and her Master’s degree in the same subject from a university in India. She began teaching computer engineering at BIHE in 2002.