Bahais in Iran Are Perplexed about Shops Closures

Kaveh Ghoreishi
Kaveh Ghoreishi

» At Least 15 Bahais Arrested in 3 Cities

The spokesperson for the Bahai community in Iran told Rooz in an exclusive interview that at least 15 of the community members in Iran had been arrested on Sunday in various towns in Iran and the shops of some others had been shut and sealed by authorities.

Saba Farnoosh, Negar Bagheri, Nava Monjazeb, Yavar Haghighat, Navid Aghdasi, Helia Moshtagh, Keyvan and Parvin Nikain, Yeghane Aghahi, Matin Janemian, Arshia Rouhani, Sanaz Ishaq, Nika Pakzadan, Farzane Daneshgari and Naghme Zabihian are among the Bahai detainees from Tehran, Isfahan and Mashhad.

Padideh Sabeti, the spokesperson for the Bahai community told Rooz these individuals were arrested on Sunday, November 15th when security agents went to their stores. No reasons for the arrests have been officially announced.

In the days leading up to the Sunday arrests, the shops of a number of other Bahais in the towns of Ghaemshahr, Rafsanjan and Kerman were shut and sealed by officials. These closures came after the Bahais had celebrated a religious event.

Ms. Sabeti said that Friday and Saturday were religious holidays for Bahais and that it was possible that the owners of these stores had shut their shops in respect for these holidays.

Bahaism is not officially recognized as a religion or faith in the constitution of the Islamic republic of Iran (while Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians are) and its followers have been denied their social privileges since the 1979 Islamic revolution with many being arrested, receiving harsh prison sentences and even executions in the 1980s.

According to Ms. Sabeti, there are currently 79 Bahai Iranians in prisons across the country who are serving prison terms.

In addition to social deprivation, Bahais in Iran also are discriminated against in government jobs and government-provided education at the highest level. Many of their places of worship too have been demolished in various towns.

According to Dayan Alai, another spokesperson for the Iranian Bahai community, all university professors and government employees who following Bahaism had been dismissed from their jobs after the 1979 Islamic revolution.

Ms. Sabeti said when Hassan Rouhani was elected president, there were hopes that the condition of Bahais in Iran would improve, but in the two years since he has been in office, there have actually been more arrests and economic pressure on them making their conditions worse.

“In the last five months, as economic relations with the world have gradually inched for the better, we too hoped that they (authorities) would reduce pressure on them, even if just to show the world a better face,” Ms. Sabeti said. She continued, “If they want foreign investment, then they must present a country in which there is security and respect for the law.”

She explained, “The restrictions, especially those in the economic sphere, that are imposed on the Bahai community have deprived its members of peace. Bahais do not even know even know under what conditions and what basis their shops are shut and sealed off. These events and conditions do not portray a stable country. We had hoped that there would be some improvement in the condition of Bahais, but unfortunately this has not been the case.”

Seven Bahai leaders were arrested in Iran about seven years ago and convicted to prison terms on charges of being “spies for Israel,” “insulting sacred values,” and, “engaging in propaganda against the regime.”