Baha’is in Iran face accelerated persecution despite public health crisis

Geneva, May 18, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to hit Iran particularly hard, the Iranian government has further intensified its persecution of its Baha’i community.

The Baha’i International Community reports that two Baha’is in Isfahan have been arrested arbitrarily; seven in Shiraz have been sentenced to prison terms ranging from one to thirteen years; the one-year sentences of five Baha’is in Karaj have been confirmed in appeals court; a Baha’i in Ghaemshahr, who was previously sentenced to 11 years imprisonment, was called to begin his sentence; and two Baha’is, previously released owing to concerns of COVID-19 spreading through the prison population, have been ordered back to prison.

The international community has been calling for Iran to release its prisoners of conscience, owing to the high risk of death associated with COVID-19 in prisons.

 The seven Baha’is from Shiraz were arrested under the pretext that their educational and environmental activities constituted “propaganda against the regime” and “forming groups against the regime.” The Baha’i International Community has called these claims “preposterous.”

“The Baha’i International Community is appalled by the sentences handed down to these innocent individuals who were guilty of nothing other than selflessly serving their communities,” said Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “At a time when the government should be encouraging and promoting mutual support and assistance among citizens, it instead penalizes and condemns those who try to help others.”

Concerning the furloughed Baha’is who have been called back to prison, Ms. Ala’i added:

“These individuals are not criminals and they do not belong in prison. During this global pandemic, when prisons are hotbeds of infection, returning these Baha’is to prison is akin to handing down a death sentence.”

Baha’is in Iran have faced systematic persecution since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The government bars them from economic advancement through a variety of means, as well as denying them the right to higher education. This persecution is frequently condemned by the United Nations and various human rights organizations.


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