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Baha’is Given Prison Sentences Without Trial

A Symbol of Baha'i Faith
A Symbol of Baha'i Faith

Based on a verdict issued by an Islamic revolutionary court in the city of Isfahan, several Iranian Baha’i citizens have been sentenced to prison.

According to the Baha’i News website, they were convicted of “propaganda against the system through propagation of Baha’ism,” which allegedly took place in 2015.

Yegane Agahi, Arshia Rouhani, Parvin Nikayeen, and Adib Janamian were sentenced to two years and four months’ imprisonment while Zarin Aqababaei, Wahid Karami, and Kayvan Nikayeen were condemned to six months’ imprisonment and six months’ suspended prison term.

At the time, it was reported that “seven Baha’is from Isfahan, who were among those arrested in raids in Tehran, Isfahan, and Mashhad on November 15, 2015, were tried in Isfahan without their knowledge, without legal representation, and apparently without charges, evidence, or defense.”

“The lawyer acting for one of the Baha’is went to court and was told the trial had already been held and the sentences would be announced within the next few days. (A guilty verdict, for a Baha’i in an Iranian court, is more or less inevitable). A retrial has been announced for four of these Bahais, and their bail has been increased to 1.2 billion rials (34,000 euros, $38,000).”

Meanwhile, another Baha’i student, Farzad Safaei, was expelled from Azad Islamic University in Ahvaz, the capital of Khuzestan Province in southwest Iran.

Safaei was one semester from finishing his bachelor’s degree in industrial metallurgy when he was expelled on May 20 by the security office for being a member of the Baha’i faith.

“In all my four years at the university, I concealed my faith -- even from my classmates and professors -- because I didn’t want to be prevented from studying,” Safaei told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI). “I didn’t even talk about it outside the university, but I was suddenly expelled because of my faith.”

Finally, leaving the box for religion affiliation empty on his enrollment form ended Farzad’s dreams. The security director of Ahvaz Azad University asked him to fill it in. “I wrote down my religion in a box next to the other religions,” Farzad told CHRI.

“Don’t you know Baha’is have no right to go to university? Why did you enroll in the first place? You’re like a car low on fuel that wants to go far. You knew you would get stuck eventually,” the security director allegedly said.

“When I posted the news about my expulsion on Instagram, many of my professors and classmates were shocked and questioned why someone should be denied an education for having a different religion,” Safaei told CHRI. “They were sympathetic.”

Baha’is continue to be denied the right to higher education in Iran, either by being banned from entering universities or being expelled without a proper explanation once enrolled, reported CHRI.

“Although Article 23 [of the Iranian Constitution] states “no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief,” Bahai’is are denied many basic rights as one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in the country.

Members of the Baha’i faith around the world will be celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of their faith’s founder, Baha’u’llah, this coming fall.