Three Baha’i citizens in Iran, already deprived of higher education, have reportedly each been sentenced by a notoriously hard-liner judge, Mohammad Moqisseh, to five years in prison.
After being summoned to court six times, Tara Houshmand, Rouhie Safajoo, and Sarmad Shadabi were finally charged with “acting against national security through membership in the misleading Baha’i cult” and sentenced, the Human Rights Activists News reported on November 8.
The convicted Baha’is participated in a university admissions contest in 2014 but were not allowed to view their rankings and were practically deprived of the right to higher education.
They sought help from different institutions, including the Iranian president’s office and the Higher Education Ministry.
However, their attempts failed. The three were arrested in early 2015 but released on bail a month later.
Iran’s Baha’i citizens have long faced systematic persecution and suffered widespread discrimination in the country since the 1979 revolution, solely for believing in a faith that is not officially recognized by the Iranian Constitution.
Deprived of higher education and governmental jobs, Baha’is are repeatedly charged with unfounded accusations and heavily sentenced. Even as self-employed persons, Baha’is are not allowed to freely work.
Currently, many Baha’i leaders are behind bars across the country.
However, according to Article 19 of the Iranian Constitution, “All people of Iran, whatever the ethnic group or tribe to which they belong, enjoy equal rights; and color, race, language, and the like do not bestow any privilege.”
International organizations have repeatedly condemned the persecution of Baha’is as inhumane, outrageous, and unacceptable.
Baha’i spokeswoman Simin Fahandej recently said that, despite inspiring promises from President Hassan Rouhani’s administration, the situation for Baha’is has gotten worse.
“Unfortunately, the situation has not changed in the past four years, and if we look at the number of Baha’i citizens arrested it has actually become worse,” she told the Campaign for Human Rights in Iran in a recent interview.
“There are currently about 90 Baha’is in prison. Baha’i students are still denied university education, and hundreds of their businesses have been shut down, not to mention the abuse the community endures on a daily basis,” she said.
“Before Rouhani was elected in 2013, he gave a lot of hopeful slogans about equality and justice for all Iranians, and he won,” Fahandej added. “But in the past four years, the rights of Baha’i citizens have been violated in every way.”