Five Years Too Many

Six of the seven Bahá’í leaders were arrested on 14 May 2008 in a series of early morning raids in Tehran. The seventh had been detained two months earlier on 5 March 2008.

Since their arrests, the seven – whose names are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm – have been subject to an entirely flawed judicial process that has completely ignored international requirements for human rights and legal protections.

During their first year in detention, the seven were not told of the charges against them and they had virtually no access to lawyers. Their trial, conducted over a period of months in 2010 and amounting to only six days in court, was illegally closed to the public, demonstrated extreme bias on the part of prosecutors and judges, and was based on non-existent evidence.

“The bill of indictment that was issued against our clients…was more like a political statement, rather than a legal document,” said one of their lawyers, Mahnaz Parakand. “It was a 50-page document…full of accusations and humiliations leveled against the Baha’i community of Iran, especially our clients. It was written without producing any proof for the allegations.”

Today the seven endure harsh conditions in two of Iran’s most notorious prisons. The five men are incarcerated at Gohardasht prison in Karaj, a facility known for its overcrowding, lack of sanitation, and dangerous environment. The two women remain at Tehran’s Evin Prison, infamous as a place where brutal interrogations and torture are common.

In March 2013, the UN’s special investigator on human rights in Iran called for the immediate release of the seven, noting that Iranian Bahá’ís are “systematically deprived of a range of social and economic rights.”

The purpose of this website is to encourage people of good conscience everywhere to raise their voices in support of that call, asking that the Iranian Government live up to its international obligations and to release the seven immediately – along with their 100-plus co-religionists and countless other prisoners of conscience – and to take other steps to end religious persecution in Iran.

Since 1979, more than 200 Bahá’ís have been executed, hundreds more imprisoned and tortured, tens of thousands denied employment, education, freedom of worship, and other rights – all solely because their religion is declared to be a “heretical sect.”

This persecution has intensified in recent years. Since 2005, more than 660 Bahá’ís have been arrested, and, as of March 2013, at least 115 Bahá’ís, including the seven, are wrongfully imprisoned.

The increase in arrests has been accompanied by a rising tide of violence against Bahá’ís, marked by incidents that include arson attacks, anti-Bahá’í graffiti, hate speech, the desecration of Bahá’í cemeteries, and assaults on schoolchildren.

The persecution of Iranian Bahá’ís extends from cradle to grave. Bahá’í infants have been imprisoned along with their mothers. In primary and secondary school, Bahá’í children are frequently harassed and insulted by teachers. Young people are denied rightful access to higher education. Adults are banned from government employment and discriminated against in virtually every other sector of the economy. Bahá’í marriages are not recognized. The elderly are denied rightful pensions. This all-encompassing discrimination extends even to death: Bahá’ís are denied the right to proper burial, and unprosecuted arson and vandalism at Bahá’í cemeteries carries the persecution beyond the grave.