Mrs. Mahvash Sabet

The wedding of Mrs. Sabet's niece, Shokoofa Shahriari, in 2017.

Among those who suffered deeply because of Mahvash Sabet’s wrongful time in prison have been the students of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, of which she was the director prior to her arrest in 2008.

Because Baha’i youth are blocked from university in Iran, the Baha’i community created the BIHE, which operated first as a correspondence school and then as an online university to provide the equivalent of college degrees.

As its director for 15 years, Mrs. Sabet was deeply involved in helping Baha’i students overcome the barriers placed before them by their government.

Of course, during her imprisonment, Mrs. Sabet has missed out on many things herself. She has missed all the joys of family life with her husband, and the joys of being with her adult children as they navigated life.

The wedding of Mrs. Sabet's niece, Mina Shahriari, in 2013.

“It’s been nearly ten years now and, really, every single moment of her life during that time she has missed,” said her daughter, Negar Sabet, who lives in Australia. “Every single moment was important.”

She missed the graduation of Negar from university in Australia. She also missed the ceremony when Negar received an advanced diploma in the Chinese language from the Beijing Language and Culture University.

The graduation of Mrs. Sabet's daughter, Negar, from the Beijing Language and Culture University.

Four of her nieces got married while she was in prison: Mojdeh Shahriari in 2009, Bahar Shahriari in 2010, Mina Shahriari in 2013, and Shokoofa Shahriari in 2017.

Mrs. Sabet, 64, is a teacher and school principal who was dismissed from public education for being a Baha’i in the 1980s. As noted, she nevertheless went on to direct the BIHE.

Born Mahvash Shahriyari on 4 February 1953 in Ardestan, Mrs. Sabet moved to Tehran when she was in the fifth grade. In university, she studied psychology, obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

She began her professional career as a teacher and also worked as a principal at several schools. In her professional role, she also collaborated with the National Literacy Committee of Iran. After the Islamic Revolution, however, like thousands of other Baha’i educators in Iran, she was fired from her job and blocked from working in public education.

The grave of Mrs. Sabet's aunt, Pari Shahriari, who passed away in 2013.

It was after this that she became director of the BIHE, where she also has taught psychology and management.

She married Siyvash Sabet on 21 May 1973. They have a son and a daughter, Masrur and Negar. Masrur was born 26 June 1975 and Negar was born 6 September 1984.

While the other members of the Friends were arrested at their homes in Tehran on 14 May 2008, Mrs. Sabet was arrested in Mashhad on 5 March 2008. Although she resides in Tehran, she had been summoned to Mashhad by the Ministry of Intelligence, ostensibly on the grounds that she was required to answer questions related to the burial of an individual in the Baha’i cemetery in that city.

In 2014, PEN International took notice of Mrs. Sabet’s book, Prison Poems, calling for the world to “take action” on the Day of the Imprisoned Writer in support of her that year. As a prisoner, of course, she has missed out on that and other accolades that have come to her as a published poet.