On 5 March 2008, Mahvash Sabet – a schoolteacher and mother of two – was arrested having been summoned to the Iranian city of Mashhad to discuss some matters regarding a Baha’i burial. She has been in prison since that time – including the first 175 days spent in solitary confinement.
Two months later, on 14 May, six other prominent members of Iran’s Baha’i community were incarcerated in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison, after they were arrested in early morning raids at their homes in a sweep that was ominously similar to episodes in the 1980s when scores of Iranian Baha’i leaders were summarily rounded up and killed.
The six were Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm.
These five men and two women were all members of a national-level group known as the “Yaran-i-Iran” – or “Friends in Iran”.
Some 20 months after being imprisoned without charge, a trial began on 12 January 2010. Throughout their long wait for justice, the seven had received hardly one hour’s access to their legal counsel and suffered appalling treatment and deprivations, including psychological and physical hardship.
The seven were charged with, among other things, espionage, propaganda against the Islamic republic, the establishment of an illegal administration - charges that were all rejected completely and categorically by the defendants.
Their crime, though, is nothing more than being members of the Baha’i Faith, a religion which has been the focus of a systematic, government-sponsored persecution in Iran since the 1979 revolution.
Indeed, the trial of the seven in many ways was the trial of an entire community of more than 300,000 Iranian Baha’is. Over the last 30 years, more than 200 Baha’is have been killed, hundreds more imprisoned, and thousands deprived of jobs, education, and the freedom to worship.
The charges against the seven moreover reflects the kinds of false accusations and campaign of misinformation that Iran’s regime has used to vilify and defame Baha’is for decades.
The trial of the seven Baha’i leaders ended on 14 June 2010 after six brief sessions, characterized by their lack of due legal process.
The initial sentence of 20 years imprisonment for each of the defendants, met with outrage and condemnation throughout the world. One month later, the appeal court revoked three of the charges and reduced their sentence to 10-year jail terms. In March 2011, the prisoners were informed that their original 20-year sentences were reinstated. Notwithstanding repeated requests, neither the prisoners nor their attorneys have ever received official copies of the original verdict or the ruling on appeal.
This section of Baha’i World News Service includes articles and background information about the seven Iranian Baha’i leaders – their lives, their imprisonment and trial, and the allegations made against them. It tells their story as it unfolded over the past two years, as well as offering further resources about the persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community.Return to top