Six Baha'is arrested in Iran; one worked for Shirin Ebadi's rights organizations

15 January 2009

— At least six Baha'is were arrested in Iran yesterday, including a woman who worked at human rights organizations connected with Nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi.

According to reports received from Iran, the six were arrested after government security agents raided the homes of at least 11 Baha'is. During the raids, they also confiscated Baha'i books and other items, such as computers and photographs.

Among those arrested was Jinous Sobhani, who worked as an assistant for the Organization for Defending Mine Victims and also for the Defenders of Human Rights Center. Both were founded by Mrs. Ebadi.

In an interview with CNN, Mrs. Ebadi said today that Ms. Sobhani had been laid off from both organizations after government agents raided Mrs. Ebadi's offices and shut them down in December.

While some reports indicate that more than six Baha'is were arrested yesterday in Tehran, those confirmed so far include Ms. Sobhani, Mr. Shahrokh Taef, Mr. Didar Raoufi, Mr. Payam Aghsani and Mr. Aziz Samandari. Mr. Golshan Sobhani was also arrested but was released a few hours later. It is unclear whether he is related to Ms. Sobhani.

"The arrest of these individuals reflects not only the grave situation facing Baha'is in Iran but also the overall human rights situation there," said Diane Ala'i, a representative of the Baha'i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva.

"As far as we know, all of these people were arrested primarily because they are Baha'is," said Ms. Ala'i.

But she confirmed the fact that Ms. Sobhani worked for the two organizations founded by Mrs. Ebadi.

"The connection of Ms. Sobhani to the work of Mrs. Ebadi's organizations points to the gravity of the situation in Iran, where the government seems intent on stifling any expression of the importance of human rights or religious freedom," said Ms. Ala'i.

In December, the Baha'i International Community condemned the closing of Mrs. Ebadi's Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran and called for its reopening. (See earlier story.)

(Correction: In the fifth paragraph, the spelling of the surname of Mr. Shahrokh Taef was corrected. 16 January 2009)

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