Iran: Six leading members of the Bahá’í faith detained

Six leaders of a group managing the Baha'i community's religious and administrative affairs in Iran were arrested at their homes by officers from the Ministry of Intelligence on 14 May 2008, and are now detained in Evin Prison in Tehran. A seventh person, acting secretary for the group, Mahvash Sabet, has been in detention since 5 March. The Baha'i community has long been persecuted by the Iranian government, especilly since the Iranian Revolution.
The following news has been received from the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran. We have since read that the detainees have been granted access to their family members, but not to legal counsel:

The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran is calling on Iranian judicial authorities to account, in terms of Iranian and international law, for the detention on 14 May 2008 of six leading members of the Baha’i faith, who have been taken to Evin prison. All are members of the Baha’i national coordination group, the “Friends;” the seventh member has been imprisoned in Mashhad since 5 March 2008. No charges have been announced in the cases.

While the detainees have all been regularly summoned, detained, and interrogated as individuals, this is the first time they have been seized as a group. The entire leadership body of the Baha’is in Iran is thus in detention.

“We are deeply concerned that the detention without charge of the entire Baha’i leadership is consistent with a pattern of violent and illegal persecution of Baha’is in Iran,” the Campaign stated. “The persecution of religious minorities will bring neither internal stability nor international security to Iran.”

Intelligence agents detained Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm at their respective homes in the early morning of 14 May and conducted searches.

The sixth member of the leadership body, Mahvash Sabet, has been in incommunicado detention since 5 March. According to information received by the Campaign, her family has only been allowed to see her for a moment when Intelligence Ministry agents brought her to a public place where a family member was able to recognize her. Other than this brief encounter, her family has had no contact with her, nor any telephone calls.

“There is cause to fear for the health and safety of Mahvash Sabet, whose incommunicado detention amounts to a form of torture, and of her colleagues as well,” the Campaign said.

Such arrests are alarming, especially when taking into account the past treatment of Baha’is and recent trends. In 1980s, the Iranian government targeted the Bahai leadership through extensive arrests and executed seventeen members of the leadership. In the past three years the numbers of executions of all kinds have skyrocketed in Iran, doubling each year.

The Campaign is calling upon members of the international community, the United Nations, and the European Union to protest these unjustified detentions, and to call for the immediate release of the detained Baha’i members if they are not properly charged in accordance with international standards.


The Bahá’í faith is a religion founded in the 19th century in Iran and has since spread around the world. It advocates racial and religious tolerance as well as gender and economic equality. The Iranian government has, since 1979, undertaken a systematic and well-documented effort to block the development of the 300,000-member Iranian Bahá’í community not only through arrests, executions, harassment and imprisonment but also by depriving their youth of education. Over the past three years the number of executions in Iran of various dissident groups of all kinds has risen dramtically. This, along with the fact that more than 200 Bahá’í were killed by the government between 1979 and 1998, keeps Bahá’í Iranians under a state of constant threat.

The Bahá’í religion is not recognized under the Iranian Constitution, which only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Bahá’ís in Iran are subject to discriminatory laws and regulations which violate their right to practise their religion freely, as set out in Article 18(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party, and which deny them equal rights to education, work and to a decent standard of living by restricting their access to employment and benefits such as pensions. They are not permitted to meet, to hold religious ceremonies or to practice their religion communally. Members of the Bahá’í community in Iran profess their allegiance to the state and deny that they are involved in any subversive acts against the government, which they state would be against their religion.

International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran