The Iranian authorities have escalated their persecution of the Baha’is, targeting at least 77 individuals across the country in recent weeks despite the present health crisis afflicting the country.
Baha’is in the provinces of Fars, South Khorasan, Mazandaran, Isfahan, Alborz, Kerman, Kermanshah, and Yazd have been arrested, summoned to court, tried, sentenced to jail, or imprisoned, all under accusations and for no reason other than a deep-seated antagonism to the Baha’i Faith and its teachings which emphasize truthfulness, equality of men and women, safeguarding the rights of all people, and the harmony of science and religion.
In addition, Iran’s state-affiliated media have stepped up the public defamation of the Baha’is through an increasingly coordinated spread of disinformation about their beliefs by using television channels, newspapers, radio stations, websites, and social media to denigrate and to ostracize the Baha’is. The Baha’is, meanwhile, are not permitted to respond publicly, denying their fellow citizens the opportunity to investigate the truth themselves.
In one instance, a court in South Khorasan Province has sentenced nine Baha’is from three to six years of imprisonment. These include an elderly man, whose advanced age puts his health at great risk if he is imprisoned. In Fars Province 12 Baha’is were sentenced from one to 13 years of imprisonment under spurious charges. In recent days, six Baha’is in South Khorasan Province were summoned and have had to present themselves for imprisonment; four more were arrested in Kerman and Yazd provinces; another Baha’i in Alborz Province was sentenced to one year of imprisonment and two years of internal exile; and yet another Baha’i in Isfahan province was summoned to serve a prison sentence.
After being arrested and released on large bails, these individuals have faced months, and sometimes years, of waiting between their arrest, trial, appeal court, and the beginning of a jail term, adding an enormous additional burden psychologically. Such cruel tactics have been employed repeatedly by the authorities in recent years, as part of their systematic persecution of the entire Baha’i community.
“The recent incidents have placed great pressures on so many families,” said Ms. Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community. “Subjecting them to the constant threat of imprisonment under these circumstances and emotional anguish associated with it is yet another attempt to place greater strain on the community. And to do all this during a health crisis, at an alarmingly escalated rate without any justification whatsoever, is extremely cruel and outrageous.”