Arrests of Baha'i leaders in Iran repeats sinister pattern of 1980s

Six Baha’i leaders were arrested and taken to Evin prison yesterday in a coordinated series of arrests similar to episodes in the 1980s that included executions and disappearances.

“Canadian Baha’is are deeply concerned,” said Karen McKye, Secretary General of the Baha’i Community of Canada, this morning on learning of the arrests in Iran yesterday morning. “These actions are reminiscent of the pattern of events in 1980 and 1981 when members of the national governing council in Iran were executed by the Iranian regime, as were those who replaced them in service.”

“Many of the nine thousand Iranian Baha’is in Canada have relatives and friends in Iran, some with fathers or aunts or uncles who were executed by the regime in the 1980s. This escalation of the ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran evokes a very real fear of a repeat of those days” McKye added. The arrests come amid growing signs of danger to the entire community over the past year. Recent months have seen many arrests, propaganda designed to stir up hatred of the Baha’is published in the state newspaper, destruction of Baha’i property, harassment of Baha’i school-children, continued denial of higher education to Baha’is, and economic attacks.

The six members of the national-level group that helps see to the minimum needs of Baha’is in Iran, were in their homes Wednesday morning when government intelligence agents entered and spent up to five hours searching each home, before putting those arrested in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran.

The seventh member of the group, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, was arrested in early March in Mashad after being summoned by the Ministry of Intelligence and remains in prison. Those arrested Wednesday were Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm.

In 1983 the government outlawed all formal Baha’i administrative institutions, including the National Spiritual Assembly, the governing council of the Baha’is of Iran, and some 400 locally elected governing councils. The informal national coordinating group was established with the knowledge of the government to help cope with the diverse needs of Iran’s 300,000 member Baha’i community.

The Baha’i community of Iran has been made more vulnerable by this action at a time of increasing human rights violations in Iran. Numbers of executions generally are up, including youth offenders. Many journalists are in jail. Human rights defenders are attacked, student leaders arrested, and women’s rights activists targeted.

The blueprint for the persecution of the Baha’is of Iran was set out in a 1991 document of the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, referred to as the “Golpaygani memorandum”, and published by the UN Commission on Human Rights in 1993, later termed “Iran’s Nuremburg Laws” by the New York Times.

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