Sham Court Proceedings Endanger Baha’is in Yemen

Source: www.bic.org

Hamed Bin Haydara, a member of the Yemeni Baha’i Community, detained since 2013, was sentenced to public execution for his faith earlier this year

NEW YORK—30 September 2018—The sham trial of more than 20 Baha’is in Yemen falsely accused of espionage and apostasy continued on 29 September.

The second court hearing in Houthi controlled Sana’a was presided over by judge Abdu Ismail Hassan Rajeh, who sentenced a Baha’i in Yemen to public execution earlier this year. It is reported that the judge sentenced three other individuals to death before the court hearing of the Baha’is.

Five of the indicted Baha’is were in attendance at the court where the judge requested the prosecutor to publish the names of 19 others indicted in a newspaper, further endangering the lives of the Yemeni Baha’i community.

The judge also ordered that all of the properties belonging to the Baha’is indicted be frozen until the court verdict is issued. He furthermore objected to a request by the lawyer for the five to be released on bail and deferred any such decision to the next hearing in a month and ten days.

“We have every reason to be concerned for the safety of those who have been falsely and maliciously accused under absurd pretexts,” said Diane Alai, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“The charges brought against these innocent men and women for merely practicing their Faith endangers their lives and the life of the community.

“We once again urge the international community to condemn these baseless actions in the strongest possible terms and call for the immediate release of all detained Baha’is in Yemen.”

The religiously motivated charges has led to international condemnation by governments and international human rights organisations and has been widely covered by the media.

The actions undertaken by the Houthis were condemned in two recent United Nations resolutions, one of which called for the immediate release of all Baha’is detained in Yemen due to their religious beliefs and to cease any harassment they are subjected to.

The German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, Dr. Baerbel Kofler, expressed deep concern regarding the persecution and recent prosecution of the Baha’is and called, on behalf of the German government, for the release of those detained.

Italian Foreign Minister, Enzo Milanesi expressed ‘serious concern’ over the accusations while Amnesty International called them ‘trumped up charges and flagrantly unfair proceedings.’

An open letter by more than 20 prominent lawyers called for the release of imprisoned Baha’is in Yemen and the dropping of fabricated charges against others recently charged.

In 2016, over 60 women, men and children participating in an educational gathering organized by Baha’is were arrested as part of a mass crackdown on the religious community.

Hamed Bin Haydara, a member of the Yemeni Baha’i Community, detained since 2013, was sentenced to public execution for his faith earlier this year.  Mr Haydara is one of six Baha’is imprisoned in the country for practicing their faith.

Following a protracted court case and a cruel four-year imprisonment, a final court hearing was held while the defendant was prevented from attending and was handed the death sentence.

In a televised speech broadcast in March of this year to a wide audience within and outside of Yemen, the leader of the Houthis, Abdel Malik al Houthi vehemently vilified and denounced the Baha’i Faith, further intensifying the ongoing persecution of the Baha’is in that country.

Arabic translation here.

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Baha’i Student Expelled From University

Source: www.hra-news.org

Translation by Iran Press Watch

HRANA News Agency – Anahita Horr, a Baha’i undergraduate student at the non-profit Rasam Institute of Higher Education in Karaj, has been expelled from her university because she is a Baha’i, and has been barred from continuing her education.

As reported by HRANA News Agency, the news arm of Human Rights Activists in Iran, Anahita Horr, an undergraduate student at the School of Architecture at the non-profit Rasam Institute of Higher Education in Karaj, has been expelled from her university because she is a Baha’i, and has been barred from continuing her education.

An informed source, told HRANA: “In 2016, Anahita Horr, a Baha’i resident of Karaj, like a few other Baha’i students, was able to attend university, but after two years she has been expelled from Rasam Institute of Higher Education because she is a Baha’i.”

Despite the fact that Baha’i students have been denied access to university education, some of them have sometimes managed to enter a university, but all of them have eventually been expelled and barred from university education for various reasons. HRANA has previously reported about the expulsion of Baha’i students in various cities around the country.

This week, HRANA had several reports about the expulsion of three other Baha’i students: Shaghayegh Zabihi Amri, an undergraduate student in the Architectural Drawing School of the non-profit Rasam Institute of Higher Education in Karaj; Nikan Shaydan Shaydi, a 3rd semester student of Casting at the Technical School of Revolution at the University of Tehran; and Misagh Aghsani, an undergraduate student at Payam Noor University in Urmia.

Over the last several days, and after the announcement of the results of the National University Examination for the 2018 school year, many Baha’i students who passed the exams have been denied entry to university with the excuse of incomplete records and applications. HRANA has published the names of a number of these students in a variety of reports, and published the documentation related to depriving them of a university education.

Despite an explicit right enshrined in law, according to a secret decree of the Supreme Council of the Iranian Cultural Revolution, in addition to being barred from employment in public places, Baha’is have been deprived of university studies.

Every year there are many reports of the prevention of Baha’is from continuing their education at Iranian universities. This includes even those who are on the verge of graduation.

UN human rights rapporteurs on Iran have repeatedly objected to antagonism towards Baha’is during the life of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary regime; in particular depriving Baha’i students of their right to an education, which is a clear indication of Iran’s neglect of human rights accords.

Baha’is in Iran are denied religious freedoms. This systematic deprivation occurs even though in accordance with Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, every individual has the right to freedom of religion and to convert to another religion based on their personal conviction, as well as the freedom to express their religious beliefs individually or collectively, and publicly or privately.

According to unofficial sources, there are more than three hundred thousand Baha’is in Iran. The Iranian constitution recognizes only the religions of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, but does not recognize the Baha’i Faith; therefore Baha’i rights have been systematically violated in Iran.

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Open Letter: Baha’i Prisoner Hopeful Amid Fraught Traditions of New Academic Year

Source: www.en-hrana.org

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA)- As a new academic year unfolds in Iran, Baha’i prisoner Azita Rafizadeh speaks out in an open letter about the systemic barriers between post-secondary education opportunities and the country’s Baha’i citizens.

HRANA has reported on several cases over the past few weeks of students whose hopes of attending college have been eliminated by nothing more than the insidious alert of “deficiency on file.” Since 2006, this message has been a common method for disqualifying Baha’i students from university enrollment.

In direct violation of the law, Baha’is are prevented from pursuing degrees or employment in government offices, per under-the-table directives from the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution. Every year, a new cohort of Baha’is is either barred from higher education altogether or thwarted before culminating their degrees.

Since the 1979 revolution, the office of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Iran has repeatedly protested the Iranian government’s animosity towards its Baha’i population, particularly in preventing these citizens from furthering their studies. According to the UN, such directives demonstrate a blatant disregard of multiple international treaties.

Rafizadeh reacts to these prohibitions in the letter below, translated into English by HRANA:

It is the third year that I’ve languished in the corner of a jail cell as schools and universities reopen their doors. I’m kept far from the thrills of a new academic term, from seeing the bright-eyed university students excited to pursue their higher education, and from seeing upperclassmen resume their course.

Over the past few years, I have tried to preserve in my heart the warm glow of that atmosphere, and pray sincerely that all those who are striving, serving, and studying will succeed. Even still, these days, when news reaches me of those students who love learning yet get ‘deficiency on file’ for their 2018 results from Konkur [a nationally-competitive college entrance exam], the bitterness of discrimination and prejudice comes flooding back, and my hopes for doing away with these measures is diminished. To be sure, [this pattern] at least confirms the perseverance of hope and love for learning in young people who, despite a life of deprivation, still do their best to enter universities by participating in Konkur in hopes of gaining knowledge, the greatest virtue of the human world.

It is the existence of these hopeful and eager-to-learn youth that has, over the years, helped the Free Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE) to thrive in spite of the pressures and systematic attempts to dissolve it. This institute continues to steadfastly serve young Baha’is who are deprived of continuing their education.

When I heard the happy (albeit delayed) news of Holaku Rahmanian’s graduation from Santa Cruz University, my heart brimmed with happiness and resolve. I was certain that although I have been forbidden from serving the youth of my country, better and more qualified individuals will graduate from this institute every year, who are well-versed in the sciences of the day and whose hearts beat to serve the institute and their countrymen.

Hoping for the day when the cloak of discrimination is lifted from the country’s youth, so that they may serve each other and build our country’s future side by side.

Azita Rafizadeh
Evin Prison
October 2018

***

Azita Rafizadeh is an Iranian Baha’i whose spouse Peyman Kushak Baghi is also imprisoned at Evin. Prisoners of conscience, both were sentenced to 4 and 5 years in prison, respectively, on charges of “membership in the illegal and misguided Baha’i group with the aim of acting against national security through illegal activities at the BIHE educational institute.”

Iranian Baha’i citizens are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom of religion and belief, and the right to adopt and manifest the religion of their choice, be it individually, in groups, in public, or in private.

Based on unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. However, Iran’s Constitution only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Consequently, the rights of Baha’is are systematically violated in Iran.

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Concern over Baha’i Followers Trial by Yemen Rebels

Source: www.bbc.com

Concerns are growing over the fate of more than 20 followers of the minority Baha’i faith in Yemen put on trial by the rebel Houthi movement.

The Baha’i community says they are accused of espionage and apostasy, describing the charges as “baseless”.

Right activists say the Baha’is have faced increasing threats in Yemen in areas run by the Houthis, whose leader says their religion is “satanic”.

The Baha’i faith accepts all religions as having true and valid origins.

The Baha’i followers are being tried by a judge in Sanaa who sentenced a Baha’i man to death last January, the Baha’i International Community says.

It says they were “falsely and maliciously accused under absurd pretexts”.

It adds that the judge sentenced three other individuals to death before hearing the Baha’is’ case.

The Baha’i Community in the UK initially stated that the three people sentenced to death were Baha’i followers.

The Houthi movement has so far made no public comments on the issue.

But on Saturday, the rebel-run Saba news agency reported that a court in Sanaa had sentenced three men to death for “collaborating with a foreign country”.

The Baha’i faith was founded in Iran in the mid-19th Century by Mirza Husayn Ali, a man known as “Baha’ullah” (“Glory of God”).

Today, there are an estimated five million Baha’is worldwide. There are only a few thousand in Yemen, where 99% of the 27 million population is Muslim.

The Houthi movement has cracked down on Baha’is since its supporters drove the Western-backed government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi out of the capital Sanaa and seized control of much of western Yemen in 2015.

The UN has said Bahai’s living in rebel territory have faced a “persistent pattern of persecution”, including harassment and arbitrary detention.

In January, UN human rights experts urged the Houthi-led authorities to annul a death sentence handed down against a Baha’i man, Hamid Kamali bin Haydara, who was accused of “compromising the independence of the Republic of Yemen” and spreading the Baha’i faith in the country.

A number of trials against Mr bin Haydara, including the one during which the death sentence was imposed, took place without him being present, and his lawyer was not given the opportunity to contest the evidence presented against him.

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Germany Demands Release of Baha’is in Yemen

Source: www.dw.com

Date: 9/27/2018

Translation by Iran Press Watch

Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid expressed her concern regarding the persecution of Baha’is in Yemen during a UN General Assembly session and demanded release of more than 20 Baha’is in Houthi custody.

On Wednesday September 26, during a UN General Assembly session in New York, Bärbel Kofler, Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid, made a statement pointing to the arrests of more than 20 Baha’is in Yemen. In Kofler’s words, in mid-September Houthi authorities brought charges against these Baha’is during a court hearing. On behalf of the German government, Kofler demanded the release of these Baha’is.

According to Kofler, pursuit of political activists and members of religious minorities, initiated at the beginning of the internal war in Yemen, has significantly increased.

The United Kingdom has also recently expressed concern over the collective trial of these Baha’is being held in Sana’a, Yemen. Tarek Mahmoud Ahmad, the Special Representative of the Government on the Freedom of Religion and Belief, issued a statement on this subject and expressed that UK is collaborating with its partners to convey the concern about the fate of these Baha’is directly to the Houthi leaders and to pressure Houthis for their release.

According to the reports, eight women and one child are among Baha’is arrested and they all have been sentenced with charges that most likely can put them in the imminent danger of the death penalty.

On September 18, Amnesty International, calling these trials unjust, warned against the imminent danger of the death penalty for these Baha’is. Lina Maloof, Director of the Middle East Amnesty International, issue the following statement:

“This group that includes a junior youth girl, is accused of many crimes such as spying for foreign governments and for some of these charges, the death penalty is considered. Houthi authorities must stop these false accusations, release those who have been arbitrarily arrested, and stop misuse of the judicial system for suppressing the freedom of belief and for silencing the political critics, activists, and Baha’is and other minorities.”

On September 18, in a statement regarding the accusations made against the arrested Baha’is in Yemen, The Baha’i International Community expressed its concern and declared that the sentences had “religious motivation”.

It was said in the same statement that the initial trial session was held without prisoners’ prior knowledge and absence of their lawyers, and only at the presence of a judge, prosecutor, and other court staff.

The second trial session was assigned for September 29.

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The Arrest that Boosted Support for the Baha’is

Source: www.iranwire.com

By Behnam Gholipour

The arrest of a local politician who spoke out about the imprisonment of two Baha’i environmental activists has prompted a wave of public support on social media.

On September 25, Shiraz City councillor Mehdi Hajati tweeted: “For the past 10 days I have knocked on every door to secure the release of my two Baha’i friends but I have gotten nowhere. As long as we have to stand up against foreign enemies, our generation is duty-bound to do its best to reform our judicial ways and other things that endanger social justice.”

The tweet led to his arrest within two days. On the afternoon of Thursday, September 27, security agents arrested Hajati on the charge of “supporting Baha’ism.” The public’s response, going on to Twitter to express support for both Hajati’s decision to speak out and for the rights of the Baha’is —  may have caught the government off guard.

On September 15 and 16, the Intelligence Ministry detained six environmental activists in Shiraz, the latest in a series of arrests of environmentalists this year. The detained are likely to face further injustice because they are from Iran’s Baha’i community.

In the 40 years since the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic has extensively persecuted the Baha’is and violated their rights. The regime has also persistently tried to sell its view, and justify its treatment, of the Baha’is to the Iranian people. And yet the news of Hajati’s arrest has led to unprecedented and widespread criticism and protests on social networks, evidence that the tide of public opinion is starting to turn. [All tweets are in Persian.]

“The crime of Mehdi Hajati is to support the rights of all citizens, regardless of their religious beliefs,” tweeted one Iranian, Saeed Naimi. “He has challenged the strategy of ‘us’ versus ‘them’.”

“Mr. Hajati’s tweet was humane and just,” tweeted another, Abbas Abdi. “The demand for the due process of law for each Iranian individual has more to do with defending the country and the law than defending only two individuals.”

“Mehdi Hajati is an honorable man who understands what it means to be a human being,” tweeted Ali Farrokhi. “He understands that Baha’is are his fellow human beings. He looked at life regardless of nationality, religion and race. He did not stay silent and now he is in prison!”

Majid Jokar called Mehdi Hajati “a courageous, noble and honorable representative” who “has been arrested for his honorable defense of the civil rights of the people of Shiraz.”

“I found it so strange that an official in the Islamic Republic would defend the rights of the Baha’is that I had to go to Twitter quickly to see whether it was true or not,” tweeted Shakib Nasrollah. “Now, as God is my witness, I have seen everything!”

“There have been very few officials of the Islamic Republic who have listened to the problems of the Baha’is and even fewer who have tried to help them,” wrote Shahi Milani. “Those who, like Mehdi Hajati, have publicly supported the Baha’is are really few. I praise his humanity and his courage.”

“Mehdi Hajati, representative to Shiraz City Council, has been arrested and his Twitter account has been blocked for supporting the rights of the Baha’is,” tweeted Mostafa Siamak. “We must not allow these lonely voices inside the country to be silenced.”

“Fighting against discrimination is not the same as promoting Baha’ism,” tweeted Ramin Madarshahian. “Iran is for all Iranians and the Baha’is, the Muslims, the Christians and even the atheists have equal rights as long as they are Iranians.”

“The charge of supporting Baha’ism against Mehdi Hajati, member of Shiraz City Council, is ridiculous,” tweeted Ali Kalaei. “Hajati supported the rights of two Iranian citizens and the right to the due process of law. We are all Iranians, regardless of our religion and our beliefs. The constitution applies to all Iranians, regardless of their faith.”

These tweets are only a small sample of the flood of support for the Bahai’s, Hajati, and the wider issue of rights for all Iranians, regardless of their religious affiliation. Unsurprisingly, religious zealots launched a counterattack in line with the wishes of the ruling clergy of the Islamic Republic, lashing out against both the Baha’is and Mehdi Hajati. These attacks repeat the usual claims and charges against the minority religious community, demanding that action be taken. Nevertheless, in recent years many faithful Shia Muslims in Iran have expressed their belief that authorities treat Baha’is unjustly and that discrimination and injustice against minority religions and ethnic groups in the country must end.

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Baha’i Arrests in Karaj; 20 and Counting

Source: www.en-hrana.org

Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA) – Hooman Khoshnam, a Baha’i resident of Karaj, became the sixth Baha’i citizen to be arrested by Ministry of Intelligence security forces in the city on September 25th, 2018.

In addition to arresting him, security forces also sealed the door to Khoshnam’s workplace. Khoshnam’s arrest is the latest in a series intensified persecution of Baha’i citizens, thus far affecting 20 citizens in Karaj, Shiraz, and on the outskirts of Isfahan.

Before Khoshnam’s arrest, Payam Shabani, another Baha’i resident of Karaj, was arrested by security forces only one day earlier on September 24th. HRANA also reported on the arrest and transfer to Evin Prison of four other Baha’i Karaj residents on September 16th: Peyman Maanavi, Maryam Ghaffaramanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh.

A close source told HRANA that “Maryam Ghaffarmanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh – participants in an environmental education session led by Ghaffarmanesh and hosted in the private residence of Ramin Sedghi – were arrested when intelligence agents showed up demanding their cell phones and pressing them to fill out personal information forms.”

The source said that after the search of Sedghi’s personal property, including his hard drive, pamphlets, and religious materials, agents moved on to search Pakrou’s residence. Ghaffarmanesh, Pakrou, and Salmanzadeh were then transferred to Evin Prison. Ghaffarmanesh’s family learned of her bail some 20 hours later, on a call with her from ward 209 of the prison.

HRANA reported on the arrest of six Baha’i Shiraz residents on September 15th and 16th: Sudabeh Haghighat, Noora Pourmoradian, Elaheh Samizadeh, Ehsan Mahbub-Rahvafa, and married couple Navid Bazmandegan and Bahareh Ghaderi.

HRANA also covered the arrests of eight Baha’i residents of Baharestan, a newly-built city about 18 miles south of Isfahan, on September 23rd and 24th. The detainees were Saham Armin, Afshin Bolbolan, Anush Rayneh, Milad Davardan, Farhang Sahba, Bahareh Zeini (Sobhanian), Sepideh Rouhani and Fuzhan Rashidi.

Iranian Baha’i citizens are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom of religion and belief, and the right to adopt and manifest the religion of their choice, be it individually, in groups, in public, or in private.

Based on unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. Iran’s Constitution, however, only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Consequently, the rights of Baha’is are systematically violated in Iran.

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Authorities Raid Home of Detained Baha’i Citizen Noora Pourmoradian, Arrest her Parents

Source: www.en-hrana.org

Human Rights Activist News Agency (HRANA) – The aggression against Baha’is in Iran was still palpable Thursday, September 27th when Shiraz-based Security forces raided the home of Shirazi Baha’i prisoner of conscience Noora Pourmoradian, seizing her personal belongings and temporarily detaining her mother and father.

Claiming that the search was necessary to the completion of Noora’s case, security forces threatened the Pourmoradian family with “severe consequences” if they leaked photo evidence or publicly disclosed information about the incident.

“To intimidate them, they handcuffed Mr. Saeid Pourmoradian (Noora’s father) and took him into the car, menacing him [about what would happen] if he didn’t keep quiet,” a close source told HRANA.

On Sunday, September 16, 2018, HRANA reported on Noora Pourmoradian’s arrest and transfer to a Shiraz Intelligence Detention Center known as Plaque 100. Four other Shirazi Baha’is were arrested the same day: Elaheh Samizadeh, Ehsan Mahbub-Rahvafa, and married couple Navid Bazmandegan and Bahareh Ghaderi.

In recent weeks, HRANA reported on the arrest of several Baha’i citizens by security forces in the cities of Shiraz and Karaj, so many instances of increasing pressures on this religious minority community from judicial and security institutions. In recent weeks, HRANA reported on the arrest of eight Baha’i residents of Baharestan, a newly-built city about 18 miles south of Isfahan: Saham Armin, Afshin Bolbolan, Anush Rayneh, Milad Davardan, Farhang Sahba, Bahareh Zeini (Sobhanian), Sepideh Rouhani and Fuzhan Rashidi. Meanwhile, six Baha’i residents of Karaj were arrested and transferred to Evin Prison: Hooman Khoshnam, Payam Shabani, Peyman Maanavi, Maryam Ghaffaramanesh, Jamileh Pakrou, and Kianoush Salmanzadeh.

Iranian Baha’i citizens are systematically deprived of religious freedoms, while according to Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, everyone is entitled to freedom of religion and belief, and the right to adopt and manifest the religion of their choice, be it individually, in groups, in public, or in private.

Based on unofficial sources, more than 300,000 Baha’is live in Iran. Iran’s Constitution, however, only recognizes Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, and does not acknowledge the Baha’i faith as an official religion. Consequently, the rights of Baha’is are systematically violated in Iran.

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Arrest of Member of Shiraz City Council for Supporting Detained Baha’is in Shiraz

Source: www.hra-news.org

Translation by Iran Press Watch

Date: September 27, 2018

HRANA News Agency – A member of the board of directors of the Islamic City Council of Shiraz reported that Mehdi Hajati, a member of the Council, was arrested on Thursday afternoon for defending Baha’is. Earlier, in a published note, Mr. Hajati showed his support for two Baha’is who were arrested in Shiraz last week.

As reported by HRANA, quoting IRNA (Islamic Republic News Agency), Ghasem Moghimi added Thursday evening that: “The arrest of this City Council member is related to the charge that he supported Baha’is”.

He further added: ”The Islamic City Council of Shiraz has scheduled a special meeting for Thursday evening related to this matter”.

Nowzar Imami, another member of the Shiraz City Council, in confirming this news said: “Mr. Hajati’s file had been under review in Shiraz’s General and Revolutionary Court”.

Mehdi Hajati, born in 1978, is a reformist political activist, the vice-chairman of the Committee for Development, Transportation and Traffic, and a member of the Committee for Civil Rights in the Fifth City Council of Shiraz.

In recent weeks, Baha’is in various cities in Iran have faced increasing pressure from the Intelligence and Judicial agencies.

HRANA has also reported on the arrests by Intelligence agents, on September 15 and 16, of six Baha’is in Shiraz: Sudabeh Haghighat, Noora Pourmoradian, Navid Bazmandegan and his wife Bahareh Ghaderi, Elaheh Samizadeh and Ehsan Mahboub Rahvafa.

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