NEW YORK — Six Baha’i leaders who were
arrested nearly two weeks ago are being held incommunicado,
without access to lawyers or relatives, and the Baha’i
International Community is increasingly concerned about their
“Although initial reports indicated they were taken to Evin
prison, in fact we don’t know where they are, and we are
extremely concerned,” said Bani Dugal, the principal
representative of the Baha’i International Community to the
“What is clear is that none of their fundamental rights are
being upheld. They have had no access to family members or
counsel. We don’t even know if they have been before a judge or
whether they have been formally charged.
“All we know is what a government spokesperson said last week,
which is that they were arrested for ‘security reasons,’ a
charge that is utterly baseless.
“We appeal to the international community, human rights groups,
and people of conscience, as well as the news media, to continue
their efforts to press the Iranian government so that the rights
of these people as detainees be upheld and that they be allowed
access to counsel and general communication with the outside --
as a minimum step,” said Ms. Dugal.
The six, all members of the national-level group that helped see
to the minimum needs of Baha’is in Iran, were arrested on 14 May
2008 in an early morning sweep that is ominously similar to
episodes in the 1980s when scores of Iranian Baha’i leaders were
rounded up and killed.
A seventh member of the national coordinating group was arrested
in early March in Mashhad after being summoned by the Ministry
of Intelligence office there.
The whereabouts of none of the seven are known, said Ms. Dugal.
“We understood that the six were taken to Evin prison -- the
seventh remaining in Mashhad -- principally because some of the
government agents who arrested the six on the 14th had documents
indicating they would be taken to that notorious place,” she
“However, in light of the fact that relatives have made repeated
attempts to learn more about the fate of the seven, and in all
cases have been met with evasion and conflicting stories from
government officials, we must now say that we don’t know where
they are -- and that our level of concern for their fate is at
the highest,” Ms. Dugal said.
Arrested on 14 May were: Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin
Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz
Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm. All live in Tehran.
Arrested in Mashhad on 5 March was Mrs. Mahvash Sabet, who also
resides in Tehran. Mrs. Sabet was summoned to Mashhad by the
Ministry of Intelligence, ostensibly on the grounds that she was
required to answer questions related to the burial of an
individual in the Baha’i cemetery in that city.
Last week, Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham
gave a press conference at which he acknowledged the arrest and
imprisonment of the six. News reports quoted Mr. Elham as saying
on 20 May that the six were arrested for “security issues” and
not because of their religious beliefs.
Those assertions -- the only public statement by the government
about the arrests -- were immediately rebutted by Ms. Dugal.
“The group of Baha’is arrested last week, like the thousands of
Baha’is who since 1979 have been killed, imprisoned, or
otherwise oppressed, are being persecuted solely because of
their religious beliefs,” Ms. Dugal said on 21 May.
The seven Baha’is
who have been arrested are, seated from left, Behrouz Tavakkoli
and Saeid Rezaie, and, standing,
Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, and Mahvash
Sabet. All are from Tehran. Six
were arrested on 14
May 2008 in early-morning raids at their homes, and the seventh
was detained in March.