Iran hands new 10-year sentence to Bahai figures: Group

AFP , Sunday 11 Dec 2022

Iran has jailed for 10 years each two prominent Bahai figures as part of a crackdown on its largest non-Muslim religious minority, the group representing the community at the UN said Sunday.

Mahvash Sabet   Fariba Kamalabadi
File Photo: The two Iranian Bahai women, Mahvash Sabet (left) and Fariba Kamalabadi (right), were arrested on 31 July for the second time at the start of a fresh crackdown against Iran s Bahais. (Photo courtesy of BWNS)


Mahvash Sabet, 69, and Fariba Kamalabadi, 60, who had both previously served 10-year prison terms over their activism, were handed new sentences after a one-hour trial on November 21, the Bahai International Community (BIC) said in a statement.

The two women had been arrested in late July at the start of a fresh crackdown against the Bahais, who are estimated to number some 300,000 in Iran.

The Islamic republic recognises minority non-Muslim faiths including Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism but does not extend the same recognition to Bahaism.

"It is profoundly distressing to learn that these two Bahai women... are once again being incarcerated for another 10 years on the same ludicrous charges," said Simin Fahandej, representative of the BIC to the UN in Geneva.

"Words fail to describe this absurd and cruel injustice," she added.

The precise nature of the national security-related charges were not immediately clear, but Iran's intelligence ministry said in August it had arrested Bahais suspected of spying for a centre in Israel and working illegally to spread their religion.

At least 90 Bahais are currently in prison or subject to ankle-band monitoring, the BIC said, adding that it had counted 320 individual acts of persecution against members of the community since the end of July.

The crackdown has seen Bahai homes destroyed and business shut down, it added.

Iran is also in the throes of a nationwide crackdown against protests over the September death of Mahsa Amini, a young Iranian women of Kurdish origin, after her arrest by the morality police.

Bahais are used to Iranian accusations of links to Israel, whose northern city of Haifa hosts a centre of the Bahai faith that was established following the exile of a Bahai leader well before the state of Israel was created.

Bahais regard such allegations has a pretext for persecution.

Both Sabet and Kamalabadi had been part of a now disbanded Bahai administrative group known as the Yaran.

The pair were first arrested in 2008 and released in 2018, according to the BIC.

Sabet, who wrote poetry during her decade in Tehran's Evin prison, was recognised in 2017 as an English PEN International Writer of Courage.

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