Mrs Fariba Kamalabadi Taefi, Mr Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr Afif Naeimi, Mr Saeid Rezaie, Mr Behrouz Tavakkoli and Mr Vahid Tizfahm
Six leaders of the Baha’i religious movement were arrested at their homes at dawn on the 14th May by agents of the Ministry of Intelligence and have since then been held incommunicado without access to a lawyer or to their families at a location which is still unknown. "Security reasons" were cited as the official justification for these arrests, which bear all the hallmarks of an arbitrary measure intended to intimidate once again the members of this community by imprisoning their leaders. Another Baha’i leader, Mrs Mahvash Sabet, was arrested in March 2008 and remains in prison to this day.
The Baha’i religion was founded around 150 years ago in Iran and has spread across the world. Followers of this religion were already persecuted under the Shah’s regime but since the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, the members of the Baha’i community have suffered systematic repression. Their religion is not recognised by the Iranian constitution and they are the victims of discriminatory laws which prevent them from freely practising their religion and from having the same rights as other Iranian citizens with regard to education, employment, welfare allowances, pensions, etc. Since the election of President Ahmadinejad in 2005, several dozen Baha’is have been arrested on account of their religion in spite of the fact that the Baha’is in Iran (currently estimated to number more than 300 000 followers) stress their loyalty to the Iranian State. Any involvement in subversive action against the government would be against their religion, which is based on non-violence, nonpartisanship and respect for the law.
According to Ms Bani Dugal, the main representative of the Baha’i international community at the United Nations, the six people arrested on 14 May, like the thousands of Baha’is who since 1979 have been murdered, imprisoned or in some way oppressed, are being persecuted solely because of their faith. The best proof of this is that Baha’is have often been promised that they will be released if they renounce their faith and convert to Islam. Despite continual attacks on them by the authorities, the vast majority of Baha’is has decided to stay in Iran. Most young Baha’is who are forced to study abroad return to their country afterwards in order to contribute to its development.
In May 2006, 54 Baha’is were arrested while taking part in an educational programme for poor children in Shiraz, a town in southern Iran.