[PROVISIONAL TRANSLATION FROM PERSIAN]

 

[Translator’s notes appear in square brackets.]

[Personal information has been redacted.]

[The excerpt below is from the section of the article that pertains to the Baha’i Faith]

 

[Adapted from website:] BBC Persian

[Date:] 25 Aban 1395 [15 November 2016]

 

Why Was the Shop of a Cancer Patient In Sari Sealed?

Zekrollah Rahmanian was battling his illness due to cancer at Imam Khomeini Hospital in Sari, when he was informed that his optical shop had been sealed by the Police Department of the Public Places Supervision Office.

His relatives told the BBC Persian that Mr. Rahmanian was not surprised by the news, as he knew that the agents of the Public Places Supervision Office in the centre of Mazandaran Province would go to their shops and seal any of the ones that were closed during the Baha’i holy days.

Mr. Rahmanian’s relatives say that about four months ago, to avoid a possible seal or additional taxes, he [Zekrollah Rahmanian] had informed the officials of the trade union authorities and finance department that he had pancreatic cancer and would not be able to work for several months.

One week after the sealing of his shop, on Thursday, 20 Aban [10 November], Zekrollah Rahmanian died at the age of 67. He was one of dozens of Baha’i citizens whose shops have recently been sealed in Sari, Qaemshahr and several other cities.

The new wave of closures of Iranian Baha’i shops—from optometrists and refrigerator repair to oil changing service and auto body shops—began on 11 and 12 Aban this year [1 and 2 November 2016], which coincided with their two religious’ holidays. Baha’is observe nine holy days per year, during which work is forbidden, but not working on these days is described by some city officials as “disrupting the market” and “promoting the Baha’i Faith”.

One of the Baha’i business owners in Sari told the BBC Persian that although he had no complains from his customers and not committed underselling or overpricing offences, within the past two years the Public Places Supervision Office has sealed his shop; once, for six months and the second time for two months, accusing him of “guild misconduct”.

Several other Baha’i tradesmen have told the BBC Persian that the Sari Public Places Supervision Office, headed by Major Hasan Babaie, wants only one thing―that they go to the authorities before the Baha’i holiday and get permission, and if the permission is granted, they can close their shops.

The Baha’is say they have no problem informing the authorities, but consider it unreasonable to ask permission to close their businesses for the purpose of performing their religious duties, especially since they believe the law allows them to close their businesses up to 15 days without notifying the trade union.

They say that monitoring Baha’i shops in Sari and Qaemshahr “under various pretexts” has become the normal routine for several years.

The officials in the Islamic Republic have repeatedly denounced accusations of discrimination against Baha’is as baseless allegations, saying that they have never dealt with the followers of this religion simply because they are Baha’is.

Meanwhile, in 1386 [2007], the headquarters of the police force in Iran asked the Public Places Supervision Offices across the country to monitor Baha’i tradesmen in various fields and prevent them from entering high-income jobs.

In the document it was explicitly stated that, “Baha’is should not be involved in work such as newspapers, periodicals, jewellery and goldsmithing, watchmaking, printing work, engraving, the tourism industry, car rental establishments, publishing and bookstores, the hotel industry, sewing schools, photography, the film industry, internet gaming, computers [IT] and internet cafes.”

Arrest of Five Baha’is

Baha’i tradesmen in Sari and Qaemshahr say their efforts to remove the seals from their shops have failed; their unions and trade unions, as well as the Mazandaran Provincial Police Inspection Office, have denied any knowledge about how their business premises were closed.

On Tuesday, 18 Aban [8 November], five of them—Soheil Haghdoust, Nima Nowkhah, Alaeddin Mirzaie, Arsham Golpour and Shahrouz Zamani—who had gone to the governor's office in Sari to plead for justice, were arrested on charges of unlawful gathering and disorder.

It seems that the lawyers of the judiciary also refused to accept the representation of these people due to the sensitivity of the case and the existing security atmosphere.

A Qaemshahr tradesman says, “The authorities tell us that our work is illegal and that it costs the regime. When we all close at the same time, the Baha’i Faith is propagated.”

He says, “Until now, all my neighbours never knew I was on holiday, but now that my shop is sealed, I have to talk to others about my religion.” He adds, “In practice, they are propagating for us.”