[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:] Dom Jonbanak

[Date:] 26 Dey 1387 [15 January 2009]


Persecution of [Restraints on] Masoud Ataeian and Baha’is of Qaemshahr

On the afternoon of 27 Aban 1387 [17 November 2008], the Ministry of Intelligence agents, without prior notice or a search warrant, entered the home of Masoud Ataeian, and after a few hours of searching and rummaging around the home, they took him along to the Intelligence Office. It has been almost two months since his arrest and still no one knows the reason for his arrest and the status of his case. The insulting behaviour of the agents towards the landlord is a sign of their moral incompetence and lack of human etiquette. Where in the world, other than Iran, do they enter people’s homes, throw sacred religious pictures on the ground and trample them with their shameless attitude? In what country are the prayer books of other religions allowed to be torn up? During the search, the intelligence agents confiscated all available books and personal computers, as well as job related papers and documents.

Masoud Ataeian was a university graduate and an accountant for a large company. After the revolution, along with large numbers of Baha’is, he was faced with discrimination and hostility by the Purging Committees. He then worked in his brother’s pharmacy until the pharmacy was closed in 1376 [1996/1997] by the order of the Ministry of Intelligence of Sari. Dr. Ataeian’s pharmacy was the second pharmacy established in Qaemshahr and had a history of 40 years of uninterrupted service to the people of this small town.

After the closure of this pharmacy, Masoud Ataeian, by borrowing money and with the help of acquaintances, started a freelance job of buying and selling, in order to maintain the economic independence of his family of four. But now, this narrow flowing water has also been cut off by the authorities and has caused economic hardship to their family.

Follow-ups Regarding the Prisoner’s Family

On the day after her husband’s arrest, Taraneh Sanaie filed a lawsuit with various judicial and government authorities, yet not even a particle of humanity exists in this nation. The Friday prayer leader of Qaemshahr, Haj Agha Moallemi, rudely read the complaint letter and called it all lies, then threw it aside and drove the oppressed ones out of his room. He reminded the complainants that they should be grateful to this government and its rulers for allowing them to move around on the roads of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The prosecutor of Qaemshahr, after insulting and rudely treating Masoud Ataeian’s wife and family for wasting his time, stated that as a prosecutor, he was obedient to what the judge of the case had to say. This is while the duty of the prosecutor reflects this indifference. In fact, one of the important duties of prosecutors is to address the rights of the accused and to defend the interests of citizens. Another authority that the family of Masoud Ataeian managed to meet with was the head of the Ministry of Intelligence office of Qaemshahr, who was also completely obedient to Movahhed’s orders. The governor of Qaemshahr, the political security counsel of the Office of the Provincial Governor General, the director of the Office of the Provincial Governor General, The head office of the Judiciary of the province, the Provincial Security Council, the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Justice of Sari, and the representative of the head of the Judiciary in the province were among other relevant authorities to whom they pleaded for justice. They wrote letters to the highest national authorities, the supreme leader, the president, the head of the [Ministry of] Intelligence, Mr. Mohseni-Eje’i, Mr. Shahroudi, the head of the Judiciary, the Article 90 Committee of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, etc., which have so far been ineffective.

Continued Threats in Qaemshahr

As can be seen from the recent actions of the Ministry of Intelligence, Movahhed has extensive plans to persecute the Baha’is of the region. Fares Ataeian, the son of Masoud Ataeian, wrote, “On 15 Dey [4 January], the Ministry of Intelligence office also visited our home and those of five other Baha’i families―Bijan Nowkhah, Farshad Asadi, Sohrab Laghaie, Hosein Fanaian, and Sanaollah Sanaie. They searched the homes of these five families and confiscated religious photographs, Baha’i books, and their computers. The agents told them [the Baha’is], as well as my mother, that they should report to the Ministry of Intelligence office... To none of these people did the agents show any search warrants, and they even entered Mr. Nowkhah’s house with a gun threat. At Mr. Asadi’s house, although none of the parents were present, they entered the house in the presence of their young son and searched the house. … At Mr. Fanaian’s house only Emilia was present, and although she had asked the agents to wait for her parents to arrive, they paid no attention and began searching the house.

“In this case, a total of eight people were summoned to court... and in the end, none of the summoned people went to the Ministry of Intelligence Office, because the summons lacked legal credibility. Yesterday, on 19 Dey [8 January], Dad called and informed us that his blood sugar level had risen again. Dad insisted that Mum report herself to the Ministry of Intelligence as he was being put under tremendous pressure. Finally, Movahhed himself picked up the phone and told me that if Mum does not report herself, he will get a warrant for her arrest. But we did not yield to his threat.” (End of quote from Fares Ataeian)

Today, 21 Dey 1387 [10 January 2009], it was reported that two other Baha’is from Qaemshahr had fallen into Mr. Movahhed’s trap. Firouzeh Asadi, the wife of Farshad Asadi, and Miss Pegah Sanaie, a 20-year-old Baha’i, have been imprisoned.

Who is Movahhed?

For nearly a decade, the shadow of the terror of Movahhed has been spreading over the Baha’is of Mazandaran Province. In 1387 [1999], when the Baha’i youth were first barred from attending pre-university classes, I, the writer, was teaching in one of the Baha’i classrooms, when the door of our small classroom was kicked against the wall by his agents; he [Movahhed] confiscated my briefcase and books and threw the students out of the classroom. The agents also summoned me to the Ministry of Intelligence.

His real name is Abbas Alizadeh. He has created for himself a black record by persecuting this religious minority. With repeated summonses and arrests, he tries to show his scary face in every moment of the life of the Baha’is in the province, and now more than ever, he has narrowed the arena to the large Baha’i community of Qaemshahr and Sari and has created an atmosphere of constant terror and fear. The closure of the Baha’i business premises and the conspiracy to seize Baha’i property is another black record in his life.

It seems that he has put the persecution of the Baha’is on his agenda in order to show off and greedily rise and get closer to the centres of power. At the same time, in 1385 [2006/2007], during the president’s visit to Mazandaran Province, he had arrested a number of Baha’is and had told the family of one of the detainees that he would release him when the president left. This in itself indicates his efforts to attract more attention.

History of Arrests and Harassment of Baha’is in Qaemshahr

This is the second time that Masoud Ataeian has been detained in the prison of the Iranian government. If, today, Taraneh Sanaie, almost all by herself, runs in the corridors of offices looking for a dim light of justice, 24 years ago, in 1363 [1984/1985], when her husband was arrested along with 12 other Baha’is of Qaemshahr, she, with a large group of Baha’is of Qaemshahr, wandered from one office to the next, from one building to another and from one place to another. The 13 individuals were detained for six months and were eventually released without any reason given for their arrest.

In Qaemshahr, Baha’i guilds, from every sector, have also been under restrictions; for example, the closure of the two Baha’i-owned pharmacies in Qaemshahr, and many problems caused for the others. In one case, a plot of land belonging to a Baha’i named Farajollah Faraji was confiscated by conspiracy and forgery of his signature. When confronted with the unparalleled Baha’i resistance, they returned the land, and imprisoned Farajollah Faraji on charges of conspiracy against his wife.

During this period, even the deceased Baha’is in Qaemshahr did not rest in peace. On 2 Aban of this year [23 October 2008], a number of agents of tyranny attacked the Baha’i cemetery in Qaemshahr with a bulldozer and destroyed the graves to the ground. This is clearly in line with the project of popularizing the anti-Baha’i movement.

Following the arrest of seven national Baha’i community officials earlier this year, several government and quasi-government news outlets interviewed a man named Kazem Mousavi. In these interviews, he stated for the first time that in order to eradicate the Baha’is in Iran, we need people to come to the scene and finish up the job completely (to paraphrase).

This means encouraging the people to carry out a bloody tragedy without the government’s taking responsibility. After this interview, those who attended the Friday prayers in Tehran and Qom were handed petitions to sign in order to incite the worshipers against this minority. The organizers announced that they intended to collect signatures against Baha’is in other parts of Iran, as well.

Regarding the description of the persecution of the Baha’is of Qaemshahr, it is worth mentioning that a number of Qaemshahr Baha’is are in prison or awaiting their court ruling. Among them is Miss Simin Gorji, a young Baha’i who, after six months in detention, has now been temporarily released and is awaiting her court ruling. Adel Ataeian was also summoned and returned home after a short detention. Ali Ahmadi, the city’s trusted mechanic, who has been coping with his clients’ undesirable economic situation for years and has always preferred to help people rather than amass his personal income, is currently serving a nine-month sentence in Qaemshahr Prison, after which he will have to serve a year in exile to Khalkhal City in Ardabil Province. Changhiz Derakhshan was another detainee who has now been released after serving six months in prison. After spending a year in exile in the cold city of Khalkhal and undergoing tremendous dangers, Hosein Fanaian and his family are still suffering from various forms of persecution by Movahhed and his ilk.

What Are They Looking for?

The question is, what is all this pressure on the Baha’is and unprecedented propaganda against a religious minority for? Why should the Iranian government allow itself to enter the lives of these people from time to time and disturb their peace and comfort? Or do they think that in the computers of these people, who are either buying and selling sanitary ware or are drivers and are making their living and the like, something else can be found besides a few songs and family photos? Are they looking for a subversive plan? Does a Baha’i not have the right to consider his home and family as a place of peace and privacy? Why should the Baha’is of a city, but also a country, always be in fear that Movahhed and his ilk, who know no boundaries, will not respect the privacy of the Baha’i family, and consider themselves an absolute power? Who is responsible to answer for the economic and emotional damage done to foundation of the family, which is the result of the negligence of the arrogant power-hungry?