[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:] Euro News
[Date:] 21 Khordad 1394 [11 June 2015]
Interview with Simin Fahandej and Mahnaz Parakand About Citizenship Rights of the Baha’is of Iran
Seven years after the arrest of seven Baha’i community leaders (Fariba Kamalabadi, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naimi, Saied Rezaie, and Vahid Tizfahm), has the situation of the citizenship rights of Baha’i in Iran improved?
This question, along with the views and questions of Euro News audiences on social media, was shared with Simin Fahandej, spokeswoman for the Baha’i International Community at the United Nations, and Ms. Mahnaz Parakand, a former lawyer for the seven men and women who have been sentenced to 20 years in prison.
About the current situation of these people, Simin Fahandej, the spokeswoman for the Baha’i International Community at the United Nations, said, “Seven former Baha’i community leaders in Iran have been in prison for seven years now, and during all these years they have not been given leave for even one day.”
The spokeswoman for the Baha’i International Community pointed to the advanced age of these individuals and said, “Most of them are elderly, and have been treated with complete injustice. In the case of Mr. Afif Naimi, the forensic pathologist of Iran had said that he should not continue to be imprisoned, but the judge decided to return him to prison.”
Although Ms. Fahandej believes that “there is no sign of their release,” she added, “We remain hopeful and expect that Mr. Rouhani will live up to his promises that people will be treated as citizens and as human beings.”
120 Baha’is Are Currently Imprisoned in Iran
The representative of the Baha’i community also said that there are currently about 120 Baha’is in the Iranian prisons.
Mahnaz Parakand, a lawyer and one of the three advocates in the case of the seven Baha’i community leaders said, “It was illegal to arrest and detain these people in solitary confinement; even the preliminary investigations by the interrogators of the Ministry of Intelligence were also illegal.”
Referring to the indictment of these people, which was based on Article 167 of the Constitution, Ms. Parakand said, “Citing this principle shows that the standard of legality of crime and punishment for these people has not been observed.”
According to Euro News, Article 167 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran stipulates that “The judge is bound to endeavour to judge each case on the basis of the codified law. In case of the absence of any such law, he has to deliver his judgement on the basis of authoritative Islamic sources and authentic fatwa. On the pretext of the silence of or deficiency of law in the matter, or its brevity or contradictory nature, he cannot refrain from admitting and examining cases and delivering his judgement.”
Referring to this principle, Mahnaz Parakand said, “The indictment, citing this principle and referring to a fatwa from Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, charged them with uprising and causing corruption on earth.”
This former Baha’i lawyer also commented on the trial and said, “Judge Moghiseh sentenced them to 20 years in prison in Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court without the presence of a jury. The Court of Appeals changed the 20 years’ imprisonment to 10 years’ imprisonment because the Court of Appeals did not accept the charge of espionage. But again, we did not understand how the 10-year sentence of the appellate court changed into the original 20-year sentence.”
Ms. Parakand emphasized that the case file was never made available to lawyers.
International Pressure is Paying Off
Referring to the pressures the international community and human rights organizations are putting on the Islamic Republic of Iran, this lawyer said, “These pressures are necessary, and, of course, they have results.”
She further explains, “The first thing the Ministry of Intelligence and military institutions said to the detainees’ families was that no information should be publicized. However, from my experience, I have seen that in cases where information has been publicized, according to this information, the human rights and international organizations have pressured the Islamic Republic to comply with the law, and these cases have progressed somewhat better.”
On the other hand, Simin Fahandej referred to the persecution of Baha’is since the formation of the Islamic Republic, saying, “This trend continues to this day.”
Referring to a document leaked in 1991, she said, “This document was edited by the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution and approved by Mr. Khamenei and President Rafsanjani at the time, and points out that the Baha’is must be treated in a way that their progress and growth is blocked and the Baha’i individual be expelled from university and school when he/she is determined to be a Baha’i.”
Ms. Fahandej, commenting on the activities of former Baha’i community leaders in Iran that led to their arrest, said, “Their duties were related to the basic affairs of a community, such as marriage or the burial of the dead, and such other cases, and today we even see that with those arrested, their charge is described as “membership in the perverse Baha’i sect.”
Observance of citizenship rights; respect the rights of the majority or the minority?
In the comments published by the Euro News audience, some were of the opinion that since the rights of the majority are not respected in Iran, one should not expect the rights of the minority to be respected.
From a legal point of view, Ms. Parakand said, “When it comes to citizenship rights, “citizens” includes everyone who lives together in the same country. There is no difference between a minority and a majority when we say that the rights of everyone should be respected.”
In addition, this lawyer said, “When we say that the Islamic Republic of Iran is committed to international treaties and to the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the laws regarding the rights of every individual living in that country must be observed and implemented.”