In May 2021, the persecution of Iran’s religious minorities continued; Members of religious minorities were sentenced to long prison terms on trumped-up charges and in some cases were summoned and detained.
The clerical regime has particularly stepped-up pressure on the Baha’i community in Iran, making many arrests, handing down heavy sentences, and imprisoning others.
Fourteen Baha’i citizens were sentenced to a total of 104 years and 3 months in prison.
At least 20 Baha’i citizens were arrested in various cities, including Mashhad, Shiraz and Isfahan.
Persecution Baha’i citizens in May 2021
- Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran sentenced a Baha’i woman to 8 years imprisonment on the charge of forming a group to empower women. The court examining the charges of Atesa Ahmadaii Rafsanjani convened in March 2021 and issued its verdict for her efforts to register a non-governmental organization for the empowerment of women. This Baha’i woman has been sentenced to 4 years in prison on the charge of “formation of a group to act against national security” through requesting an NGO license from the Interior Ministry, to 3 years in prison for “assembly and collusion to act against national security”, and to one year in prison on the charge of “propaganda against the state.”
- Mahvash Adalati Aliabadi, Sepideh Keshavarz, and Farid Esmaili, Baha’i citizens living in Tehran, were each sentenced by Branch 36 of the Tehran Court of Appeals to three years and seven months in prison. These Baha’i citizens had previously been sentenced to 4 years and 3 months in prison each by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran.
- In another case, a Revolutionary Court in Dashtestan County, southwestern Iran sentenced six Iranian Baha’is to a total of 73 years and six months of prison on May 19. The six men and women who live in Shiraz and Borazjan were identified as as 53-year-old Borhan Esmaili, 27-year-old Dana Esmaili, 30-year-old Maryam Bashir, 33-year-old Minou Bashir, 48-year-old Faranak Sheikhi, and 49-year-old Haideh Ram. The Revolutionary Court sentenced Borhan Esmaili to 11 years of prison for “Spreading propaganda against the state and acting against national security by promoting the Bahai faith”. The other five men and women were each sentenced to 12 years and six months of prison for “assisting in spreading propaganda against the state and acting against national security by promoting the Bahai faith” and “posting vulgar images in cyberspace and on social media to promote the Bahai faith”. The court also said they taught children to subscribe to “opposition and anti-revolutionary websites” on Facebook and cited this as a crime. The court sentence is pending an appeal and if confirmed, each of the Bahais will have to serve 10 years of prison.
- In another development, Branch 36 of the Court of Appeals announced last month that Mona Mehrabi, Elham Karampisheh, Afsaneh Yadegar Ardestani, and Ehsanullah Yadegar Ardestani had each been sentenced to three years in prison. The citizens were charged with “membership in an illegal organization with the aim of disrupting the security of the country.”
- Branch 36 of the Tehran Provincial Appeals Court upheld the convictions of Baha’i citizens Mona Mehrabi, Elham Karampisheh, Afsaneh Yadegar Ardestani, and Ehsanullah Yadegar Ardestani. These Baha’is were previously sentenced by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court of Tehran to three years in prison each.
- In addition, last month, the trial of Baha’i citizen Kiana Shoa’i, was held in Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz on May 15. She had previously been summoned to the branch on May 5 on charges such as “forming dissident groups to disrupt the country’s security and spreading propaganda against the regime.”
- A Baha’i woman identified as Sho’leh Ashouri, was arrested by intelligence agents in Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran. She was later released on bail.
Persecution of Christian citizens in May 2021
Persecution of Iran’s religious minorities continued last month with the destruction of Christian places of worship in May; A number of Christian converts were also arrested or summoned to serve their sentences. In some cases, their property was also confiscated.
- In May 2021, three Christian converts Amin Khaki, Milad Goodarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi were accused of spreading propaganda and educational activities contrary to the holy Sharia of Islam.
- Christian convert Reza Zaimi was summoned to serve a nine-month prison sentence. In February, he was sentenced by Branch 4 of the Karaj Revolutionary Court to one year and six months in prison and banned from leaving the country on charges of ‘propaganda against the regime through proselytizing the evangelical Christianity. The sentence was reduced by the Alborz Court of Appeals to nine months in prison and a two-year ban on leaving the country.