Again sentences against Baha'i members in Iran

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Recent condemnations and restrictions on Baha'i burial culture demonstrate the ongoing repression of the faith community in Iran.

Portraits of accused or convicted members of the Baha'i community in Shiras

A week ago, the Shiras Revolutionary Court sentenced 26 members of the Baha'i religious community to a total of 85 years in prison. After serving their prison sentences, those affected are sent to small towns within Iran for varying periods of time, a total of 24 years, where they have to report to the security authorities on a daily basis. In addition, the convicts were banned from leaving the country.

Those convicted were charged with “conspiracy against the internal and external security of the country”. In addition to this formulaic standard criminal offense known from other political trials, the convicts are accused of having contributed to “intellectual and ideological insecurity” in Islamic society through their activities in the fields of “drought, environmental protection and social problems”.   

“Fabricated allegations”

Diane Alai, representative of the international Baha'i community at the United Nations, told DW about the recent verdict: “The aim of the Iranian authorities is to prevent the Baha'i from living in Iran as normal citizens. And to achieve this , they will use any excuse. The current trial is based on fabricated allegations. In truth, Baha'i do not want to create any form of insecurity anywhere.”

Bahai Representative Diane Alai: “Fabricated Allegations”

The verdict came after a six-year process. The Baha'i's lawyers had repeatedly raised objections to procedural errors. Baha'i circles have learned that dozens more members of the community are currently awaiting conviction or imprisonment in Shiraz alone.

Harassment in the cemetery

Not only this recent legal action against individual Baha'i shows that the traditional persecution and discrimination of this group continues. The state suppression of the Baha'i burial culture practiced in the past is also being continued. For example, the supervision of the Baha'i cemetery outside the city limits of Tehran was recently strengthened by employees of the Ministry of Intelligence. In addition, the authorities began to wall the cemetery, which users reported on social networks. Both measures make it difficult for Baha'i to visit the graves of their deceased loved ones.

Redged former Baha'i cemetery in the Iranian province of Kurdistan

The cemetery, called Kharavan, is located 15 kilometers southwest of Tehran, not to be confused with the eastern Tehran district of the same name. Since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, the Baha'i have had no right to bury their dead within the city. “The former Bahai cemetery in Tehran was in the center of the city. It was confiscated and destroyed in 1981,” says Diane Alai. To compensate, the Baha'i were given a burial place in the cemetery outside the town. This not only serves as a burial ground for the Baha'i, but there are also mass graves of victims of the political purges of the 1980s. “This site is known to be the burial site of thousands of political prisoners, as well as at least 50 Baha'i who were killed for their faith,” says  Diane Alai in an interview with DW.

Place steeped in history: Kharavan Cemetery outside Tehran, where the victims political murders in the young Islamic Republic is commemorated.

Currently, more graves are being dug in the Kharavan cemetery grounds that are intended exclusively for the burial of Muslims, not Baha'is, according to members of the group. “Unfortunately, many Baha'i cemeteries across Iran have been confiscated, desecrated or destroyed,” says Diane Alai. “But as far as we know, the authorities do not appear to be planning to destroy the Baha'i Cemetery at the Kharavan compound at this time.”