The Baha’i community has long been subject to particularly severe religious freedom violations in Iran. Baha’is, who number at least 300,000, are viewed as ―heretic by Iranian authorities and may facerepression on the grounds of apostasy. Since 1979, Iranian government authorities have killed more than 200 Baha’i leaders in Iran, and more than 10,000 have been dismissed from government and universityjobs. Baha‘is may not establish places of worship, schools, or any independent religious associations in Iran. In addition, Baha‘is are barred from the military and denied government jobs and pensions as wellas the right to inherit property. Their marriages and divorces also are not recognized, and they havedifficulty obtaining death certificates. Baha‘i cemeteries, holy places, and community properties are oftenseized or desecrated, and many important religious sites have been destroyed. In recent years, Baha‘is in Iran have faced increasingly harsh treatment, including increasing numbers of arrests and detentions andviolent attacks on private homes and personal property.
Nearly 400 Baha‘is have been arbitrarily arrested since 2005 and, at end of the reporting period, at least 75 Baha‘is remain in prison on account of their religious beliefs. Dozens of Baha‘is are awaiting trialwhile others were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 90 days to several years. All of those convictedare reportedly in the process of appealing the verdicts. According to human rights groups, more than 300 Baha‘is have cases that are still active with authorities, despite having been released from detention. Alsoin recent years, Baha‘i cemeteries in various parts of the country, including Tehran, Ghaemshahr, Marvdasht, Semnan, Sari, Yazd, Najafabad, and Isfahan, have been desecrated, defaced, or in some wayblocked to the Baha‘i community. Over the past several years, several articles in the government-controllednewspaper Kayhan, whose managing editor is appointed by Supreme Leader AyatollahKhamenei, have vilified and demonized the Baha‘i faith and its community in Iran. Iranian authoritiesalso have gone to great lengths in recent years to collect information on all members of the Baha’i community in Iran and to monitor their activities.
In March and May 2008, seven Baha‘i leaders – Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naemi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm – were arrested and taken to the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. After numerous postponements, the trial for the five men and twowomen started in January 2010 and concluded in June. They were formally charged with espionage,propaganda activities against the Islamic order, the establishment of an illegal administration, cooperationwith Israel, acting against the security of the country, and corruption on earth. In August 2010, the seven Baha’is were sentenced to 20 years in prison and moved to Gohardasht prison in Karaj, a facility known for violence between inmates and unsanitary conditions. In September, authorities informed the seven Baha’is orally that the 20-year sentences were reduced to 10; however, prison authorities told the seven inMarch 2011 that the original 20-year sentences had been reinstated. Attorneys for the seven Baha’is, including Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi, have had extremely limited access to their clients and courtproceedings and have said categorically that the charges against them are baseless. USCIRF met withfamily members of the imprisoned Baha‘i leaders when they visited Washington in February 2011.