Iran arrests members of Bahai sect, accuses them of spying for Israel

Iranian Bahai members accused of being in contact with Israeli co-religionists.

By Aryeh Savir, TPS

Iran has rounded up tens of members of the Bahai religious sect, claiming that they were spying for Israel.

In a statement, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence announced on Monday the arrest of a number of Baha’is and accused them of contacts with the Bayt-al-Adl (House of Justice), the Baha’i administrative institution in Haifa, Israel.

The Iran International news portal reported that Fariba Kamalabadi, Mahvash Sabet (Shahriari) and Afif Naimi, three former directors of the Iranian Baha’i community known as “Yaran,” were among those who were arrested on Sunday in Tehran and Karaj.

The three had been detained before in 2018 and spent 10 years behind bars.

The Worldwide Baha’i Community said in a July 20 statement that Tehran had intensified its systematic campaign to suppress the religious minority in recent weeks, either arresting, summoning to court, putting on trial, or closing the businesses of at least 20 Baha’i citizens.

According to the community, in June, at least 44 Baha’is were detained, summoned to court, given prison sentences, or had their homes searched.

The Baha’i International Community stated on Monday that it is “outraged that a significant number of Bahais” were arrested “yet again” in Iran.

The arrests “reveal the Iranian government’s escalating persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community.”

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The 1979 constitution of the Islamic Republic recognizes only Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism. The Iranian government claims that the Baháʼí faith is not a religion, but a political organization. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has on several occasions called the Baha’i faith a cult.

A Fatwa (Muslim decree) in 2018 forbade contact, including business dealings, with followers of the faith. In 2019, the Iranian government made it impossible for the Baha’is to legally register with the Iranian state.

Baha’is, who number around 300,000 in Iran, say their rights are systematically violated and they are often harassed, forced to leave their homes and businesses, and deprived of government jobs and university education. The Iranian government has previously accused the Bahaʼis of being associated with Zionism

Baha’ism developed in Iran in the 19th century. Iranian leader Naser al-Din Shah Qajar banished Bahai leader Baháʼu’lláh from Iran to the Ottoman Empire and Baháʼu’lláh was later exiled by the Ottoman Sultan, at the behest of the Iranian Shah, to territories further away from Iran and finally to Acre, which later became a part of Israel.