Iran Arrests National Bahá'í Leaders

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For the first time in almost 30 years, the Iranian government arrests the national leaders of the Baháí

Bahai leaders arrested in Iran. In the front row seated from the left are Behrouz Tavakkoli and Saeid Rezaie. Standing from the left are Fariba Kamalabadi, Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani and Afif Naeimi. On the far right is Mahvash Sabet, detained since March.

For three decades, Bahá'ís have suffered egregious persecution for their faith

The Institute on Religion and Public Policy has learned that officers of Iran's Intelligence Ministry have arrested six of the seven members of the country's national Bahá'í leadership, the worst assault on Iran's Bahá'ís in almost 30 years. The seventh leader has been in detention since March 5.

According to information received from the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, the arrests came during morning raids on May 14. The six leaders are being held at Tehran's infamous Evin Prison.

The last major round-ups and detentions of national Bahá'í leaders came in the early 1980s. In 1980, all nine members of the national leadership were abducted and then disappeared. Bahá'ís have no official clergy, and since their spiritual assemblies were outlawed after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, have relied on electing national and local committees as leaders of the faith.

The Iranian government severely restricts the lives and religious practices of Bahá'ís, who number about 300,000 and are Iran's largest religious minority. Bahá'ís also suffer more official discrimination and harassment than followers of other minority faiths. Bahá'ís are barred from serving in the government and military, and are often denied admittance to state universities.

"For three decades, Bahá'ís have suffered egregious persecution for their faith," said Institute President Joseph K. Grieboski. "These latest arrests, however, are particularly disturbing because they signal that the government is worsening its abuse of and increasing its attacks against Bahá'ís. We call on the international community to pressure Iran to release immediately the seven national leaders it has detained, and to help secure the freedom to worship for Bahá'ís that is a fundamental right of all people."

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