Honoring Vahid Tizfahm: Day Seven of the #7Bahais7years campaign

Topic: Situation of Iranian Baha’is

NEW YORK—20 May 2015

Today is the day the world will honor Vahid Tizfahm, who has been wrongfully imprisoned since 2008 solely for his religious beliefs, as part of the global “Seven Days in Remembrance of Seven Years in Prison for the Seven Baha’i Leaders” campaign.

Mr. Tizfahm, 42, is an optometrist and owner of an optical shop in Tabriz, where he lived until early 2008, when he moved to Tehran.

Like five of his six colleagues, he was arrested at home in Tehran in the early morning of 14 May 2008. He was first sent to Evin prison, where he was held for some four months in solitary confinement, like the others.

After an unfair trial in 2010, he and the other four male members of the seven were sent to Gohardasht prison.

Earlier this year, he sent a letter from prison that sought to answer why he has held to his beliefs in the face of persecution, especially the relentless questions of his interrogators.

“Yes, I think differently, I act differently and I see differently,” he wrote. “My world is a world of kindness and love. My approach is service to others and my mentality desires the elimination of all forms of prejudice. My aspiration is to create unity among all my compatriots from every ethnicity, group and religion.”

“My heart is free of any animosity and my hands – after many years of confinement and unending pain and suffering – continue to be willing to shake the hands of those who accompany me in the reconstruction of my home land and the revival of our beloved Iran,” he said.

Mr. Tizfahm was born 16 May 1973 in the city of Urumiyyih. He spent his childhood and youth there and, after receiving his high school diploma in mathematics, he went to Tabriz at the age of 18 to study to become an optician. He later also studied sociology at the Advanced Baha’i Studies Institute (ABSI).

At the age of 23, Mr. Tizfahm married Furuzandeh Nikumanesh. They have a son, who was in the third grade when Mr. Tizfahm was arrested in 2008.

Since his youth, Mr. Tizfahm has served the Baha’i community in a variety of capacities. At one time he was a member of the Baha’i National Youth Committee. Later, he was appointed to the Auxiliary Board, an appointed position which serves principally to inspire, encourage, and promote learning among Baha’is. He has also taught local Baha’i children’s classes.

Mr. Tizfahm was one of seven who formed the entire membership of the now-disbanded ad hoc group known as the “Yaran” or “Friends,” tending to the spiritual and social needs of the Iranian Baha’i community in the absence of formally elected Baha’i leadership, which was banned in 1983.

The names of the others are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, and Behrouz Tavakkoli. Ms. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008.

In 2010, the seven were tried and wrongfully convicted on charges of “espionage” and “spreading propaganda against the regime,” among other false accusations. They were sentenced to 20 years in prison, the longest terms of any current prisoners of conscience in Iran.

The campaign to remember them will run until 21 May 2015. Events are being planned around the world by Baha’i communities and others to call attention to the plight of the seven, along with the wrongful imprisonment of 110 other Baha’is in Iran – as well as other prisoners of conscience there.

Each day, a different member of the seven has been commemorated. Tomorrow, 21 May, the campaign wraps up.

Facebook event pages in English (https://www.facebook.com/events/1638889016341780/) and in Perisan have been set up as rallying points and a hashtag has been designated: #7Bahais7years. For more information, go to: www.bic.org/7Bahais7years.

(NOTE: I did not write this post. I copied it directly from the Baha’i International Community – United Nations Office website: https://www.bic.org/news/Honoring-Vahid-Tizfahm-Day-Seven-7Bahais7years-campaign.  Please pass this information onto your network so these types of injustice can be stopped.)

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Honoring Behrouz Tavakkoli: Day Six of the #7Bahais7years Campaign

Topic:   Situation of Iranian Baha’is

NEW YORK—19 May 2015

Today is the day the world will honor Behrouz Tavakkoli, who has been wrongfully imprisoned since 2008 solely for his religious beliefs, as part of the global “Seven Days in Remembrance of Seven Years in Prison for the Seven Baha’i Leaders” campaign.

Mr. Tavakkoli, 63, is a former social worker who lost his government job in the early 1980s because of his Baha’i belief. Prior to his current imprisonment, he has also experienced intermittent detainment and harassment and, in 2005, he was jailed for four months without charge, spending most of the time in solitary confinement.

Like five of his six colleagues, he was arrested at home in Tehran in the early morning of 14 May 2008. He was first sent to Evin prison, where he was held for some four months in solitary confinement, like the others.

After an unfair trial in 2010, he and the four male members of the seven were sent to Gohardasht prison.

In 2014, in a poignant letter sent from prison to his granddaughter, Mr. Tavakkoli said he was proud to be imprisoned for his beliefs.

“I don’t want you to ever bear any ill will toward your countrymen,” he wrote. “I assure you that we even love those who have persecuted us; not only do we not feel hatred toward them, but we pray for them.”

His son, Naeim, said he father was an ordinary person who was called upon to do extraordinary things.

“My father is not an unusually brave man, or gifted with exceptional talents, nor does he possess the ability to learn faster than others.  But when it comes to serving the Faith, he fears nothing – absolutely nothing,” he wrote in 2009.

Born 1 June 1951 in Mashhad, Mr. Tavakkoli studied psychology in university and then completed two years of service in the army, where he was a lieutenant. He later received additional training and then specialized in the care of the physically and mentally handicapped, working in a government position until his firing in early 1980s.

Mr. Tavakkoli married Ms. Tahereh Fakhri Tuski at the age of 23. They have two sons, Naeim and Nabil.

Mr. Tavakkoli was elected to the local Baha’i governing council in Mashhad in the late 1960s or early 1970s while a student at the university there, and he later served on another local Baha’i council in Sari before such institutions were banned in the early 1980s. He also served on various youth committees, and, later, during the 1980s he was appointed to the Auxiliary Board, an appointed position which serves principally to inspire, encourage, and promote learning among Baha’is.

To support himself and his family after he was fired from his government position, Mr. Tavakkoli established a small millwork carpentry shop in the city of Gonbad. There he also established a series of classes in Baha’i studies for adults and young people.

He has been periodically detained by the authorities. Among the worst of these incidents was in 2005 when he was held incommunicado for 10 days by intelligence agents, along with colleague Fariba Kamalabadi. He was then held for four months and during that confinement developed serious kidney and orthotic problems.

Mr. Tavakkoli was one of seven who formed the entire membership of the now-disbanded ad hoc group known as the “Yaran” or “Friends,” tending to the spiritual and social needs of the Iranian Baha’i community in the absence of formally elected Baha’i leadership, which was banned in 1983.

The names of the others are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm. Ms. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008.

In 2010, the seven were tried and wrongfully convicted on charges of “espionage” and “spreading propaganda against the regime,” among other false accusations. They were sentenced to 20 years in prison, the longest terms of any current prisoners of conscience in Iran.

The campaign to remember them will run until 21 May 2015. Events are being planned around the world by Baha’i communities and others to call attention to the plight of the seven, along with the wrongful imprisonment of 110 other Baha’is in Iran – as well as other prisoners of conscience there.

Each day, a different member of the seven will be commemorated. Tomorrow, 20 May, the campaign will focus on the situation of Vahid Tizfahm.

Facebook event pages in English (https://www.facebook.com/events/1638889016341780/) and in Perisan have been set up as rallying points and a hashtag has been designated: #7Bahais7years. For more information, go to: www.bic.org/7Bahais7years.

(NOTE: I did not write this post. I copied it directly from the Baha’i International Community – United Nations Office website: https://www.bic.org/news/Honoring-Behrouz-Tavakkoli-Day-Six-7Bahais7years-Campaign.  Please pass this information onto your network so these types of injustice can be stopped.)

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Honoring Saeid Rezaie: Day Five of the #7Bahais7years Campaign

Topic: Situation of Iranian Baha’is

NEW YORK—18 May 2015

Today is the day the world will honor Saeid Rezaie, who has been wrongfully imprisoned since 2008 solely for his religious beliefs, as part of the global “Seven Days in Remembrance of Seven Years in Prison for the Seven Baha’i Leaders” campaign.

Mr. Rezaie, 57, is an agricultural engineer who has run a successful farming equipment business in Fars Province for more than 20 years. He is also known for his extensive scholarship on Baha’i topics, and is the author of several books.

Like six of his colleagues, he was arrested at home in Tehran in the early morning of 14 May 2008. He was first sent to Evin prison, where he was held for some four months in solitary confinement, like the others.

After an unfair trial in 2010, he and the four male members of the seven were sent to Gohardasht prison.

Mr. Rezaie’s family has also been touched by persecution. His two daughters, Martha and Maaman, were arrested in May 2006 along with 52 other youth for conducting a Baha’i-inspired literacy program in Shiraz to help under privileged children. Part of their punishment was to attend a three-year Islamic education class.

Mr. Rezaie was born in Abadan on 27 September 1957. He spent his childhood in Shiraz, where he completed high school with distinction. He then obtained a degree in agricultural engineering from Pahlavi University in Shiraz, attending with the help of a scholarship funded from outside the country.

In 1981, he married Ms. Shaheen Rowhanian. They have three children, daughters Martha and Maaman, and a son, Payvand, who was about 12 years old at the time of his arrest.

Mr. Rezaie has actively served the Baha’i community since he was a young man. He taught Baha’i children’s classes for many years, and served the Baha’i Education and Baha’i Life Institutes. He was also a member of the National Education Institute.

A scholar and an author, he has served as an academic adviser to Baha’i students.

During the early 1980s, when persecution of Baha’is was particularly intense and widespread, Mr. Rezaie moved to northern Iran and worked as a farming manager for a time. Later he moved to Kerman and worked as a carpenter and at other odd jobs in part because of the difficulties Baha’is faced finding formal employment or operating businesses.

In 1985, he opened an agricultural equipment company with a Baha’i friend in Fars Province. That company prospered and won wide respect among farmers in the region.

He has experienced various forms of persecution for his Baha’i belief, including an arrest and detention in 2006 that led to 40 days in solitary confinement.

Mr. Rezaie was one of seven who formed the entire membership of the now-disbanded ad hoc group known as the “Yaran” or “Friends,” tending to the spiritual and social needs of the Iranian Baha’i community in the absence of formally elected Baha’i leadership, which was banned in 1983.

The names of the others names are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm. Ms. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008; the others were arrested on 14 May 2008.

In 2010, the seven were tried and wrongfully convicted on charges of “espionage” and “spreading propaganda against the regime,” among other false accusations. They were sentenced to 20 years in prison, the longest terms of any current prisoners of conscience in Iran.

The campaign to remember them will run until 21 May 2015. Events are being planned around the world by Baha’i communities and others to call attention to the plight of the seven, along with the wrongful imprisonment of 110 other Baha’is in Iran – as well as other prisoners of conscience there.

Each day, a different member will be commemorated. Tomorrow, 19 May, the campaign will focus on Behrouz Tavakkoli.

“Our hope is that people around the world will organize spirited actions, reach out to governments and society at large, and involve friends and family in an effort to draw attention to the situation of each member of the seven on the day designated to him or her,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

Facebook event pages in English (https://www.facebook.com/events/1638889016341780/) and in Perisan have been set up as rallying points and a hashtag has been designated: #7Bahais7years. For more information, go to: www.bic.org/7Bahais7years.

(NOTE: I did not write this post. I copied it directly from the Baha’i International Community – United Nations Office website: https://www.bic.org/news/Honoring-Saeid-Rezaie-Day-Five-7Bahais7years-Campaign. Please pass this information onto your network so these types of injustice can be stopped.)

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Honoring Afif Naeimi: Day Four of the #7Bahais7years Campaign

Topic:    Situation of Iranian Baha’is

NEW YORK—17 May 2015—

AFIF NAEIMI

Today is the day the world will honor Afif Naeimi, who has been wrongfully imprisoned since 2008 solely for his religious beliefs, as part of the global “Seven Days in Remembrance of Seven Years in Prison for the Seven Baha’i Leaders” campaign.

Afif Naeimi, 53, is an industrialist who was unable to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor because as a Baha’i he was denied access to a university education. Instead, he diverted his attention to business, one of the few avenues of work open to Baha’is, taking over his father-in-law’s blanket and textile factory.

Arrested on 14 May 2008 in an early morning raid on his home in Tehran, Mr. Naeimi was sent first to Evin prison and then, after the 2010 trial of the seven, to Gohardasht prison.

Mr. Naeimi was born on 6 September 1961 in Yazd. His father died when he was three and he was raised in part by his uncles. While still in elementary school, he was sent to live with relatives in Jordan and, although he started with no knowledge of Arabic, he soon rose to the top of his class.

He has long been active in volunteer Baha’i service. He has taught Baha’i children’s classes, conducted classes for adults, taught at the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education, and been a member of the Auxiliary Board, an appointed position which serves principally to inspire, encourage, and promote learning among Baha’is.

He married Ms. Shohreh Khallokhi in the early 1980s. They have two sons.

Mr. Naeimi was one of seven who formed the entire membership of the now-disbanded ad hoc group known as the “Yaran” or “Friends,” tending to the spiritual and social needs of the Iranian Baha’i community in the absence of formally elected Baha’i leadership, which was banned in 1983.

The names of the others are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm. Ms. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008; the others were arrested on 14 May 2008.

In 2010, the seven were tried and wrongfully convicted on charges of “espionage” and “spreading propaganda against the regime,” among other false accusations. They were sentenced to 20 years in prison, the longest terms of any current prisoners of conscience in Iran.

The campaign to remember them will run until 21 May 2015. Events are being planned around the world by Baha’i communities and others to call attention to the plight of the seven, along with the wrongful imprisonment of 110 other Baha’is in Iran – as well as other prisoners of conscience there.

Each day, a different member of the seven will be commemorated. Tomorrow, 17 May, the campaign will focus on the situation of Saeid Rezaie.

“Our hope is that people around the world will organize spirited actions, reach out to governments and society at large, and involve friends and family in an effort to draw attention to the situation of each member of the seven on the day designated to him or her,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

Facebook event pages in English (https://www.facebook.com/events/1638889016341780/) and in Perisan have been set up as rallying points and a hashtag has been designated: #7Bahais7years. For more information, go to: www.bic.org/7Bahais7years.

(NOTE: I did not write this post. I copied it directly from the Baha’i International Community – United Nations Office website: https://www.bic.org/news/Honoring-Afif-Naeimi-Day-Four-7Bahais7years-Campaign. Please pass this information onto your network so these types of injustice can be stopped.)

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Honoring Jamaloddin Khanjani: Day Three of the #7Bahais7years Campaign

Topic:  Situation of Iranian Baha’is

NEW YORK—16 May 2015—

Jamaloddin

Today is the day the world will honor Jamaloddin Khanjani, who has been wrongfully imprisoned since 2008 solely for his religious beliefs, as part of the global “Seven Days in Remembrance of Seven Years in Prison for the Seven Baha’i Leaders” campaign.

Mr. Khanjani, 81, is a once-successful factory owner who lost his business after the 1979 Islamic revolution because of his belief in the Baha’i Faith – and who then spent most of the 1980s on the run under the threat of death from Iranian authorities.

Born 27 July 1933 in the city of Sangsar, Mr. Khanjani grew up on a dairy farm in Semnan province and never obtained more than a high school education. Yet his dynamic personality soon led to a successful career in industrial production – and as a Baha’i leader.

Before his current incarceration, Mr. Khanjani was arrested and jailed by the Iranian government at least three times. He was arrested again at his home in Tehran on 14 May 2008 in early morning raids that seized five of his colleagues; another had been arrested in March 2009.

First sent to Evin prison, after a wholly unfair trial in 2010, he and the other four male leaders were sent to Gohardasht Prison, which is renowned for its brutal conditions.

In March 2011, Mrs. Ashraf Khanjani passed away – and yet Mr. Khanjani was denied leave to attend her last days or her funeral. The couple had been married for more than 50 years. Together, they had four children.

Other members of Mr. Khanjani’s family have also suffered severe persecution purely because of their religious beliefs. His son, nephew, granddaughter, grandson, and grandnephew have all spent time in prison; the last two are still incarcerated. Many of the family shops and properties also, have been sealed, shut down or subjected to various attacks.

In August 2014, for example, Mr. Khanjani’s son, Aladdin, was arrested along with four other Baha’s in a raid on an optical shop in Semnan where he worked. It was the second time, at least, that Aladdin, known as Niki, was arrested. In 2011, the apartment of Mr. Khanjani’s brother, Nejat, was attacked by twice in one month by unknown individuals who threw firebombs at the windows.

“We believe the entire series of arrests, imprisonments and attacks on Mr. Khanjani’s family is part of a concerted effort to put pressure on him to ‘confess’ to supposed and, of course, non-existent ‘crimes,’” said Ms. Ala’i.

In his professional career, Mr. Khanjani has worked as an employee of the Pepsi Cola Company in Iran, where he was a purchasing supervisor. He left Pepsi Cola and started a charcoal production business. Later he established the first automated brick factory in Iran, ultimately employing several hundred people.

In the early 1980s, he was forced to shut down that factory and abandon it, putting most of his employees out of work, because of the persecution he faced as a Baha’i. The factory was later confiscated by the government.

In his career of voluntary service to his religious community, Mr. Khanjani was at various points a member of the local Spiritual Assembly of Isfahan and a regional level Auxiliary Board member, an appointed position which serves principally to inspire, encourage, and promote learning among Baha’is. In the early 1980s, he was elected to the national governing council of the Baha’is of Iran – a group known as the “National Spiritual Assembly.”

In 1980, several years prior to his election, all nine members of the Assembly were abducted and never heard from again. Their successors were arrested and executed in 1981. Mr. Khanjani was thus a member of the so-called “third” National Spiritual Assembly, which was banned in 1983 and saw four of its nine members executed by the government in 1984.

In the 1990s, Mr. Khanjani was able to establish a mechanized farm on properties owned by his family. Nevertheless, authorities placed many restrictions on him, making it difficult to do business. These restrictions extended to his children and relatives, and included refusing loans, closing their places of business, limiting their business dealings, and banning travel outside the country.

Mr. Khanjani and his six colleagues formed the entire membership of the now-disbanded ad hoc group known as the “Yaran” or “Friends,” tending to the spiritual and social needs of the Iranian Baha’i community in the absence of formally elected Baha’i leadership.

The names of the others are Fariba Kamalabadi, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm. Ms. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008; the others were arrested on 14 May 2008.

In 2010, the seven were tried and wrongfully convicted on charges of “espionage” and “spreading propaganda against the regime,” among other false accusations. They were sentenced to 20 years in prison, the longest terms of any current prisoners of conscience in Iran.

The campaign to remember them will run until 21 May 2015. Events are being planned around the world by Baha’i communities and others to call attention to the plight of the seven, along with the wrongful imprisonment of 110 other Baha’is in Iran – as well as other prisoners of conscience there.

Each day, a different member will be commemorated. Tomorrow, 17 May, the campaign will focus on the situation of Afif Naeimi.

“Our hope is that people around the world will organize spirited actions, reach out to governments and society at large, and involve friends and family in an effort to draw attention to the situation of each member of the seven on the day designated to him or her,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

Facebook event pages in English (https://www.facebook.com/events/1638889016341780/) and in Perisan have been set up as rallying points and a hashtag has been designated: #7Bahais7years. For more information, go to: www.bic.org/7Bahais7years.

(NOTE: I did not write this post. I copied it directly from the Baha’i International Community – United Nations Office website: https://www.bic.org/news/Honoring-Jamaloddin-Khanjani-Day-Three-7Bahais7years-Campaign. Please pass this information onto your network so these types of injustice can be stopped.)

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Honoring Fariba Kamalabadi: Day Two of the #7Bahais7years Campaign

Topic:  Situation of Iranian Baha’is

NEW YORK—15 May 2015

Today is the day the world will honor Fariba Kamalabadi, who has been wrongfully imprisoned since 2008 solely for her religion, as part of the global “Seven Days in Remembrance of Seven Years in Prison for the Seven Baha’i Leaders” campaign.

Ms. Kamalabadi, 52, was arrested on 14 May 2008 in an early morning raid on her home. Five other Baha’i leaders were arrested in home raids that day.

She is a developmental psychologist and mother of three who was denied the chance to study at university as a youth because of her Baha’i belief. Before her current incarceration, she had been arrested twice before, and was held for periods of one and two months respectively, all due to her volunteer work for the Baha’i community.

Since her arrest, and throughout her imprisonment, Ms. Kamalabadi has been held mainly in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison.

Numerous accounts from prison tell of Ms. Kamalabadi’s calm tranquility and selfless devotion to helping others, even in prison.

In early 2009, for example, Iranian American journalist Roxana Saberi was her cellmate for about three weeks. In her book, “Between Two Worlds,” Saberi tells of meeting Ms. Kamalabadi and her prison companion, Mahvash Sabet, and being impressed by their spiritual strength.

She described, for example, how the pair seemed surprisingly tranquil as they prepared a simple salad of carrots and cucumbers after she was placed in their cell.

Fariba explained that they remained calm by making the best of their circumstances. “We choose what we do and say here, and these choices are very important,” Fariba told her.

Later, Ms. Saberi asked whether Ms. Kamalabadi hated her captors after learning that her father had been tortured in prison years earlier and had died shortly after his release.

“We forgive them,” said Ms. Kamalabadi. “We don’t want to become like them. We hope God will show them a better way.”

Nevertheless, there is little doubt that prison has been difficult for Ms. Kamalabadi. Her brother, Iraj Kamalabadi, has said that family members who have visited her in prison say she was gaunt and her skin was in “terrible condition” from the poor food and lack of sunlight.

In late 2014, Ms. Kamalabadi asked for a short home leave from prison to attend the wedding of her daughter. although prison and judicial authorities agreed to grant that leave, state security officials refused it. These officials also denied a request that she be allowed to meet with her daughter or hold the wedding in prison.

“We have reports from prison that tell how Fariba and Mahvash were at one point placed in a prison ward with drug addicts and violent criminals,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“Yet rather than cower in fear, the pair became a source of comfort and hope to the other inmates, winning their respect. This is a stirring testimony to their strength in overcoming adversity.”

Ms. Kamalabadi was born in Tehran on 12 September 1962. An excellent student, she graduated from high school with honors but was nevertheless barred from attending university. Instead, in her mid-30s, she embarked on an eight-year period of informal study and ultimately received an advanced degree in developmental psychology from the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE), an alternative institution established by the Baha’i community of Iran to provide higher education for its young people.

Ms. Kamalabadi married fellow Baha’i Ruhollah Taefi in 1982. They have three children, the youngest of whom was only 13 when she was arrested in 2008.

Mrs. Kamalabadi’s experience with persecution extends beyond her personal situation to her family as well. Her father was fired from his job as physician in the government health service in the 1980s because he was a Baha’i, and he was later imprisoned and tortured.

Ms. Kamalabadi was one of seven who formed the entire membership of the now-disbanded ad hoc group known as the “Yaran” or “Friends,” tending to the spiritual and social needs of the Iranian Baha’i community in the absence of formally elected Baha’i leadership, which was banned in 1983.

The names of the others are Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet,Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm. Ms. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 2008; the others were arrested on 14 May 2008.

In 2010, the seven were tried and wrongfully convicted on charges of “espionage” and “spreading propaganda against the regime,” among other false accusations. They were sentenced to 20 years in prison, the longest terms of any current prisoners of conscience in Iran.

The campaign to remember them will run until 21 May 2015. Events are being planned around the world by Baha’i communities and others to call attention to the plight of the seven, along with the wrongful imprisonment of some 90 other Baha’is in Iran – as well as other prisoners of conscience there.

Each day over the next six days, a different member will be commemorated. Tomorrow, 16 May, the campaign will focus on the situation of Jamaloddin Khanjani.

“Our hope is that people around the world will organize spirited actions, reach out to governments and society at large, and involve friends and family in an effort to draw attention to the situation of each member of the seven on the day designated to him or her,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

Facebook event pages in https://www.facebook.com/events/1638889016341780/permalink/1641771712720177/  and Persian have been set up as rallying points and a hashtag has been designated: #7Bahais7years. There is more background atwww.bic.org/7Bahais7years

A campaign website with background information about the seven Baha’i leaders and other prisoners of conscience in Iran has also been created at: www.bic.org/7Bahais7years

(NOTE: I did not write this post. I copied it directly from the Baha’i International Community – United Nations Office website: https://www.bic.org/news/Honoring-Fariba-Kamalabadi-Day-Two-7Bahais7years-Campaign. Please pass this information onto your network so these types of injustice can be stopped.)

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Honoring Mahvash Sabet: Day One of the #7Bahais7years campaign

From the: Baha’i International Community –

United Nations Office

Posted: NEW YORK—14 May 2015

Today is the day the world will honor Mahvash Sabet, who has been wrongfully imprisoned soley for her religious beliefs since 2008, as part of the global “Seven Days in Remembrance of Seven Years in Prison for the Seven Baha’i Leaders” campaign.

Ms. Sabet, 62, was the first of the seven leaders to be arrested that year. She was apprehended while visiting Mashhad on 5 March 2008. Although she resides in Tehran, she had been summoned to Mashhad by the Ministry of Intelligence, ostensibly on the grounds that she was required to answer questions related to the burial of an individual in the Baha’i cemetery in that city.

A teacher and school principal who was dismissed from public education for being a Baha’i, Ms. Sabet had been director of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, prior to her arrest.

Since her arrest, and throughout her imprisonment, Ms. Sabet has been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. In an interview, Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who was herself imprisoned for three weeks in the same cell as Ms. Sabet, described the conditions they faced in early 2009 – and the response of Ms. Sabet and her cell mate, Fariba Kamalabadi, another of the seven Baha’i leaders.

“Fariba and Mahvash were two of the women prisoners I met in Evin who inspired me the most,” said Ms. Saberi. “They showed me what it means to be selfless, to care more about one’s community and beliefs than about oneself.”

At that time, Ms. Saberi said the two Bahá’í women were confined in a small cell about four meters by five meters in size, with two little, metal-covered windows.

“They have no bed. They must sleep on blankets,” said Ms. Saberi. “They have no pillows, either. They roll up a blanket to use as a pillow. They use their chadors as a bed sheet.

“The floor is cement and covered with only a thin, brown carpet, and prisoners often get backaches and bruises from sleeping on it.”

Despite such conditions, Ms. Sabet has been able to summon the strength to write poems about her experiences in prison – poems that were composed on scraps of paper and sent out via friends and family. In 2013, they were published as a book, “Prison Poems.”

In one poem, she wrote, “My heart aches for you do not seem to know / The worth of that subtle inner star. / If only you could see the lovely one / Who lies prostrate in who you think you are.”

PEN International, the global writer’s group, has championed her cause, identifying Ms. Sabet as one of hundreds of imprisoned writers around the world.

“One of the remarkable things about Mahvash is the degree to which she has put her time in prison to good use, by writing poems and also serving other prisoners by counselling them and helping them to be strong in the face of adversity,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

Born Mahvash Shahriyari on 4 February 1953 in Ardestan, Ms. Sabet moved to Tehran when she was in the fifth grade. In university, she studied psychology, obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

She began her professional career as a teacher and also worked as a principal at several schools. In her professional role, she also collaborated with the National Literacy Committee of Iran. After the Islamic revolution, however, like thousands of other Iranian Baha’i educators, she was fired from her job and blocked from working in public education.

It was after this that she became director of the BIHE, where she also has taught psychology and management.

She married Siyvash Sabet on 21 May 1973. They have a son and a daughter.

Ms. Sabet was one of seven who formed the entire membership of the now-disbanded ad hoc group known as the “Yaran” or “Friends,” tending to the spiritual and social needs of the Iranian Baha’i community in the absence of formally elected Baha’i leadership, which was banned in 1983.

The names of the others are Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm. The other six were arrested on 14 May 2008, which is why the campaign to commemorate all of them begins today.

In 2010, the seven were tried and wrongfully convicted on charges of “espionage” and “spreading propaganda against the regime,” among other false accusations. They were sentenced to 20 years in prison, the longest terms of any current prisoners of conscience in Iran.

The campaign to remember them will run until 21 May 2015. Events are being planned around the world by Baha’i communities and others to call attention to the plight of the seven, along with the wrongful imprisonment of some 90 other Baha’is in Iran – as well as other prisoners of conscience there.
Each day in the next seven days, a different leader will be commemorated. Tomorrow, 15 May, the campaign will focus on the situation of Fariba Kalamabadi.

“Our hope is that people around the world will organize spirited actions, reach out to governments and society at large, and involve friends and family in an effort to draw attention to the situation of each member of the seven on the day designated for him or her,” said Ms. Dugal.

The campaign will make extensive use of social media to disseminate information about events as they happen, and to publicize the situation of the seven generally. To that end, a special hashtag has been designated for the campaign: #7Bahais7years

Facebook event pages in English (https://www.facebook.com/events/1638889016341780/permalink/1641771712720177/) and Persian have been set up as rallying points for the campaign.

A campaign website with background information about the seven Baha’i leaders and other prisoners of conscience in Iran has also been created at: www.bic.org/7Bahais7years

(NOTE: I did not write this post. I copied it directly from the Baha’i International Community – United Nations Office website: https://www.bic.org/news/Honoring-Mahvash-Sabet-Day-One-7Bahais7years-campaign. Please pass this information onto your network so these types of injustice can be stopped.)

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