Evin Prison

A number of Iranian Baha’is in Bam, Kerman and Tehran have been arrested, Bam’s prosecutor general announced.

Mohammadreza Sanjari told ISNA that the arrests were the result of nine months of “intelligence gathering” that led to the suspects being identified and arrested.

Sanjari said they were accused of the “promotion and proliferation of their programs under the guise of cultural-educational activities in a number of preschool childcare facilities in Bam, Kerman and Tehran.”

“Our investigations have revealed the existence of a widespread network engaged in complex operations,” the Bam prosecutor general told ISNA. “These individuals get their orders from the centre and carry out various operations.”

The Society against Education Discrimination reports that three Baha’i citizens who work on cultural and educational programs for children have been arrested recently: Saman Ostovar, Sahar Biramabadi and Nahaleh Shahidi.

The Bam prosecutor alleges that these people “infiltrated” a local newspaper in Kerman Province and have been “inculcating” Baha’i views through children’s stories.

Sanjari further alleged that the Baha’i organization exploited the confusion following the 2003 earthquake in Bam, when the city was in need of cultural, social and educational programs. He called on government officials to remain vigilant in identifying such elements.

Although Baha’ism originates in Iran and currently has 300,000 followers in Iran, the Islamic Republic does not recognize Baha’ism as a legitimate religion. Baha’is face various forms of discrimination in Iran including, including being prohibited from pursuing secondary education.

Several Baha’is were also arrested in the course of protests against the disputed re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Two years ago seven Baha’i community leaders were arrested in Iran and charged with espionage. Last August, each was sentenced to 10 years in prison.