Religious issues and persecution – Monthly Digest April



‘Former prisoner charged again with ‘propaganda against the state’ 

Article 18 – (24.04.2024) – A house-church member who served four months in prison in 2019 for “propaganda against the state” has been charged again with the same “offence”.


Shahab Shahi was re-arrested in December 2023 alongside fellow members Alireza Nourmohammadi and Milad Goodarzi – who have also previously served time in prison due to their faith – and Alireza’s brother Amir.


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Christian prisoner of conscience denied medical care

Article 18 (23.04.2024) – Sixty-year-old Christian prisoner of conscience Mina Khajavi is reported to be struggling with pain and unable to access the medical care she requires inside Tehran’s Evin Prison.


The Christian convert, who has arthritis and walks with a limp, is serving a six-year sentence for leading a house-church.


She began her sentence in January, having been deemed to have sufficiently recovered after being run over by a car shortly before she was originally due to begin her sentence in the summer of 2022.


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Prisoners of conscience sponsored by German politicians

Article 18 (18.04.2024) – Three prisoners of conscience convicted on charges related to Christianity have been sponsored by German politicians.


Mina Khajavi, Mehdi (Yasser) Akbari and Abdolreza (Matthias) Ali-Haghnejad, who are serving a combined 22 years in prison as a result of their involvement in house-churches*, have been sponsored by representatives of the Greens and SPD parties, respectively.


The politicians explained the reasoning behind their sponsorships on social media.

Firstly, on 30 March, Greens representative Gudrun Schittek took to Instagram and X to “demand Mina’s immediate release” and “the release of all prisoners in Iran who are imprisoned because of their religion, such as Christians, Baha’i or members of other religions”.


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Iranian Court summons 15 Baha’i women over ‘propaganda’, other charges

Iran Press Watch (22.04.2024) – Fifteen Baha’i women living in Iran’s central Isfahan have received summonses to appear before the city’s Revolutionary Court on May 1.

The women will face charges of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic” and “participating in deviant preaching and educational activities contrary to Islamic law.”


They have been identified as Mojgan Pourshafi, Nasreen Khademi, Azita Rezvanikhah, Shole Ashuri, Mojdeh Bahamin, Bushra Motahar, Sara Shakib, Samira Shakib, Roya Azadkhosh, Noushin Hemmat, Shorangzis Bahamin, Sanaz Rasteh, Maryam Khorsandi, Firouzeh Rastinejad, and Farkhundeh Rezvan.


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Baha’i educator Keyvan Rahimian’s nine-year sentence sustained on appeal

Iran Press Watch (18.04.2024) – The Appellate Court of Tehran Province has maintained a nine-year sentence and additional penalties for Baha’i educator Keyvan Rahimian.


In a verdict issued by Branch 36 of the Appellate Court of Tehran Province, presided over by Judge Abbasali Hoozan, Rahimian was sentenced to five years for “educational activities and propagating against the Islamic Sharia” and four years for “assembly and collusion against national security.” Alongside the prison term, Rahimian has been stripped of social rights and fined.


Per Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, five years of the prison term will be enforced


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Baha’i citizen Nasim Sabeti summoned to begin serving prison sentence

Iran Press Watch (14.04.2024) – According to a summons issued by Branch 21 of the Mashhad Revolutionary Court on the 4th of April, Ms. Sabeti has been requested to appear within ten days for the implementation of her prison sentence. Previously, Nasim Sabeti was sentenced to three years and eight months of imprisonment by Branch 1 of the Mashhad Revolutionary Court, and this verdict was confirmed by Branch 35 of the Khorasan Razavi Provincial Court of Appeals.

Under Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code, the severe punishment of three years’ imprisonment will be enforced for this Baha’i citizen.

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Several more Baha’is jailed in Iran as crackdown continues

Iran Press Watch (14.04.2024) – Iran’s judiciary has handed down lengthy sentences to several members of the Baha’i community, the country’s largest non-Muslim group, the latest in a series of acts by the government against the faith’s followers.


Keyvan Rahimian, a psychologist and Baha’i follower, was sentenced to a total of nine years in prison by Branch 15 of the Islamic Revolutionary Court, according to an Instagram page associated with Rahimian.


It added that the sentence was split between five years for alleged “educational and/or promotional activities contrary to or undermining the sacred Shari’a of Islam,” and an additional four years for “assembly and collusion.”


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Keyvan Rahimian, a Baha’i prisoner in Iran, expresses: ‘Our greatest hardship stems from being deprived of the opportunity to contribute to the development and advancement of our beloved country’


Iran Press Watch (05.04.2024) – Keyvan Rahimian, a Baha’i citizen imprisoned in Iran, penned a letter addressed to his late wife from Evin prison, detailing the plight faced by his family and many other Baha’i families in Iran following the revolution.

Keyvan Rahimian was arrested in July 2023 and was once again sentenced to heavy imprisonment.


His wife, Fereshteh Sobhani, passed away from cancer 12 years ago when Mr. Rahimian was released from prison on bail. Keyvan Rahimian was then sent back to prison in 2012 to serve a five-year sentence, during which he mourned his wife.


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Update on Baha’i Ardeshir Fanaeian in Semnan Prison


Iran Press watch (05.04.2024) – According to a source close to Fanaeian’s family, since his incarceration, prison officials have held him separated from other inmates resembling solitary confinement.


Fanaeian was arrested by the Ministry of Intelligence on April 30, 2019, and released on bail after 75 days.


Subsequently, the Revolutionary Court of Semnan, presided over by Judge Mohammad-Ali Rostami, sentenced Fanaeian to 11 years in prison, one year of exile to Khash County, and one year banned from Semnan for “assisting in forming and running an illegal group to act against national security in favor of anti-regime groups.” This verdict was later reduced to six years on appeal.


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Iran’s persecution of Baha’is branded ‘crime against humanity’


Iran Press Watch (03.04.2024) – Human Rights Watch alleged in a report released on Monday that Iran’s largest non-Muslim minority has faced a “spectrum of abuses” since the Islamic revolution of 1979. The New York-based NGO suggested that the case fits the remit of the International Criminal Court (ICC).


HRW said among the persecution endured by the Baha’is are arbitrary arrest, property confiscation, restrictions on school and job opportunities, and the right to a dignified burial.

“The cumulative impact of authorities’ decades-long systematic repression is an intentional and severe deprivation of Baha’is’ fundamental rights and amounts to the crime against humanity of persecution,” the report says.


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“The Boot on My Neck” – Iranian Authorities’ crime of persecution against Baha’is in Iran – (01.04.2024) Baha’is are the largest unrecognized religious minority in Iran. They have been the target of harsh, state-backed repression since their religion was established in the 19th century. After the 1979 revolution, Iranian authorities executed or forcibly disappeared hundreds of Baha’is, including their community leaders. Thousands more have lost their jobs and pensions or were forced to leave their homes or country.


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