The Iranian government confirmed the arrest and detention of six leaders of Iran’s Baha’i community. Officers from Iran’s Intelligence Ministry arrested the five men and one woman in the early hours of May 14th. They were taken to Evin prison. A seventh member of the national leadership was arrested in March and has been imprisoned in Evin for over two months.
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said in a written statement, "We strongly condemn the May 14 arrest of six leaders of the Iranian Baha’i community – Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi, Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, Mr. Afif Naeimi, Mr. Saeid Rezaie, Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm – by Iranian authorities and the continuing imprisonment of a seventh leader, Mrs. Mahvash Sabet. The arrest is inconsistent with Iran’s obligations to the International Covenant for Civil and Political Rights to uphold religious freedom for all citizens."
Bani Dugal is the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations. She said the only so-called crime committed by the seven Iranian Baha’is is the practice of their faith. "Especially disturbing," she said, "is how this latest sweep recalls the wholesale arrest or abduction of the members of two national Iranian Baha’i governing councils in the early 1980s – which led to the disappearance or execution of seventeen individuals."
In its latest report on international religious freedom, the U.S. State Department noted the persecution currently faced by Baha’is in Iran. Regarded as heretics by the government, they are not only prohibited from teaching and practicing their faith, they are effectively barred from university study and government employment. They are subjected to arbitrary arrest, imprisonment and confiscation of property. John Hanford, U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom spoke of their plight:
"In Iran, the regime is unrelenting in its repression of Baha’is and has created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shi’a religious groups, including Sufi Muslims, some Christian groups, and members of the Jewish community."
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called on the Iranian regime to release the Baha’is currently in detention and cease its ongoing harassment of the Iranian Baha’i community.