Topic: Situation of Iranian Baha’is
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.)