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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