Honoring Behrouz Tavakkoli: Day Six of the #7Bahais7years Campaign

Topic:   Situation of Iranian Baha’is

NEW YORK—19 May 2015

Today is the day the world will honor Behrouz Tavakkoli, 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. Tavakkoli, 63, is a former social worker who lost his government job in the early 1980s because of his Baha’i belief. Prior to his current imprisonment, he has also experienced intermittent detainment and harassment and, in 2005, he was jailed for four months without charge, spending most of the time in solitary confinement.

Like five of his six 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.

In 2014, in a poignant letter sent from prison to his granddaughter, Mr. Tavakkoli said he was proud to be imprisoned for his beliefs.

“I don’t want you to ever bear any ill will toward your countrymen,” he wrote. “I assure you that we even love those who have persecuted us; not only do we not feel hatred toward them, but we pray for them.”

His son, Naeim, said he father was an ordinary person who was called upon to do extraordinary things.

“My father is not an unusually brave man, or gifted with exceptional talents, nor does he possess the ability to learn faster than others.  But when it comes to serving the Faith, he fears nothing – absolutely nothing,” he wrote in 2009.

Born 1 June 1951 in Mashhad, Mr. Tavakkoli studied psychology in university and then completed two years of service in the army, where he was a lieutenant. He later received additional training and then specialized in the care of the physically and mentally handicapped, working in a government position until his firing in early 1980s.

Mr. Tavakkoli married Ms. Tahereh Fakhri Tuski at the age of 23. They have two sons, Naeim and Nabil.

Mr. Tavakkoli was elected to the local Baha’i governing council in Mashhad in the late 1960s or early 1970s while a student at the university there, and he later served on another local Baha’i council in Sari before such institutions were banned in the early 1980s. He also served on various youth committees, and, later, during the 1980s he was appointed to the Auxiliary Board, an appointed position which serves principally to inspire, encourage, and promote learning among Baha’is.

To support himself and his family after he was fired from his government position, Mr. Tavakkoli established a small millwork carpentry shop in the city of Gonbad. There he also established a series of classes in Baha’i studies for adults and young people.

He has been periodically detained by the authorities. Among the worst of these incidents was in 2005 when he was held incommunicado for 10 days by intelligence agents, along with colleague Fariba Kamalabadi. He was then held for four months and during that confinement developed serious kidney and orthotic problems.

Mr. Tavakkoli 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 Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm. Ms. Sabet was arrested on 5 March 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 of the seven will be commemorated. Tomorrow, 20 May, the campaign will focus on the situation of Vahid Tizfahm.

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-Behrouz-Tavakkoli-Day-Six-7Bahais7years-Campaign.  Please pass this information onto your network so these types of injustice can be stopped.)

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