Honoring Vahid Tizfahm: Day Seven of the #7Bahais7years campaign

Topic: Situation of Iranian Baha’is

NEW YORK—20 May 2015

Today is the day the world will honor Vahid Tizfahm, 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. Tizfahm, 42, is an optometrist and owner of an optical shop in Tabriz, where he lived until early 2008, when he moved to Tehran.

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 other four male members of the seven were sent to Gohardasht prison.

Earlier this year, he sent a letter from prison that sought to answer why he has held to his beliefs in the face of persecution, especially the relentless questions of his interrogators.

“Yes, I think differently, I act differently and I see differently,” he wrote. “My world is a world of kindness and love. My approach is service to others and my mentality desires the elimination of all forms of prejudice. My aspiration is to create unity among all my compatriots from every ethnicity, group and religion.”

“My heart is free of any animosity and my hands – after many years of confinement and unending pain and suffering – continue to be willing to shake the hands of those who accompany me in the reconstruction of my home land and the revival of our beloved Iran,” he said.

Mr. Tizfahm was born 16 May 1973 in the city of Urumiyyih. He spent his childhood and youth there and, after receiving his high school diploma in mathematics, he went to Tabriz at the age of 18 to study to become an optician. He later also studied sociology at the Advanced Baha’i Studies Institute (ABSI).

At the age of 23, Mr. Tizfahm married Furuzandeh Nikumanesh. They have a son, who was in the third grade when Mr. Tizfahm was arrested in 2008.

Since his youth, Mr. Tizfahm has served the Baha’i community in a variety of capacities. At one time he was a member of the Baha’i National Youth Committee. Later, he was appointed to the Auxiliary Board, an appointed position which serves principally to inspire, encourage, and promote learning among Baha’is. He has also taught local Baha’i children’s classes.

Mr. Tizfahm 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, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Mahvash Sabet, and Behrouz Tavakkoli. 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 has been commemorated. Tomorrow, 21 May, the campaign wraps up.

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-Vahid-Tizfahm-Day-Seven-7Bahais7years-campaign.  Please pass this information onto your network so these types of injustice can be stopped.)

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