May 17, 2017
Nine years ago this month, seven leaders of Iran's Baha'i community were arrested for activities related solely to the practice of their faith. Fariba Kamalabadi, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Vahid Tizfahm, and Mahvash Sabet were unjustly sentenced to 20 years in prison and remain behind bars today for exercising their freedoms of religion, association, and expression.
Their cases are further evidence of Iran's continued disregard for and violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said the United States "condemn[s] their continued imprisonment, as well as reported abuses against them while incarcerated, and call[s] upon Iran to release them immediately, along with all other prisoners of conscience in Iran."
The family of Behrouz Tavakkoli says he is in serious need of medical attention. He suffers from heart disease and requires an operation and care he cannot get in prison. Prisoners of conscience are often denied medical care in Iran, and Baha'is remain one of the most persecuted religious minorities in the country.
Not only are the Baha'is' religious activities forbidden in Iran, Baha'i businesses are subject to arbitrary closure; individuals are attacked with impunity; graveyards are destroyed; and students are refused admittance to university unless they renounce their faith.
"The government of Iran must stop denying its people their human rights and fundamental freedoms," said Ms. Nauert, "including freedom of religion or belief. We call on the Iranian government to uphold their own laws and meet their international obligations that guarantee freedoms of expression, opinion, religion or belief, association, and peaceful assembly for all in Iran."
As Vice President Mike Pence noted in a recent speech on religious freedom, “America will continue to condemn persecution of any kind, of any faith, any place, any time. We will stand against it with our ideals and with all our might.”