Iranian Court Sentences Two Baha'i Women To New 10-Year Prison Terms


Two well-known leaders of the Baha'i community in Iran who had already served decade-long prison terms have been handed new 10-year sentences, the Baha'i International Community (BIC) said.

The BIC said in a statement released in Geneva on December 11 that the women, Mahvash Sabet Shahriari and Fariba Kamalabadi, received the additional sentences in "an unbelievable injustice" following an hour-long trial held on November 21.

Sabet Shahriari, 69, and Kamalabadi, 60, were arrested in July at the beginning of a new wave of repression against Iran's Baha'i community.

Sabet Shahriari and Kamalabadi are well-known leaders of the Baha'i community. They were released in recent years from prison after serving 10 years on charges of acting against Iran's national security, collaboration with foreign countries, and "corruption on Earth," among other things.

In July 2022, Iranian security agents raided the homes of dozens of Baha'i citizens in different parts of the country, arresting several well-known community leaders, charging many with "spying for Israel."

Sabet Shahriari and Kamalabadi were among those detained in the new wave of crackdowns.

In imposing the new sentences, Iman Afshari -- judge of the Revolutionary Court -- assailed the two women for "not having learned from their previous imprisonment."

Iran accuses Baha’is of having links to Israel, where the city of Haifa hosts a center of the Baha’i faith. Baha’i leaders reject the allegations and say they are used as a pretext to persecute members.

Baha'is -- who number some 300,000 in Iran and have an estimated 5 million followers worldwide -- say they face systematic persecution in Iran, where their faith is not officially recognized in the constitution.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has on several occasions called the Baha'i faith a cult and in a religious fatwa issued in 2018 forbade contact, including business dealings, with followers of the faith.

Since the Islamic republic of Iran was established in 1979, hundreds of Baha'is have been arrested and jailed for their beliefs. At least 200 have been executed or were arrested and never heard from again.

Thousands more have been banned from receiving higher education or had their property confiscated, while vandals often desecrate Baha'i cemeteries.

Human rights defenders and international organizations have called the Islamic Republic's treatment a "systematic violation of human rights," citing widespread detention and harsh sentences against Baha'i citizens.

With reporting by AFP