Their only crime is being Baha’is in a country whose government has devoted itself to the persecution of Baha’is inside and outside its borders.
Six were arrested in Shiraz and five in Tehran. Those arrested were prominent members of their communities and active in Ruhi courses and other Baha’i activities (I’ve been informed that Ruhi, since it is new, so systematic and regimented, makes the Mullah’s very nervous). They were all simultaneously arrested at their respective homes in the early hours (6 am) of May 25th 2005. As far as I can tell they were made targets because of their leadership role in the community.
These Baha’is were not young adults or youth but were middle aged and mature members of their respective communities. Among them were both men and women (as well, atleast one of them had already lost a spouse to martyrdom in the past). The group from Shiraz has been moved to Tehran (probably Evin prison) where they are being interrogated. There has also been news of sporadic acts of vandalism and arson targeting the homes of Baha’is in Shiraz and surrounding areas.
The fact that they were all arrested at the same time, in different parts of the country (Tehran in the north and Shiraz in the south) and at their homes means that this was a very centralized and coordinated operation. The Office of Information was the official Iranian government branch which made the arrests. The Office of Information, in case you are not familiar, is an Orwellian titled branch of the IRI which spies on Iranians inside Iran. There is no doubt that Baha’is are under similar observation in other cities.
This event, coupled with the previous arrests and expulsions, points to an escalation in what was an otherwise quiet lull in the IRI treatment of Baha’is. I have strong doubts that these eleven Baha’is will be put to death (either immediately or at a later time). I think the IRI is sensing a new development rising from within the Baha’i community and it is making them nervous. This may just be their way of “putting Baha’is in their place”. And then again, maybe I hold this belief because I hope that they will not be harmed.
There has been no official response from the Baha’i community that I know of. The only reaction that I’ve been informed about has been a restriction of travel to Iran. All Baha’is wishing to travel to Iran must now write to their National Assemblies and request permission. Only those with urgent and special circumstances will be allowed to go. Failure to abide by this may result in removal of administrative rights.
I would like to ask for prayers on behalf of the eleven Baha’is and their families.