Dissident Watch: Fariba Kamalabadi

Article excerpt

Fariba Kamalabadi, 47, who had been serving in a voluntary capacity on an Iranian Baha'i body known as the Yaran (The friends) since 2006, was detained at her home on May 14, 2008, and then taken to Tehran's Evin Prison. Simultaneously, five of her colleagues on the Yaran were also arrested and taken to Evin while a sixth had previously been arrested in Mashhad on March 6, 2008. Amnesty International recognizes all seven as prisoners of conscience.1

After Kamalabadi endured months of incommunicado detention, mistreatment, and denial of heart medication,2 Tehran's deputy prosecutor general for security affairs, Hasan Haddad, announced on February 11, 2009, that the seven would be tried on charges of espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran.3

Then, in response to an announcement by Iranian attorney general Ayatollah Qorban-'Ali Dorri-Najafabadi that all Baha'i establishments run counter to Iranian constitutional law, the Baha'i community in March 2009 disbanded the Yaran and all other Baha'i organizations in Iran. Dorri-Najafabadi further announced that the very declaration of Baha'i belief is illegal.4 The government requires Baha'is to declare their religion - for example when registering births, seeking inheritance, applying for business licenses, or registering for school - so this declaration puts Baha'is in a situation of having to engage in illegal activity.

When the Yaran was operational - with the full knowledge and tacit agreement of the Iranian authorities - it was recognized by Iran's three hundred thousand Baha'is as their informal organizational body. Since Baha'is do not have a clerical religious structure, this body handled all community needs.

Kamalabadi is not new to religious discrimination. She had wanted to follow in her father's footsteps and become a physician, but university entrance was denied her in the early 1980s on religious grounds - no Baha'i has completed university studies since then. …