You are hereStories / August, 2009 / Free the Friends in Iran

Free the Friends in Iran

Free the Friends in Iran

Photo: The seven innocent Baha'i “leaders,” with spouses, before their imprisonment of  May 14, 2008 in Evin prison, Iran.

(CNN) - “Iran should release seven Baha'i prisoners accused of espionage because it does not have any evidence against them,” their lawyer Shirin Ebadi (The Nobel Peace Prize 2003) told CNN on Saturday, Aug. 15. (GENEVA - BIC)  - “Our hope now is that our seven innocent co-religionists will be released on bail,” said Ms. Ala’i on Monday Aug. 17th, 2009. (TW) - Bahá'u'lláh's central message for humanity in this day is one of unity and justice. “The best beloved of all things in My sight is justice” He wrote, and “The earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens.” According to the Islamic government of Iran there is no room for 'no prejudice.' Will the world watch them die in the hands of their executioners, one by one? Read about their lives of service below.

While the trial of seven Baha’i leaders imprisoned in Iran has been postponed until October 18, 2009, the Baha’i International Community learned today. According to Diane Ala’i, the Baha’i International Community representative to the United Nations in Geneva, following a request for postponement of the trial from Mr. Hadi Elsmaielzadeh and Ms. Mahnaz Parakand — attorneys from the Defenders of Human Rights Center who are representing the seven Baha’is — the court has decided to delay the hearing for two months.


Lives of service: Profiles of seven imprisoned Baha’is. The following are a series of short biographical profiles of the seven Baha’i leaders currently being held in Evin prison in Iran. Six were arrested in their homes in Tehran on 14 May 2008. A seventh had been arrested earlier, on 5 March 2008, while visiting Mashhad.

(Photo - from left to right)

Mr. Afif Naemi – arrested 14 May 2008 at his home in Tehran

Afif Naemi, 47, is an industrialist who was unable to pursue his dream of becoming a doctor because as a Baha’i he was denied access to a university education. Instead, he diverted his attention to business, one of the few avenues of work open to Baha’is, taking over his father-in-law’s blanket and textile factory.

He was born on 6 September 1961 in Yazd. His father died when he was three and he was raised in part by his uncles. While still in elementary school, he was sent to live with relatives in Jordan and, although he started with no knowledge of Arabic, he soon rose to the top of his class.

He has long been active in volunteer Baha’i service. He has taught Baha’i children’s classes, conducted classes for adults, taught at the BIHE, and been a member of the Auxiliary Board, an appointed position which serves principally to inspire, encourage, and promote learning among Baha’is.

He married Ms. Shohreh Khallakhi in the early 1980s. They have two sons, Fareed Naimi, 27, who is married and a graduate of the ABSI, and Sina Naimi, 22, who has studied music.

Mr. Vahid Tizfahm – arrested 14 May 2008 at his home in Tehran

Vahid Tizfahm, 37, is an optometrist and owner of an optical shop in Tabriz, where he lived until early 2008, when he moved to Tehran.

He 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, Samim, who is now nine years old and in the fourth grade.

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 advisory group that serves to uplift and inspire Baha’i communities at the regional level. He has also taught local Baha’i children’s classes. He was appointed to the Friends in 2006.

Mrs. Mahvash Sabet – arrested in Mashhad on 5 March 2008

Mahvash Sabet, 55, is a teacher and school principal who was dismissed from public education for being a Baha’i. For the last 15 years, she has been director of the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education, which provides alternative higher education for Baha’i youth. She also served as secretary to the Friends.

Born Mahvash Shahriyari on 4 February 1953 in Ardestan, Mrs. Sabet moved to Tehran when she was in the fifth grade. In university, she studied psychology, obtaining a bachelor’s degree.

She began her professional career as a teacher and also worked as a principal at several schools. In her professional role, she also collaborated with the National Literacy Committee of Iran. After the Islamic revolution, however, like thousands of other Iranian Baha’i educators, she was fired from her job and blocked from working in public education.

It was after this that she became director of the BIHE, where she also has taught psychology and management.

She married Siyvash Sabet on 21 May 1973. They have a son, Masrur Sabet, 33, and a daughter, Nega Sabet, 24, both born in Hamadan.

While all of the other Friends were arrested at their homes in Tehran on 14 May 2008, Mrs. Sabet was arrested in Mashhad on 5 March 2008. Although she resides in Tehran, she had been summoned to Mashhad by the Ministry of Intelligence, ostensibly on the grounds that she was required to answer questions related to the burial of an individual in the Baha’i cemetery in that city.

Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani – arrested 14 May 2008 at his home in Tehran

Jamaloddin Khanjani, 75, is a once-successful factory owner who lost his business after the 1979 Islamic revolution because of his belief in the Baha’i Faith – and who then spent most of the 1980s on the run under the threat of death from Iranian authorities.

Born 27 July 1933 in the city of Sangsar, Mr. Khanjani grew up on a dairy farm in Semnan province and never obtained more than a high school education. Yet his dynamic personality soon led to a successful career in industrial production – and as a Baha’i leader.

In his professional career, he has worked as an employee of the Pepsi Cola Company in Iran, where he was a purchasing supervisor. He later left Pepsi Cola and started a charcoal production business. Later he established a brick-making factory, which was the first automated such factory in Iran, ultimately employing several hundred people.

In the early 1980s, he was forced to shut down that factory and abandon it, putting most of his employees out of work, because of the persecution he faced as a Baha’i. The factory was later confiscated by the government.

In his career of voluntary service to his religious community, Mr. Khanjani was at various points a member of the local spiritual assembly of Isfahan, a regional level Auxiliary Board member, and, in the early 1980s, a member of the so-called “third” National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Iran – a group that in 1984 saw four of its nine members executed by the government.

After that, Mr. Khanjani was able to establish a mechanized farm on properties owned by his family. Nevertheless, authorities placed many restrictions on him, making it difficult to do business. These restrictions extended to his children and relatives, and included refusing loans, closing their places of business, limiting their business dealings, and banning travel outside the country.

Mr. Khanjani married Ms. Ashraf Sobhani in the mid-1950s. They have four children. Farida Khanjani, 51, is a chiropractor working in China. Maria Khanjani, about 49, an artist who is married with two children and residing in Tehran. Mr. Alaeddin Khanjani, about 48, an optometrist residing in Tehran, who is married with two children. And Mrs. Emilia Khanjani, about 45, who is married with two children and resides in Tehran.

Mr. Khanjani was arrested and imprisoned at least three times before his current incarceration. After years on the run, he was arrested and imprisoned for two months in the late 1980s. During this period of detention, he was intensely questioned. During those interrogations, however, he was able to make considerable headway in convincing authorizes of the non-threatening nature of the Baha’i Faith and he, along with many others, were subsequently released.

Mrs. Fariba Kamalabadi – arrested 14 May 2008 at her home in Tehran

Fariba Kamalabadi, 46, a developmental psychologist and mother of three, was denied the chance to study at a public university as a youth because of her Baha’i belief. Because of her volunteer work for the Baha’i community, she was arrested twice in recent years and held for periods of one and two months respectively before her arrest and imprisonment last May.

Mrs. Kamalbadi was born in Tehran on 12 September 1962. An excellent student, she graduated from high school with honors but was nevertheless barred from attending university. Instead, in her mid-30s, she embarked on an eight-year period of informal study and ultimately received an advanced degree in developmental psychology from the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education, an alternative institution established by the Baha’i community of Iran to provide higher education for its young people.

Mrs. Kamalabadi married fellow Baha’i Ruhollah Taefi in 1982. They have three children. Varqa Taefi, about 24, received a doctoral degree in political science and international relations in the United Kingdom and is currently continuing his research in China. Alhan Taefi, 23, has studied psychology at ABSI. Taraneh Taefi, 14, is a junior high school student in Tehran.

Mrs. Kamalabadi’s experience with persecution extends beyond her immediate situation. Her father was fired from his job as physician in the government health service in the 1980s because he was a Baha’i, and he was later imprisoned and tortured.

Mrs. Kamalabadi has three children:  Alhan, Taraneh, and Vargha.  The following letter was written on the one-year anniversary of her arrest and detention. What has befallen me?!

What has befallen me?!
By Alhan Taefi - May 21st, 2009

Today marks one whole year that you have not been with me – now I want to express my feelings of pain and anguish during this year; a year of untold stories; a year of solitude; a year of being far from a mother!

It was this very same day last year, when I was woken up early in the morning by a phone call – a call which gave me the dreaded news that government intelligence agents had raided your home.  Before I had a chance to collect myself and realize what had happened and what I must do, I received an S.M.S. from my little sister, Taraneh, saying: “they are taking away Mom; if you want to see her, come fast”! Oh my, what has befallen me?! Even after a whole year, still – remembering that moment brings pain and agony to my heart, and I can’t help but shed uncontrollable tears.

In a state of shock and disbelief, I rushed to your house, worried about what if I got there late and they had taken you already… then, when would I ever see you again!?

Finally I got there, and frantically climbed the long flight of stairs, skipping every other step, and rushed into your home. Thank God! You were still there… I was with you for a short while, and then… you were leaving. I hugged you with all my might, squeezed you, kissed you, and told you how proud I was of you. And you left… for an unknown period of time! I knew that you would not return home anytime soon, but I never thought that a year would pass and you would still be there!

You left me and I was alone… with a mountain-load of pain and sorrow. I was so dependent on you… was so in need of your advice, even on very small matters! Who knows what has befallen me during this period!? Even now, remembering the extent of my sorrow and grief makes me tremble.

I was so used to speaking with you every single day, even if it was just for one minute. For a whole 80 days after your arrest, I did not have any communication with you… and when after 80 days you called me and I did not recognize your voice, how ashamed I was of myself! I remember your words very vividly – saying “my dear, didn’t you recognize my voice?”… And I, full of happiness, melancholy, excitement, and tons of other opposing sentiments all at the same time, could not utter a word.

Oh my God, what has befallen me during this past year!? I remember in preparation for Mothers Day, when all my friends were talking about what presents they were going to buy for their moms, I forced myself not to burst into tears, in order to be strong… the same way you wanted me to be… the same way you are.

When on your birthday I could not give you a present; I kept myself happy only with memories of you…

When, in your absence, and because of your absence, I experienced the worst day of my life, the day I felt my heart was crumpled – I went out walking alone, burst into tears, and sent you this text message: “Oh Mom, I am so lonely and hapless without you!”, knowing full well that this text message would never reach you.

Oh my, what has befallen me?! Whenever I encountered the worst of my difficulties during this past year, and you were not there to rush to my aid… when my eyes came across your things, knowing that at one time you had used these things; I would heave a sigh from the very depths of my being.

What befell me the day I saw that you had become so tiny, so slender and wiry, the time when I held your hand in my hands and saw that your hand was trembling out of sheer frailty?! How much I struggled to control myself not to burst into tears in your presence!

What befell me that day, at the end of my visit with you in your prison, behind the isolated visiting room, when they were lowering the curtain, you bent down to be able to see us until the very last moment of our visit, to wave at us and to smile at us…? Oh God, how much the thought that it might very well be the very last time I would be able to see you tortured me.

When, on my birthday, you gave me a pair of stockings which you had bought from the prison store, as a present – the best thing that one could buy from there – how delighted, yet how grieved I became!  How hard I embraced it,  kissed it, and decided never to wear it, so it wouldn’t wear out!  That day reminded me of my previous year’s birthday, when you, in spite of a severe back ache, arranged for my birthday party… and the thought of this made my heart ache.

How delighted I was looking at the carrot plant – a plant you had grown in your prison-cell, which you gave as a present to my little sister, Taraneh, on her birthday! This plant stood for me as a symbol of you. When I was lonely, I would go and cuddle it, talk to it, caress it, and kiss it – I would feel it was you standing before me. How sorrowful and grief-stricken I became when it withered! I would rush to tie its tiny branches together with a green ribbon – perchance it would be revived again – as if I was taking care of you.

What a day it was for me on the festival of Ridvan [the Persian New Year], when you gave me a gift – I felt I had been given the whole world, and I showed off my gift to all my friends with utter pride.

What a night it was for me… the night I could not go to sleep – I started reading all the e-mails you had previously sent me, as tears poured down my cheeks, and how much I wished to receive just one more e-mail from you again.

All of these memories as well as hundreds of days have come to pass, each carrying myriads of large and small, good and bad recollections of my experience – yet God knows that during this whole year I never wished, if it was not His Will, for you to return home to us… I always whispered this poem to myself:

“I would not relinquish my pain for You in vain… -will not give up my love for the Beloved till slain.
My keepsake from my Beloved is my pain… -would not trade for a myriad cures this pain.” (Rumi)

This is what befell me over the past year; God only knows what befell you, dear Mom!!!

Mr. Saeid Rezaie – arrested 14 May 2008 at his home in Tehran

Saeid Rezaie, 51, is an agricultural engineer who has run a successful farming equipment business in Fars Province for more than 20 years. He is also known for his extensive scholarship on Baha’i topics, and is the author of several books.

Born in Abadan on 27 September 1957, Mr. Rezaie spent his childhood in Shiraz, where he completed high school with distinction. He then obtained a degree in agricultural engineering from Pahlavi University in Shiraz, attending with the help of a scholarship funded from outside the country.

In 1981, he married Ms. Shaheen Rowhanian. They have three children, two daughters and a son. Martha, 24, is studying library science. Ma’man, 21, is studying architecture. Payvand, 12, is in his second year of middle school.

Mr. Rezaie has actively served the Baha’i community since he was a young man. He taught Baha’i children’s classes for many years, and served the Baha’i Education and Baha’i Life Institutes. He was also a member of the National Education Institute.

He is a scholar and an author, and he has served as an academic adviser to Baha’i students.

During the early 1980s, when persecution of Baha’is was particularly intense and widespread, Mr. Rezaie moved to northern Iran and worked as a farming manager for a time. Later he moved to Kerman and worked as a carpenter and at other odd jobs in part because of the difficulties Baha’is faced in finding formal employment or operating businesses.

In 1985, he opened an agricultural equipment company with a Baha’i friend in Fars Province. That company prospered and won wide respect among farmers in the region.

He has experienced various forms of persecution for his Baha’i belief, including an arrest and detention in 2006 that led to 40 days in solitary confinement.

His two daughters were among 54 Baha’i youth who were arrested in Shiraz in May 2006 while engaged in a humanitarian project aimed at helping underprivileged young people. They were later released but three of their colleagues were sentenced to four years in prison on false charges and are currently incarcerated in Shiraz.

Mr. Behrouz Tavakkoli – arrested 14 May 2008 at his home in Tehran

Behrouz Tavakkol, 57, is a former social worker who lost his government job in the early 1980s because of his Baha’i belief. Prior to his current imprisonment, he has also experienced intermittent detainment and harassment and, three years ago, he was jailed for four months without charge, spending most of the time in solitary confinement.

Born 1 June 1951 in Mashhad, Mr.Tavakkoli studied psychology in university and then completed two years of service in the army, where he was a lieutenant. He later took additional training and then specialized in the care of the physically and mentally handicapped, working in a government position until his firing in 1981 or 1982.

Mr. Tavakkoli married Ms. Tahereh Fakhri Tuski at the age of 23. They have two sons, Naeim and Nabil. Naeim, 31, currently lives in Canada with his wife where he works as a civil engineer. Nabil, 24, is currently studying architecture at the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education.

Mr. Tavakkoli was elected to the local Baha’i governing council in Mashhad in the late 1960s or early 1970s while a student at the university there, and he later served on another local Baha’i council in Sari before such institutions were banned in the early 1980s. He also served on various youth committees, and, later, during the early 1980s he was appointed to the Auxiliary Board. He was appointed to the Friends group in the late 1980s.

To support himself and his family after he was fired from his government position, Mr. Tavakkoli established a small millwork carpentry shop in the city of Gonbad. There he also established a series of classes in Baha’i studies for adults and young people.

He has been periodically detained by the authorities. Among the worst of these incidents was three years ago when he was held incommunicado for 10 days by intelligence agents, along with fellow Friends’ member Fariba Kamalabadi. He was then held for four months and during that confinement developed serious kidney and orthotic problems.


Recommend this story to your friends on Facebook:

TW Music Festivals

Playing For Unity In Diversity

The interpretation of Globalization, or Mondialisation du monde, in today's society is quite different from what we believe, it is very political taking advantage of minorities or what we used to call the 'third world' in order to advance and agenda for more power and money. This is wrong and that is not what TW and Playing For Unity In Diversity are about. We believe in Diversity and not Uniformity. We praise cultural enrichment, differences, empowerment and that is why we celebrate Unity in Diversity leaving politics out of our lives. We are creating our own Spiritual Revolution through Positive Change Through The Arts & Creative Living.

Story Archive

Catch-up with all of our past stories!


Enjoy media related to our content and our cause!
See video
3 Signs Of Oneness

Featured Artists


Join us on the Web!
RSS Facebook YouTube