After ten years of unjust imprisonment for his beliefs, Saeid Rezaie, one of the seven members of the former leadership group of the Baha’is in Iran, has today completed his wrongful sentence.
Mr. Rezaie and six of his colleagues were arrested in 2008 after an early-morning raid on their homes. They were part of the ad hoc group known as “the Yaran” (the Friends) which tended to the basic spiritual and material needs of the Iranian Baha’i community. The group was formed with the knowledge and tacit approval of authorities after formal Baha’i institutions were declared illegal in Iran in the 1980s. Mr. Rezaie is the fourth individual from among the former Yaran to be released.
Now, after ten years, he returns to a society that has changed little in terms of its treatment of the Baha’i community.
“Although Mr. Rezaie and three other members of the Yaran have been released, the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran continues unabated,” said Diane Ala’i, Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in Geneva. “From prison, Mr. Rezaie will go back to a community that is still under immense pressure from the government and faces discrimination and persecution for no other reason than belief in the Baha’i Faith.”
Before he was imprisoned, Mr. Rezaie, who is an agricultural engineer, ran a successful farming equipment business. He is one of the many members of the Baha’i community who has suffered injustice as a result of economic-related persecution. Baha’i-owned shops and businesses are regularly closed by the authorities after owners are harassed. In the last few years, hundreds of such businesses have been closed and scores of families have been deprived of an income. In an open letter to President Hassan Rouhani, the BIC referred to this discrimination as “economic apartheid.”
The three remaining members of the Yaran are expected to complete their sentences in the coming months. They include Mr. Jamaloddin Khanjani, 84; Mr. Afif Naeimi, 56; and Mr. Vahid Tizfahm, 44.