Iranian Baha'i Optometrist Released after Serving 10-Year Sentence
March 29, 2018
On March 19, Vahid Tizfahm—an Iranian Baha’i optometrist—was released from Raja’i Shahr prison after serving a 10-year sentence in connection with his Baha’i faith. He was one of the seven-member Friends in Iran (Yaran-i-Iran), an ad hoc national coordinating group responsible for the Iranian Baha’i community’s religious and administrative affairs.
The Baha’is, Iran’s largest non-Muslim minority, have long been subjected to severe government persecution. Their religion is not recognized, and they are deprived of many internationally recognized human rights. In spring 2008, all seven members of the Yaran were arrested. More than two years later, following proceedings that failed to meet international fair trial standards, they were convicted by a Tehran Revolutionary Court of “espionage for Israel” (apparently because the Shrine of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Baha’i faith, is located in what is now Israel), “insulting religious sanctities,” and “propaganda against the system” and sentenced to 20 years in prison. In late November 2015—in accordance with a new stipulation in Iran’s Penal Code, which allows for sentences to be served concurrently—their prison term was reduced from 20 years to 10 years. (To date, six of the seven Yaran members have been released. The seventh, Afif Naeimi, is expected to be freed shortly.) Throughout his incarceration, Mr. Tizfahm was held under harsh conditions of confinement.