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Iranian Baha’i Computer Engineer Released from Prison
November 25, 2019 
Azita Rafizadeh with borderOn October 9, 2019, Iranian Baha’i computer engineer Azita Rafizadeh was released from Evin Prison after serving a four-year prison sentence in connection with her Baha’i faith. At the time of her arrest, she was a professor and administrator at the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE). (The BIHE was created in 1987 to provide a university-level education to Iranian Baha’i students, who are denied access to higher education at Iran’s universities.)
The Baha’is—the largest non-Muslim religious minority in Iran—have faced longtime government discrimination and harassment. Their religion is not recognized in Iran’s Constitution, and they are deprived of many internationally recognized human rights. In mid-2011, the Iranian authorities raided the homes of more than three dozen Baha’is associated with the BIHE, including that of Ms. Rafizadeh and her husband—who is also a BIHE professor—confiscating their religious items, computers, books, and checkbooks, among other things. After two years of harassment, including being summoned for questioning multiple times about their work with the BIHE and unsuccessfully pressured to sign a statement pledging to give up their academic work, they were charged, separately, with “membership in the illegal and misguided Baha’i group with the aim of acting against national security through illegal activities at the BIHE educational institute.” Following proceedings that failed to meet international fair trial standards, Ms. Rafizadeh was convicted and sentenced to four years in prison. Summoned to begin serving her sentence in October 2015, she was held throughout her four-year sentence in the Women’s Ward of Evin Prison in Tehran, where conditions are known to be particularly harsh. Because she and her husband were both imprisoned and they did not have a family member able to take care of their young son, he had to be placed in a foster home.