It’s good news. After serving an unjust 10-year prison sentence in Iran Fariba Kamalabadi has been released, joining her friend Mahvash Sabet who was released last month. Five of their colleagues, arrested and imprisoned at the same time, remain incarcerated.
But is this really a feel good news story, a happy ending at long last, as Fariba rejoins her family? Take the picture, write the press release and wave her goodbye as she walks off into the sunset in the embrace of her friends and family? Or is it not going to end like that. Does that sunset hide a darker story, one in which Fariba and Mahvash step out of the prison building only to enter another one – the dark prison of the hate campaign that has been carried out against the Bahá’ís in Iran for the past nearly 40 years, and which has intensified during their years in prison.
It’s a government sponsored campaign aimed at destroying the Iranian Bahá’í community as a viable entity. Though arrests and imprisonments continue to be part of life for the Bahá’ís of Iran, the government has focused on more subtle forms of persecution during the past decade, trying in this way to avoid international censure by concealing the extent of the persecution from the eyes of the international community.
That persecution includes the dissemination of anti-Bahá’í propaganda aimed at inciting hatred against the Bahá’ís. More than 20,000 pieces of such propaganda have been identified since 2013 when President Hasan Rouhani was elected with promises to end religious discrimination.
The persecution also includes using a variety of ruses to exclude Bahá’í students from university education and attacking Bahá’ís economically through dismissals and business closures.
So as Fariba Kamalabadi rejoins her family after the deprivations and injustices of an unmerited ten year prison sentence, she steps into a world where the stated, documented aim of the Government of her country is to eliminate her community by striving to keep Bahá’ís illiterate, fearful and economically deprived. She may no longer be behind bars, but she, her family and every other Bahá’í in Iran are in even more danger now than they were ten years ago when she was unjustly imprisoned.
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