Freed Iranian Bahá’í Mahvash Sabet has praised members of the legal team which defended her. In her first interview since being released from prison in September, Mrs. Sabet said: “What mattered to them was that their clients were human beings and citizens of this country, just like them.”
In the interview with the Center for Human Rights in Iran she singled out two members of the team for special mention, Hadi Esmailzadeh and Abdolfattah Soltani, saying that despite their own firm belief in Islam, they defended the Bahá’ís regardless.
Hadi Esmailzadeh died of a heart attack in 2016 having served one year of a four year prison sentence for taking on human rights cases while the other lawyer, Mr. Soltani, well known for taking on civil and human rights cases, is currently serving a 13-year prison sentence.
Mrs. Sabet (64) was arrested in March 2008 and six other colleagues, members of the informal group known as Yaran were imprisoned in May of the same year. All seven were held without communication with the outside for weeks, were subjected to solitary confinement, and suffered appalling treatment and deprivations, including psychological and physical hardships
During her confinement in Iran’s notorious Evin and Raja’i Shahr prisons, Mrs. Sabet (64) distinguished herself by the loving care and kindness she extended to her fellow prisoners. Journalist Roxana Saberi, who shared a cell in Evin with Mrs. Sabet and fellow Yaran member Fariba Kamalabadi, has written about how their compassion touched the lives of other inmates and has mentioned how they cared for her during her hunger strike.
While in prison, Mrs. Sabet, a former teacher and school principal who also worked with the National Literacy Committee of Iran, found solace in writing poetry. Prison Poems, published in 2013, was widely praised for its literary quality and profound subject matter and inspired a musical composition by award-winning composer Lasse Thoresen, performed at an international music festival in Oslo earlier this year.
“Although Mrs. Sabet is being freed from prison, she will still not achieve full freedom,” said Bani Dugal, the Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations in New York. “She will return to a society where Baha’i youth are deprived of access to higher education and public jobs, where attacks on small Baha’i-owned shops are increasing, cemeteries are being desecrated, Baha’is are vilified in state sponsored media on a daily basis and where they are arbitrarily arrested and imprisoned for their beliefs.”