Rakshi Momtazian escaped persecution in Iran for being of Baha’i faith. Now, she has grave concerns for a friend who’s been in prison there for 20 months.
Rakshi Momtazian escaped persecution in Iran for being of Baha’i faith. Now, she has grave concerns for a friend who’s been in prison there for 20 months. Jay Cronan

Locked up in Iranian prison

LOCAL Baha’i followers are gravely concerned for the fate of seven members of their church who have been imprisoned in Iran and are facing a variety of ‘absurd’ charges.

Rakshi Momtazian, an Iranian exile living in Ocean Shores, has a friend among the seven, and said his family lived in fear for his life.

The man, Behrouz Tavakkol, was seriously ill, Mrs Momtazian said. Worse, they feared that he could be killed any day, she said.

The seven have been held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for 20 months and are due to be tried on April 11.

They had been denied access to family except for one or two occasions, Mrs Momtazian said.

Mrs Momtazian fled Iran in 1985, six years after the Islamic revolution, when life for Baha’is became even harsher as persecution became an official policy.

Ms Momtazian, a chemistry graduate, was repeatedly sacked when employers found out about her religion, and she said young people now were denied education, there were random arrests, torture was routine and death was common.

One couple were set alight in the street by security forces, she said.

Mrs Momtazian escaped into Pakistan and ended up as a UN refugee in Germany, where she met her husband.

The family, including her parents, are now all safely in Australia.

But she believes at least 200 Baha’is have been murdered by the regime, and another 1000 imprisoned. There have been more recent waves of arrests and at present more than 60 Baha’is are in jails throughout Iran.

The official aim was to wipe out the Baha’i faith – Iran’s biggest religious minority, Mrs Momtazian said.

The seven have been charged with espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, the establishment of an illegal administration, co-operation with Israel, sending secret documents outside the country, acting against the security of the country, and ‘corruption on Earth’.

They deny the charges.

The seven were responsible for tending to the spiritual and social needs of Iran’s 300,000 Baha’is, after Baha’i institutions were shut down in 1983.

The Australian Baha’i community had ‘grave fears for the safety of these seven innocent Baha’is’, spokesman Bruce Campbell said.

“There are members of the Australian Baha’i community who came here after suffering religious persecution in Iran, so we have a very real idea of what the seven are going through and we are very worried for them,” he said.



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