In May 2006, Iranian authorities detained 54 Baha’is in the city of Shiraz, and all but one were subsequently accused of “offenses related to state security”. The Baha’is were volunteering for a community project that offered classes to underprivileged youth (with the permission of the Islamic Council of Shiraz) – an act so subversive that it was deemed “anti-state propaganda” by an Iranian government spokesperson.

Eventually, three were sentenced to 4 years imprisonment, while the remaining were given one-year suspended prison sentences, provided they attend Islamic classes.

“Human Rights Activists in Iran” recently released a governmental report, dating back to the 16th of June 2008, which was written by an Inspector General who was charged with re-investigating the accusations brought against the three prisoners.

To investigate, the Inspector didn’t resort to lie detectors or intense interrogations, nor did he allow the regime’s oft-repeated propagandist slogans mar his judgement. Rather, he took the logical path of visiting the community the detained Baha’is were involved with, and inquiring about the nature of their work.

After hearing the testimony of the accused and their parents and studying their legal file, I proceeded to the district of Mihdi-Abad and sought and spoke with one of the residents of that area, who introduced himself as retired Colonel Jadi. After I had presented my questions, he stated the following regarding the activities and conduct of the aforesaid group [of Baha’is]: “From the beginning of their activities until now, these individuals have regularly conducted weekly classes for teenagers and youth with charitable and humanitarian objectives. Most of these classed have focused on arts, calligraphy, health and morality. Never was anything related to politics or religion ever discussed. And at no time was the Baha’i faith, either by name or implication, mentioned.”

He was very pleased by the manner of training and the Baha’i presence among the teenagers and youth in this district and believed that ever since they came into the Mihdi-Abad area, the manner of conduct, association and social dealings of the youth had greatly improved, to the point that the families in that region were deeply encouraged about the future and the education of their children.

I also spoke with 8 of the teenagers and youth who had participated in the said classes. After asking my questions, they replied that this group [i.e. the imprisoned Baha’i youth] were engaged in general education and all classes were concentrated on arts, calligraphy, moral and social teachings, and never was anything related to politics discussed, nor was anything ever said contrary to religious, legal or cultural norms [of the current Iranian society]. They further added, “All of us teenagers and youth have truly benefited from the presence of this group and their efforts, and we request that once again they may return and be in our midst.”

Translation by: Iran Press Watch

Over 4 months have passed since this report was presented to Office of the Supreme Leader, yet there appears to be no signs of an imminent release of the falsely accused prisoners. In fact, since then, the perplexity of the situation has intensified with Iran accusing the seven arrested Baha’i leaders of being “Israeli spies“.

But there are reasons to be hopeful: there exists in Iran a rising tide of voices that are speaking out for justice and equality for the Baha’i minority, and as history has proven time and time again, it is only inevitable that they will prevail.