When does a one-year old deserve to serve time in prison? It’s a puzzling question that only makes sense within the context of Iran’s persecutory and often bizarre legal system & the government’s persecution of Iranian Baha’is. In April 2013, Baha’i mother Elham Ruzbehi reported to Senman Prison with her daughter of one year in her arms. She was there to serve a a two-year sentence on charges of “collusion and assembly against national security” and “propaganda against the regime”. Prison officials checked her daughter in with her.

Ruzbehi had been arrested almost two years prior to her imprisonment. In February 2011, security officials that day had conducted a series of arrests of several Baha’i mothers, including Zohreh Nikayin/Tebyanian and Taraneh Nik-Aein/Torabian. Their homes were raided, their personal belongings confiscated, and they were taken into custody. Two months later, after being released, Ruzbehi was arrested once more — this time she was pregnant. The original sentence was 3 years, but she was able to get the sentence reduced to 2 in appeals court.

Like most Baha’is imprisoned in Iran, the charges were based on little more than xenophobic depictions of Baha’is as insidious foreigners, conspiring with state enemies against the government of Iran (and, by extension, Islam). Baha’i mothers & children are not spared these children are not spared these accusations.

If this seems unusual, it’s not. In fact, the Iranian government has made a nasty habit of imprisoning Baha’i mothers with their infants. Ruzbehi is only one among at least four Baha’i mothers who were forced to share a cell with their children; at least two of those mothers, Zohreh Nikayin/Tebyanian and Taraneh Torabi/Ehsani, who were arrested the same day as Ruzbehi, are still imprisoned with their children. And the conditions in Senman Prison are no better for these mothers, wrote Abdu’l-Missagh Ghadirian, a professor of medicine at McGill University, in a recent blogpost for Common Ground Group: “Because of limited space for so many women, some of the Baha’is sleep on the floor, which, for those with babies, is unsafe and intolerable,” he wrote, ”And what is happening to the Baha’i and other women prisoners is not unique to Semnan. It also occurs in other Iranian cities.”