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Iran has reportedly arrested nine more members of the Baha’i faith, the country’s largest non-Muslim community, shutting down and confiscating more than 40 pharmacies and warehouses belonging to the detainees.

The Intelligence Ministry of the Islamic republic announced on August 13 that a Baha’i family and its associates, who were involved in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic business, have been detained. Baha’i activists have identified some of the detainees as Ashkan, Afshin, and Ardalan Tabiyanian, along with their sister and brother-in-law.

The detainees are accused of various crimes, including “drug smuggling and hoarding,” “fraud with medicines,” “money laundering,” and “tax evasion.”

The Baha’i are branded as “heretics” by the Iranian regime which has been persecuting them for alleged ties to Israel, which is home to their most important shrines and world headquarters.

In a separate incident, Jamaluddin Khanjani, a former leader of the Baha’i community in Iran, and his daughter, Maria Khanjani, were arrested on August 13. After a house search, they were transferred to Evin prison by order of the head of Evin Court.

Jamaluddin Khanjani, a member of the so-called Yaran Iran group, was previously sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2008 on charges including “assembly and collusion against national security,” “propaganda against the system,” and “espionage.”

He was released in 2017 after a reduction in his sentence. The Yaran Iran group, responsible for managing the affairs of the Baha’i in Iran, saw all seven of its members receive lengthy prison sentences of 10 years each.

Currently, three members of the Yaran Iran group, Fariba Kamalabadi, Mahvash Sabet, and Afif Naeimi, are serving their sentences in prison.

There are some 300,000 Baha’i adherents in Iran, where their faith is not officially recognized, and an estimated 5 million followers worldwide.

In a religious fatwa issued in 2018, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei forbade contact, including business dealings, with the followers of the faith.

Since the Islamic Republic of Iran was established in 1979, hundreds of Baha’is have been arrested and jailed for their beliefs. At least 200 have been executed or were arrested and never heard from again.

Thousands more have been banned from receiving higher education or had their property confiscated, while vandals often desecrate Baha’i cemeteries.

Following nationwide protests in 2020, there has been a significant increase in the summoning and detention of Baha’i citizens in recent months.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL’s Radio Farda

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