Baha’i Woman Sentenced to 11.9 Years in Prison, Banned From University in Iran

Yekta Fahandej Sa’di was sentenced to 11 years and nine months in prison for her Baha’i religious beliefs by a preliminary court in the city of Shiraz in south-central Iran on December 30, 2018, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned. 

The sentence, which Sa’di will be appealing, was issued by Branch 2 of the local Revolutionary Court for the charges of “assembly and collusion against national security” and “propaganda against the state” for her faith, her sister, Mona Fahandej Sa’di, told CHRI in a phone interview from Australia. 

“There’s no evidence to back up these charges against my sister,” she said. “Baha’is are not allowed to participate in political affairs and their existence is not recognized, so how could they commit political crimes? How and why could she assemble and collude against national security?”

Iran’s Constitution does not recognize the Baha’i faith as an official religion (such as Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism). Although Article 23 states that “no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief,” followers of the faith are denied many basic rights as one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in the country. 

“My sister is a young Baha’i living in Shiraz. That’s it,” added Mona Fahandej Sa’di. “She has never propagated against the state or acted against national security.”

Yekta Fahandej Sa’di previously faced the same charges, her sister said. She was first arrested in 2011 by Intelligence Ministry agents in Shiraz and held for 82 days before being freed. 

“Then, in 2013, Yekta was arrested by the Intelligence Ministry’s office in Shiraz and held in detention for 56 days,” added Mona Fahandej Sa’di. “She was charged with ‘propaganda against the state’ and ‘assembly and collusion against national security’ and sentenced by Branch 1 of the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz to five years in prison.”

“But Yekta and her lawyer objected and on appeal, the sentence was changed to two years in prison and two years probation. She was taken to Adelabad Prison in Shiraz and served 74 days until the Supreme Court nullified the sentence and ordered a retrial and she was temporarily released.” 

“Now the judge at Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court in Shiraz has issued a verdict in this case and sentenced her to 11 years [and nine months] in prison, which Yekta will appeal,” Mona Fahandej Sa’di said.

In 2012, Yekta Fahandej Sa’di was also expelled from Payame Noor University in Shiraz where she was a student in the English department until the authorities discovered she is Baha’i.

Baha’is are routinely denied the right to higher education in Iran, either by being banned from enrolling in a university or being expelled without a proper explanation once enrolled in the school.