New Details Emerge on Shock Arrest of Baha’i Designer

September 5, 2021 , editor , 1 Comment


Maryam Dehkordi

On Wednesday, September 1, Arsalan Yazdani, a Baha’i citizen living in Tehran, was arrested by security agents and taken to an unknown location. His wife Samira Ebrahimi has told IranWire about the shocking violation of their rights as Baha’i citizens in the course of the arrest, which also led her to suspect security agents had previously burgled their home. Arsalan Yazdani’s whereabouts, and his condition, are currently unknown.


Samira Ebrahimi is panic-stricken. Her concerns have only intensified in the period between the arrest of her husband, Arsalan Yazdani, this week and the time of writing; she still has no idea where he is or if he’s alright. Her efforts to obtain any information on his case have so far come to nothing.

“On Wednesday, September 1, 2021,” she said, “at about 11.45 am, they knocked on our door. When my son and I went to open it, a female officer in chador called my name. When I confirmed I was Samira Ebrahimi, she forced her way into our house and said there was a complaint against me. This wasn’t true; there was no complaint against me. And Arsalan has never been arrested or summoned before.”

A large number of officers then swarmed into the house, turning it upside down and detaining her husband. “Behind two female agents, eight male ones entered the house. They showed an arrest warrant for Arsalan and said that they intended to search the house. In addition to my husband’s stuff, my husband’s workplace, they went through the safe in our apartment and our car.

“We have two children, aged 12 and six. I asked the officers not to begin searching the house until my father-in-law came to pick them up. When I insisted, an officer approached me and told me loudly: ‘You’re abusing our kindness!’ Eventually, they began their search inside one of the rooms.”

In the aftermath of Arsalan Yazdani’s arrest, some social media users claimed the officers were armed. Ebrahimi isn’t sure where this came from: “I don’t know if the officers were armed or not. If they did have weapons, they didn’t use them or show them to us.”

Yazdani’s father came to the Baha’i couple’s house to take the children away. When he saw the situation, Ebrahimi says, he got very stressed: “My father-in-law was so weak I suggested a car be called for him to take the children home. An officer who seemed more violent than the rest said one of them would accompany him.”

The officers confiscated many of her husband’s personal possessions. Throughout the search they never specified which institution had sent them. Ebrahimi says she and her husband were not even allowed to see the arrest warrant or informed of the details: “We don’t know at all why Arsalan was arrested. Even on the insistence of my son, they only said they had ‘a few questions’ for him because of his job.

“They only said the [official] reason for Arsalan’s arrest was ‘acting against national security’, ‘propaganda against the regime’, and ‘forming communities against national security’. Of course, they added that there were other things that would be explained to him later.

“Aside from my husband’s laptop, they took his mobile phone, the books and all the religious pictures in the house. Despite the fact that my name was not on the warrant and no arrest warrant had been issued for me, my mobile phone and iPad, and my son’s mobile phone and laptop, were also taken.”

The search of Arsalan Yazdani’s home lasted until around 2pm, after which officers took him to inspect his workplace. In addition to the 10 officers who entered the apartment, another team had been stationed outside the building, and a third team took him away.

“My husband is a graphic designer and he had rented a room in a building to work in,” she said. “At the moment, due to the spread of the coronavirus, he was only going there for business appointments and generally worked from home. He explained as much to the officers, but they said they needed to see it.”

Samira Ebrahimi then received an email on Thursday, September 2, informing her that all the information on her personal pages had been downloaded and her email password had been changed: “This is a clear violation of privacy. Why should all my personal account information, along with my family photos, be available to officers without permission?”

She went to the prosecutor’s office to follow up on her husband’s case. But the office turned out to be closed on Thursdays. A lawyer the family consulted told them nothing would be done until at least Saturday. “We don’t even know where the detention facility is. It’s only based on the experiences of mutual friends, who have already been detained, that we think it’s likely he has been detained by the Ministry of Intelligence.”

For years before Arsalan Yazdani’s arrest, the family had received a variety of threats from the security forces because they were Baha’is. They have also mysteriously been stolen from five times in a single year. “Our house was burgled once, our car three times, and once my husband was extorted and they took his mobile phone,” Ebrahimi says. “But now that I think about it, the theft of our house on August 7 last year was very suspicious.

“Surprisingly, they didn’t take the dollars or the Parsian gold coin that were in the house; just my husband’s laptop and some jewelry. Yesterday, I mentioned to the agents searching the house that we didn’t own anything of great value, and that we’d been robbed before. They said they were aware of that. I was shocked. ‘Perhaps it was your job?’ I said. They replied, ‘You accuse people that easily?’. I pointed out they were making baseless accusations against my husband.

“I can’t say with certainty the robbery was part of the campaign of pressure against Baha’is, but the attitude of the agents reinforced that theory.”

The arbitrary detention of Baha’i citizens is part of a decades-long drive by the Islamic Republic to marginalize this religious minority group. Last week, the Baha’i International Community published an open letter urging the international community not to remain silent over the Iranian regime’s blatant abuse of Baha’is.

Baha’is decry cultural cleansing in Iran

NEW YORK, United States, 12 September 2004 (BWNS) — The destruction of yet another Baha’i holy place in Iran has prompted an outcry by Baha’is around the world, who see that the Iranian Government is persisting in a campaign of persecution so extreme in the fanaticism driving it that it even jeopardizes invaluable assets of the country’s cultural heritage. The demolition in June of an historic house in Tehran, which followed the leveling of a Baha’i holy place in Babol earlier this year, has spurred national Baha’i communities in several nations to place a statement in major newspapers decrying the destruction.

The statement, which ran in the “New York Times” today, is set to run soon in newspapers in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.

The Baha’i community of Iran, with about 300,000 members, is that country’s largest religious minority.

With some five million members in more than 180 countries worldwide, the Baha’i Faith is an independent religion that promotes such teachings as the oneness of humanity, the underlying unity of the religions, the equality of women and men, and the need to eliminate prejudice.

Since 1979, despite their peaceful character, more than 200 Iranian Baha’is have been killed, and hundreds more have been tortured and imprisoned. Tens of thousands have lost jobs, pensions, and access to education, all solely because the clerics who rule Iran declare them heretics.

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“The hatred of the extremist mullahs for the Baha’is is such that they, like the Taliban of Afghanistan who destroyed the towering Buddhist sculptures at Bamiyan, intend not only to eradicate the religion, but even to erase all traces of its existence in the country of its birth,” says the statement, which took the form of a paid advertisement in the “New York Times.”

The house that was destroyed in June had been owned by Mirza Abbas Nuri (also known as Mirza Buzurg), the father of Baha’u’llah, Who founded the Baha’i Faith. Mirza Abbas Nuri was an eminent provincial governor and was widely regarded as one of Iran’s greatest calligraphers.

The statement in the “Times” notes that Mirza Abbas Nuri’s house was an “historical monument, a precious example of Islamic-Iranian architecture, ‘a matchless model of art, spirituality, and architecture.'”

“In their determination to rid Iran of the Baha’i community and obliterate its very memory, the fundamentalists in power are prepared even to destroy the cultural heritage of their own country, which they appear not to realize they hold in trust for humankind,” the statement continues.

Historic photograph of the entrance to the House of Mirza Abbas Nuri (Mirza Buzurg), Tehran.
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“Surely the time has come for Iranians everywhere to raise their voices in protest against such willful desecrations,” concludes the statement.

Placing the statement in newspapers around the world is part of a coordinated effort by Baha’is outside of Iran to call the world’s attention to the destruction of cultural landmarks that are part of the heritage of the entire world, said Glen Fullmer, director of communications for the Baha’i community of the United States.

“The places that are being demolished are significant to all humanity,” said Mr. Fullmer. “They reflect unique elements of Iran’s cultural history. So we are calling on Iranians around the world to protest the destruction of their own culture.”

The statement will also be printed in “Le Monde,” France’s premier newspaper, said Brenda Abrar, a spokesperson for the Baha’i community there.

“There are a great many Iranians in France,” said Ms. Abrar. “We want to alert them that their own cultural heritage is in danger. The house that was demolished in June actually represents a great work of Islamic architecture.”

In July, the Iranian newspaper “Hamshahri” published a lengthy article about the life of Mirza Abbas Nuri and the architecture of his house.

Destruction of cultural heritage…interior of the House of Mirza Abbas Nuri (Mirza Buzurg) during demolition, Tehran, June 2004.
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“As he had good taste for the arts and for beauty, he designed his own house in such a style that it became known as one of the most beautiful houses of that period,” wrote Imam Mihdizadih in “Hamshahri” on 13 July. “The plasterwork and the tile-work in the rooms as well as the verdant veranda, the courtyard with its central pool, and the trees planted in the flowerbeds, all created a tranquil atmosphere in this house.”

The house was demolished over a period of about one week in June. The demolition order was issued in April by Ayatollah Kani, director of the Marvi School and the Endowments Office, ostensibly for the purpose of creating an Islamic cemetery. When the demolition started on 20 June, officials from the Ministry of Information were present, and by 29 June more than 70 percent of the structure had been destroyed. [See photographs]

The destruction of Mirza Abbas Nuri’s house represents just the latest in a series of demolitions that appears to be aimed at systematically destroying Baha’i holy sites, said Bani Dugal, principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

In April, despite international protest, the gravesite of an early apostle of the Faith was destroyed in Babol. The house-like structure marked the resting place of Mulla Muhammad-Ali Barfurushi, known as Quddus.

Gravesite of Quddus, an early apostle of the Baha’i Faith, during its demolition, Babol, Iran, April 2004.
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Quddus was the foremost disciple of the Bab, the Prophet-Herald of the Baha’i Faith.

In 1993, more than 15,000 graves were bulldozed at the well-kept Baha’i cemetery of Tehran on the pretext of constructing a municipal center.

In 1979, shortly after the Islamic revolution, the house of the Bab in Shiraz, one of the most sacred sites in the Baha’i world, was demolished. The house of Baha’u’llah in Takur, where the Founder of the Baha’i Faith spent his childhood, was also demolished soon after the revolution and the site offered for sale to the public.

“We see all this as part of a concerted plan on the part of the Iranian government to gradually extinguish the Baha’i Faith as a cultural force and cohesive entity,” said Ms. Dugal. “Over the years, the government’s strategy has changed, from outright killing to methods that are less likely to attract international attention, such as the destruction of holy sites.

“But the end result is the same: to completely destroy the Baha’i community of Iran, along with its history and heritage,” said Ms. Dugal.

To see a copy of the statement placed in the “New York Times,” see

The House of the Bab in Shiraz, Iran, one of the holiest sites in the Baha’i world, being destroyed by revolutionary guardsmen in 1979. It was later razed by the Government.
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To see a press release from the Office of Public Information of the Baha’i community of the United States, see

For background article on the situation of the Baha’is in Iran, see

For the history of the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran, see

For an article on Iran’s secret blueprint for the destruction of the Baha’i community, see

For an August 2004 news story on the ploy to deprive Baha’is of higher education, see

Mr. Musa Talebi

was arrested in 1979 and sentenced to death for apostasy on August 18, 1996 by the Islamic Revolutionary Court, branch number 31, is in the Evin Prison in Tehran.  He was initially sentenced to ten years in prison for having shared the tenets of his faith with others.  An appellate court reduced that sentence to 18 months.  The public prosecutors, protesting that the sentence was too light and that the court had failed to consider the charge of apostasy, appealed to the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court referred the case to Islamic Revolutionary Court, branch 31, which set aside the earlier sentence and imposed the death sentence for apostasy.  The death sentence was appealed, but on January 28, 1997 the Bahá’í International Community was informed that the Supreme Court of Iran had confirmed the sentence.  This news was conveyed to relatives of Mr. Talebi during prison visits.  It has been the practice of the Iranian authorities to convey verdicts orally to prisoners and not give them a copy of the actual text of the court decision.


NEW YORK, 19 December 2005 (BWNS) — A Baha’i who has been wrongly jailed in Iran for 10 years died in his prison cell of unknown causes on Thursday, 15 December 2005, the Baha’i International Community has learned.

Mr. Dhabihu’llah Mahrami, 59, was held in a government prison in Yazd under harsh physical conditions at the time of his death.

His death comes amidst ominous signs that a new wave of persecutions has begun. This year so far, at least 59 Baha’is have been arrested, detained or imprisoned, a figure up sharply from the last several years.

Arrested in 1995 in Yazd on charges of apostasy, Mr. Mahrami was initially sentenced to death. His sentence was later commuted to life imprisonment after an international outcry and widespread media attention.

“The worldwide Baha’i community mourns deeply the passing of Mr. Mahrami, who was unjustly held for a decade on trumped-up charges that manifestly violated his right to freedom of religion and belief,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations.

“While the cause of his death is not known, Mr. Mahrami had no known health concerns,” said Ms. Dugal.

“We also know that Mr. Mahrami was forced to perform arduous physical labor and that he had received death threats on a number of occasions.

“In this light, there should be no doubt that the Iranian authorities bear manifest responsibility for the death of this innocent man, whose only crime was his belief in the Baha’i Faith,” said Ms. Dugal.

“In our mourning, we nevertheless hope that Mr. Mahrami’s unexplained passing will not go unnoticed by the world at large and, indeed, that his case might become a cause for further action towards the emancipation of the Baha’i community of Iran as a whole,” said Ms. Dugal.

Born in 1946, Mr. Mahrami served in the civil service but at the time of his arrest was making a living installing of venetian blinds, having been summarily fired from his job like thousands of other Baha’is in the years following the 1979 Iranian revolution.

Although Iranian officials have asserted that Mr. Mahrami was guilty of spying for Israel, court records clearly indicate that he was tried and sentenced solely on charge of being an “apostate,” a crime which is punishable by death under traditional Islamic law.

Although Mr. Mahrami was a lifelong Baha’i, the apostasy charge apparently came about because a civil service colleague, in an effort to prevent Mr. Mahrami from losing his job, submitted to a newspaper an article stating that he had converted to Islam.

When it later became clear to Iranian authorities that Mr. Mahrami remained a member of the Baha’i community, they arrested him and charged him with apostasy for allegedly converting from Islam to the Baha’i Faith. On 2 January 1996, he was sentenced to death by the Revolutionary Court, a conviction that was later upheld by the Iranian Supreme Court.

The death sentence against Mr. Mahrami stirred an international outcry. The European Parliament, for example, passed a resolution on human rights abuses in Iran, making reference to Mr. Mahrami’s case. The governments of Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States also registered objections.

There was also significant media coverage of the case, in Le Monde and Libration in France, as well as reports by the BBC, Reuters and Agence France Presse.

Although the authorities did not publicly bow to international pressure calling for Mr. Mahrami’s release, in December 1999 they took the occasion of the anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad to declare an amnesty and commuted his sentence to life imprisonment.

Since 1978, more than 200 Iranian Baha’i have been killed, hundreds more have been imprisoned, and thousands have been deprived of jobs, pensions and education as part of a widespread and systemic religious persecution by the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As of October, Mr. Mahrami was one of nine Baha’is being held in Iranian prisons. However, all of the others had been arrested in 2005.

Mr. Mahrami is survived by his aged mother, his wife, his four children, and his grandchildren.

Mr. Mahrami’s funeral was held on Friday, 16 December 2005, the same day that the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution expressing “serious concern” over the human rights situation in Iran, making specific mention of the ongoing persecution of the Baha’i community there.


NEW YORK, 7 March 2007 (BWNS) — The Baha’i International Community has  obtained a document that appears to confirm double-dealing by Iran in  its policy towards Baha’i students seeking higher education.

The document, a 2 November 2006 letter from the headquarters of Payame  Noor University to its regional branches, states that it is government policy that Baha’i students “cannot enroll” in Iranian universities and that if they are already enrolled, “they should be expelled.”

“This document provides proof of Iran’s duplicitous behavior regarding Iranian Baha’i students,” said Bani Dugal, the Baha’i International Community’s principal representative to the United Nations.

“In its public face, Iran claims that it has finally opened the doors to Baha’i students, after some 25 years of keeping them out of public and private universities in Iran,” said Ms. Dugal.

“But, as evidenced by this confidential memorandum from the Payame Noor central office, the real policy is apparently to simply expel Baha’is as soon as they can be identified.”

Indeed, the content of the letter sharply contradicts denials issued last week by an Iranian government spokesperson when asked to comment on figures released by the Baha’i International Community showing that a large number of Baha’i university students have been expelled so far this year, solely because of religious discrimination.

According to a report by Reuters on 28 February 2007, a spokesperson for the Iranian mission to the United Nations, who had requested his name not be used, was asked about the high percentage of expelled students and replied: “No one in Iran because of their religion has been expelled from studying.”

Until two years ago, all Baha’i students were kept out of universities by the requirement that everyone list their religion on entrance examination forms. Baha’is were automatically rejected.

After pressure from the international community and human rights organizations, Iran changed its policy and dropped the religious affiliation requirement.

Last autumn, hundreds of Baha’is passed the examination and some 178 were admitted into the university of their choice. So far this school year, however, at least 70 Baha’i students have been expelled as universities have learned that they were Baha’is. The 2 November letter was issued on the letterhead of Iran’s Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, and goes out from Payame Noor’s “Central Protection Office” to directors of the university’s regional centers.

“With respect, according to the ruling of the Cultural Revolutionary Council and the instructions of the Ministry of Information and the Head Protection Office of the Central Organization of Payame Noor University, Baha’is cannot enroll in universities and higher education centers,” states the letter.

“Therefore, such cases if encountered should be reported, their enrollment should be strictly avoided, and if they are already enrolled they should be expelled.”

Payame Noor University is “the largest state university in terms of student numbers and coverage,” according to the university’s website, with some 467,000 students in 74 degree programs at 257 study centers and units throughout the country.

So far this year, at least 30 Baha’i students have been expelled from Payame Noor.

To view view the document in English, go to:

To view the document in Arabic, go to:

For more information about the expulsion of Baha’is from universities
in Iran, go to

To view the photos and additional features click here: