The ongoing threat by Iranian authorities to imprison the father of a six-year-old boy whose mother is already jailed for her faith is an outrage, Australian Baha’i Community spokesperson Natalie Mobini said today.
Dr Mobini said both parents had been arrested for educating Baha’i youth who are banned from university by the authorities solely because of their religious beliefs.
In October, Azita Rafizadeh, an IT lecturer, began her five-year jail sentence and now her husband, Payman Koushk-Baghi, is also facing imprisonment for his work with the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education (BIHE).
Dr Mobini said that if Mr Koushk-Baghi went to jail their primary school age son Bashir would be without parental care and would have to be looked after by others.
“Depriving a child of the care of his parents would be an outrage and a shocking outcome of the decision by the authorities to jail Baha’is for teaching academic subjects,” Dr Mobini said.
“Iran should release Mrs Rafizadeh immediately and withdraw the threats to her husband and abide by international human rights law which makes it a crime to prevent students having access to higher education, not a crime to offer it.”
One of Mrs Rafizadeh’s former students, Maryam (not her real name), is now a citizen of Australia and an IT specialist.
Maryam was taught about computer operating systems by Mrs Rafizadeh, who she remembers as a very organised and helpful lecturer.
“She would always come with a proper lesson plan and assignments,” Maryam said.
“This was not a paid job for her but a service which was done after hours and at weekends. I am very grateful to her and am appalled that such a wonderful teacher is jailed rather than honoured for her work.”
Mrs Rafizadeh and Mr Koushk-Baghi, who are from Karaj, were among more than 16 Baha’is who were arrested in May 2011 when Iranian authorities raided more than 30 homes targeting individuals supporting BIHE.
In May 2014, they were both summoned to appear in court. Mr. Koushk-Baghi was sentenced to five years and Mrs. Rafizadeh to four years imprisonment.
The case of Bashir and his parents is not an isolated incident. Previously, Mr Kamran Rahimian and his wife, Ms Faran Hessami, also associated with the BIHE, were both imprisoned, leaving their two year old child in the care of relatives.
Meanwhile, striking murals are appearing on walls of buildings in Australia and around the world to highlight the ban on higher education for Baha’is. It is all being done with the consent of the owners. Photographs of the murals are appearing widely on social media.
Earlier this week a mural featuring Iran’s national bird, the nightingale, was painted on the wall of Sydney restaurant Lentil as Anything to draw attention to the ongoing denial of access by Baha’is to Iranian universities.