Unfortunately, we have some very serious updates from the Iranian Baha’i situation of concern, where our information indicates that the region of Isfahan (also spelled Esfahan) is a significant flashpoint. Isfahan is populated predominantly by Shiite Arabs throughout a modest strip of territory in the central part of Iran. Isfahan is notable as the site of two of the four recent cases of Baha’i cemetery desecrations in Iran, which saw cemeteries destroyed on 23 June 2010 and 28 March 2011. The provinces of Sangsar and Marvdasht had similar incidents on March 20 and 2 May 2011 respectively.
Another element that makes Isfahan notable amongst other regions of Iran is its high number of polarization and preparation events, which indicate that the regime is working to weaken the Baha’i community and isolate it from the rest of Iranian society. These events have been comprised of instances of house seizures, school expulsions, arrests, detentions, and imprisonment. Most troubling about this particular region is that it has seen the arrests of some of the youngest Baha’is on record. On August 15 of this year, five Baha’is under the age of 20 were arrested by the Ministry of Information. The group had allegedly also been arrested earlier in the month on August 4 for their activism. More recently, 21 Bahai’s were arrested on September 29 and taken to an undisclosed location. Among these people was a nine-year-old child. On October 1, some of the arrested Baha’is were released, but the whereabouts of thirteen remain unknown.
The Sentinel Project will continue to monitor the situation in Iran and identify the worst-affected areas. In the process, our working group focused on Iran will be developing and applying a new method of data analysis. This will involve building an incident index which our analysts can use to compare the type and frequency of events affecting Baha’is. Eventually, this method will be used to forecast increases in the persecution of threatened communities in other SOCs as well.