I spent two and half years of my life unjustly imprisoned in Iran. I’m fortunate I was released in the fall of 2010. But for my former cellmates, members of Iran’s imprisoned Bahá’í leadership group, freedom has proved elusive.
In 2008, my brother, Dr. Arash Alaei, and I were serving sentences in Iran’s notorious Evin prison after being accused of trying to overthrow the government. In reality, we were running a public health program for HIV/AIDS patients and drug addicts. We had been doing this not only with government approval but also government funding. However, the government’s priorities changed, and my brother and I soon found ourselves in prison for doing what had been praised in the past.
My Baha’i cellmates, however, were never in the good graces of the government. Baha’is are the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the country. Since the 1979 revolution, their community has undergone severe persecution with many executed.
My cellmates, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Afif Naiemi and Jamaloddin Khanjani, had been accused of espionage, propaganda against the Islamic Republic and the establishment of an illegal administration — false charges designed to conceal the religious bigotry motivating their imprisonment. Other members of the leadership group, Saeid Rezaie and Vahid Tizfahm, shared a prison cell with my brother, and Mahvash Sabet and Fariba Kamalabadi were imprisoned in one of the female wards at Evin. These seven individuals had done… >>>