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Iranian Crackdown on Baha'is, Opposition Activists, Journalists Continues

The Iranian press is reporting that a number of Baha'is have been arrested, along with opposition activists, journalists, and human-rights defenders, during an ongoing crackdown. U.S. officials will speak Monday at a U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva to urge Iran to improve its human-rights record.

Members of Iran's persecuted Baha'i minority have been the focus of a recent series of arrests, according to leaders of the group and the Iranian press. The arrests coincide with a government crackdown on opposition activists, journalists, human-rights defenders and students.

Iran's official Javan newspaper reports security forces arrested five members of the outlawed Baha'i faith in Tehran, and identified them by name. Diane Ala'i, who is a Baha'i spokeswoman in Geneva, says there were two separate sets of arrests in recent weeks. "Thirteen Baha'is were arrested after the Ashoura demonstration; three of them were released after 24 hours; 10 of them are still in prison. We know that they were first moved to Evin (prison) and then they were taken to the Guajardash prison. Then, prior to 22 Bahman, which is the 11th of February, 12 Baha'is were arrested, but the information keeps coming out of Iran in bits and pieces ... and we have absolutely no news of them," she said.

Ala'i said that the first group of Baha'is were put on trial recently and forced to make confessions that she says were "totally implausible". She also denies government reports that large numbers of Baha'is are fleeing the country.

Meir Javedanfar of the MEEPAS Center in Tel Aviv says the arrest of Baha'is and opposition activists is a way for the Iranian government to retaliate for U.S. attempts to isolate the country. "The Iranian government realizes that the issue of the Baha'is is a sensitive one for the international community, especially President Obama, since he has put the issue of human rights high up on his agenda. So, I think they are trying to send the message that the more Iran is isolated by the Obama Administration, the more Iran is going to retaliate in areas that are sensitive to Washington," he said.

Iran has arrested dozens of opposition Green movement leaders and activists, human-rights defenders and students since anti-government protests on Dec. 27 and February 11. The U.N. Human Rights Commission is due to discuss human rights in Iran Monday in Geneva.

Nobel Peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi told Radio Farda the world needs to tell Tehran to improve its human-rights record. She said "we must see to it that Iran and its representatives abroad are obliged to do a better job of guaranteeing human rights inside the country."

Iranian opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi have called repeatedly for Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to release all political prisoners from Iranian prisons.