Key Fact: Developmental psychologist and Baha'i member
Detained Since: May 14, 2008.
Charges: Espionage, propaganda against the Islamic Republic, and establishment of an illegal administration
Sentence: 20 years imprisonment
Biography: Fariba Kamalabadi was born on September 12, 1962, in Tehran, Iran. Ms. Kamalabadi graduated from high school with honors but was barred from attending university due to her Baha’i faith.
In her mid-30s, Ms. Kamalabadi embarked on an eight-year period of informal study and eventually received an advanced degree in developmental psychology from the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education (BIHE), an alternative institution the Baha’i community of Iran established to provide higher education for its young people. The Iranian government does not recognize the BIHE.
Ms. Kamalabadi is one of the seven Baha’i leaders known as “Yaran” or “Friends,” who tended to the spiritual and social needs of the Iranian Baha’i community in the absence of formally elected Baha’i leadership due to restrictions by the Iranian government. The other six members are Mahvash Sabet, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, Saeid Rezaie, Behrouz Tavakkoli, and Vahid Tizfahm.
Ms. Kamalabadi was arrested on May 14, 2008 after an early morning raid on her home. Ms. Kamalabadi and the other Baha’i Seven were held incommunicado for weeks, placed in solitary confinement for months, and spent a year behind bars without access to legal counsel. In 2010, the seven were tried and convicted of charges of “espionage” and “spreading propaganda against the regime.” The Seven were sentenced to 20 years in prison, the longest of any current prisoner of conscience in Iran.
In 2013, Iran passed a reformed Islamic Penal Code that stipulated that courts may carry out only the most severe punishment assigned to a prisoner, rather than carrying out multiple, similar punishments for related crimes. In early 2016, the Baha’i 7 were informed that this rule would be applied to their cases, reducing their imprisonment from 20 years to 10 years.
Ms. Kamalabadi currently is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison, along with other female prisoners of conscience, including Mahvash Sabet.
Ms. Kamalabadi married fellow Baha’i Ruhollah Taefi in 1982 and they have three children, Vargha, Alhan, and Taraneh. Ms. Kamalabadi's father was fired from his job in the government health service in the 1980s because he was a Baha’i; he was later imprisoned and tortured.
Op-Ed: Religion News Service -- Empower women by standing for religious freedom (December 9, 2016)
Related Reports & Briefs
Press Release: Iran: Deteriorating Conditions for Religious Freedom (March 18, 2015)
Press Release: IRAN: Fariba Kamalabadi, Religious Prisoner of Conscience, Released (November 1, 2017)