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IRAN: Fariba Kamalabadi, Religious Prisoner of Conscience, Released

USCIRF Vice Chairwoman Kristina Arriaga speaking out on behalf of Fariba Kamalabadi amd Mahvash Sabet


November 1, 2017


IRAN: Fariba Kamalabadi, Religious Prisoner of Conscience, Released
Vice Chairwoman Arriaga praises Ms. Kamalabadi’s “courage, grounded in the faith that the Iranian government has tried so hard to repress”

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes the release of Iranian religious prisoner of conscience Fariba Kamalabadi, one of the Baha’i leaders known as the “Yaran” (Friends in Iran). In 2008, all seven leaders were arrested and sentenced to prison, charged with espionage and “spreading propaganda against the regime.”  Ms. Kamalabadi was released after serving her full 10-year sentence.  This followed the September 2017 release of Mahvash Sabet, a fellow Yaran who also was held in Tehran’s Evin Prison.  The other five Yaran remain imprisoned. 

“Fariba is a mother, a psychologist, a teacher, and ultimately an Iranian citizen who has been denied her rights in a blatant violation of her religious freedom. Fellow prisoners described her compassion and courage, grounded in the faith that the Iranian government has tried so hard to repress,” said USCIRF Vice Chairwoman Kristina Arriaga, who has advocated in support of both Ms. Sabet and Ms. Kamalabadi. “We welcome her release but remain steadfast in calling for the release of the other Yaran and all Iranian religious prisoners of conscience.”

Vice Chairwoman Arriaga took up Ms. Kamalabadi’s and Ms. Sabet’s cases as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project.  Through this project, Commissioners work for the release of individuals who have been imprisoned for their religious identity, beliefs, practices, or advocacy and highlight the laws and policies that led to the imprisonment.

Since 1999, USCIRF has recommended, and the State Department has designated, Iran as a “country of particular concern” (CPC) for the government’s systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations.  Since President Hassan Rouhani’s election in 2013 and reelection in May 2017, the number of individuals from religious minority communities who are in prison because of their beliefs has increased.  These prisoners demonstrate the Iranian government’s callous disregard for the international human rights agreements that Iran has ratified.

USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark stated, “This month, the State Department should release its designations of CPCs. USCIRF continues to recommend that the State Department designate Iran as a CPC based on systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom targeting not only Baha’is but also Christian converts, Sunni and Sufi Muslims, and dissenting Shi’a Muslims. The U.S. government must stand firm for the religious freedom of the Iranian people utilizing all policy tools available, including asset freezes and visa bans targeting those accountable for violations."

Read USCIRF’s 2017 Annual Report Iran chapter here (Persian translation).


The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom is an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission, the first of its kind in the world. USCIRF reviews the facts and circumstances of religious freedom violations abroad and makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress. USCIRF Commissioners are appointed by the President and the Congressional leadership of both political parties. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at Media@USCIRF.gov or John D. Lawrence, Director of Communications (JLawrence@USCIRF.gov/ +1-202-786-0611).