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IRAN: Mahvash Sabet, Religious Prisoner of Conscience, Released

Vice Chairwoman Arriaga (r) and USCIRF’s Executive Director, Erin Singshinsuk (l) hold up Ms. Sabet’s artwork.


September 20, 2017

IRAN: Mahvash Sabet, Religious Prisoner of Conscience, Released

USCIRF Vice Chairwoman Arriaga cites Sabet’s “courage in the face of persecution and dedication to her faith”

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomes the release of Iranian religious prisoner of conscience Mahvash Sabet, one of the seven imprisoned Baha’i leaders known as the “Yaran.” In 2008, all seven were arrested and sentenced to prison on false charges of espionage and “spreading propaganda against the regime.” Ms. Sabet has been released after serving her 10-year sentence under these false charges.

“Mahvash Sabet has been unjustly imprisoned under terrible conditions simply for daring to practice her religion and educate her fellow Baha’is. Mahvash’s courage in the face of persecution and her dedication to her faith are truly inspiring,” said USCIRF Vice Chairwoman Kristina Arriaga, who has advocated in support of Ms. Sabet and her fellow prisoner Fariba Kamalabadi. “While we welcome Mahvash’s release, the release of other imprisoned Baha’i leaders and all Iranian prisoners of conscience jailed for their religion or belief must swiftly follow.”

Vice Chairwoman Arriaga took up Ms. Sabet’s case as part of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience Project. Upon learning of this advocacy, Ms. Sabet’s family sent Vice Chairwoman Arriaga a piece of artwork that Ms. Sabet had made in prison (pictured above). Through the Religious Prisoners of Conscience 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” 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, “The United States must continue to speak publicly and unequivocally against these religious freedom violations.   In addition, the U.S. government should hold accountable Iranian government agencies and officials who perpetrate severe religious freedom violations by using all available tools against such perpetrators, including freezing their assets and denying them visas."

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).