Former Iranian schoolteacher freed after decade in jail for 'religious beliefs'

Former Iranian schoolteacher freed after decade in jail for 'religious beliefs'
After a decade in jail for 'sham charges', Mahvash Sabet's supporters say she is another victim of the Iranian regime's continued war against the Bahai minority faith.
2 min read
20 September, 2017
Bahai activists across the world have campaigned for Sabet's release [AFP]
Baha'i Mahvash Sabet walked out of an Iranian jail this week having spent a decade behind bars for a crime her followers say she never committed.

Along with six other leading figures of Iran's Baha'i religious minority, she was jailed on "trumped up charges" of supporting Israel and given a 20 year jail sentence, later commuted to a decade.

Her supporters insist she was jailed due to her Baha'i faith, which has been fiercely persecuted by the cleric-dominated Iranian government.

"All seven of these individuals - including Mahvash - were unjustly imprisoned to begin with, and should not have spent one day in prison, let alone 10 years," said Hadi Ghaemi, the Centre for Human Rights in Iran's (CHRI) executive director in a statement.

"The state's persecution of the Baha'i community in Iran is relentless and in violation of international and Iranian law." 

Despite this, the release of Sabet has offered hope that the remaining leaders will be released soon.

Sabet worked as a school teacher but was expelled from her profession following the 1979 Islamic Revolution due to her faith.

The Baha'i faith was born out of Iran's Shia-majority faith, but has lived a troubled existence in the country over the past nearly two centuries.

Baha'ism is a monolithic faith followed by as many as seven million people around the world, which seeks unity and harmony between different people and faiths.

The Baha'i faith has been hugely suppressed in Iran, particularly since the Islamic Revolution.

It is not recognised as a religion by Tehran, its followers have been imprisoned and killed, while Baha'i graveyards in Iran have been desecrated.

Baha'ism has generally been treated as a cult or subversive quasi-political group by the Tehran regime, partly due to its spiritual centre being situated in Haifa, Israel.

Around 90 Baha'i followers still languish in Iranian jails due to their faith, the CHRI said, and campaigns are underway to have them set free, too.