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IRAN: Bahai woman is among seven awaiting trial

July 28, 2009 |  6:58 pm

Iraj Kamalabadi of Rancho Cucamonga constantly worries about his sister Fariba Kamalabadi, who is sitting in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison, nearly 7,600 miles away.

According to her brother and statements from human rights groups, Fariba Kamalabadi’s home was raided in May 2008 and she was taken into custody. She is still being held, as are six other leaders of the Bahai community. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom says that according to the Iranian Students News Agency, the seven are accused of "espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities and propaganda against the Islamic Republic." Their trial was scheduled for July 11, but has been postponed indefinitely.

Iraj Kamalabadi says that his 47-year-old sister is physically weak, but remains committed to her faith. Monday, when her mother, husband and daughters visited her, she was gaunt and her skin was in terrible condition, but she assured them she was OK.

Journalist Roxana Saberi, who came to know Kamalabadi and her colleague Mahvesh Sabet while in Evin Prison, said Kamalabadi spent four months in isolation while Sabet spent six. In an e-mail Monday, Saberi described Kamalabadi’s resolve. "Fariba’s spirit was very strong. She gave me the impression that she trusted in God to do what was best for her and her six colleagues who are also imprisoned in Evin," Saberi says. "However, she did not seem to think about what was best for them as individuals but what might be best for Iran’s Bahai community, its principles and its future."

While in solitary, Saberi says that Kamalabadi "tried to keep her spirits high by praying, reading and exercising, even though her prison cell was small, and she had to exercise in place most of the time."

Saberi, who was released from Evin Prison in May, implored in a letter this month to the White House, U.S. Department of State and a religious rights commission that more be done to "raise the case" for their release.

In May, on the one-year anniversary of her mother’s arrest and detention, Kamalabadi’s daughter Alhan Taefi, 23, wrote a letter reflecting on her grief. "I remember in preparation for the mothers’ day, when all my friends were talking about what presents they were going to buy for their moms, I forced myself not to burst into tears, in order to be strong," she says. "The same way you wanted me to be, the same way you are."

Earlier this year, Kamalabadi noticed that a piece of a carrot from her meal had signs of growth. She took it, wrapped it in paper and watered it inside the poorly lit prison. It grew into a small plant, which she gave her daughter Taraneh Taefi, 14, for her birthday. The experience was so emotional that fellow visitors and prisoners burst into tears as Taefi received it. In Alhan Taefi’s letter, she says, "This plant stood as a symbol of you for me. When I was lonely, I would go and cuddle it, talk to it, caress it, and kiss it — I would feel it was you standing before me."

Amber Smith in Los Angeles

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