Behnam Rohani-Fard is a Baha’i singer from Iran who was arrested on September 4, 2017 upon returning to Tehran from a concert tour in Europe. Released from solitary confinement on bail on October 3, 2017, Rohani-Fard still faces charges of “propaganda against the state”, “disturbing public opinion”, and “membership in the illegal Baha’i organization”, which could land him back in Tehran’s infamous Evin Prison if he is convicted.
Members of the Baha’i faith are heavily persecuted in Iran, which refuses to acknowledge Baha’i as a legitimate religion. Rohani-Fard first faced persecution and legal troubles in 2010, when he spent nine months in a prison in Yazd, Iran after composing a song called “Zendani” (“Prisoner”) which expressed solidarity with already-imprisoned members of Iran’s Baha’i community.
Rohani-Fard has tried numerous times over the past several years to apply for a license to perform his music, but Iran’s strict Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has repeatedly denied those requests due to the singer’s open disclosure of his religion on official forms. Without such licenses, Rohani-Fard was unable to sell his music or perform in Iran, and so decided to travel abroad in order to continue making and distributing music.
After spending the summer performing in several European countries, Rohani-Fard and his band attempted to return to Tehran on September 4, 2017. The group was stopped at the airport by authorities from the state Intelligence Ministry, who confiscated their phones, laptops, passports and other personal items, and Rohani-Fard was transferred directly to Evin Prison’s Ward 209, which is under the Intelligence Ministry’s control. He was held there for a month in solitary confinement and interrogated for three or four hour periods at least 20 times.
Rohani-Fard was finally released on October 3, 2017 on 100 million tomans bail (about $30,000), though he still faces a trial on the same charges under which he was detained. The date has yet to be set.