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A Faith Denied: The Persecution of the Baha'is of Iran

Mr. Lutfi asked Mr. Ghods: “Is the Bahá’í faith being put on trial?” He answered in the negative. “Is the Bahá’í community being put on trial?” Again the response was negative. Then he asked: “So who are you putting on trial?” Mr. Ghods replied: “We are trying the leaders of the Bahá’ís.” Mr. Lutfi pointed to Mr. Badi’ullah Saadatmand, accused person # 9, who was sitting next to him, and said: “This man who is from Minshad and is a farmer who hardly ever comes to the city… is this man is a leader of the Bahá’ís?”194

In their defense, the accused asserted that Bahá’ís deeply respect Islamic teachings and that they shared information about their own religion not to lead Muslims astray, but to counter unfounded accusations. They argued that Bahá’í religious beliefs prohibited them from engaging in espionage or membership in political parties and that Bahá’ís sent donations to Israel to support the upkeep of Bahá’í holy sites there, not the Israeli government. The defense attorney, Mr. Lutfi, further noted that the SAVAK reports offered by the prosecution had no obvious connection with the accused, whose names were not even mentioned in the documents.195

As evidence that one of the accused, Mr. Faridani, was a Zionist spy, the prosecution appears to have simply cited his contacts with Bahá’í institutions and administrative bodies. The questioning proceeded as follows:

Mr. Faridani said: “I have been working in the education office for over 30 years and fulfilled my duties with honesty and compassion and no one ever had a complaint about me.” Mr. Ghods replied: “[t]hat you are a spy is [complaint] enough.” Then Mr. Kazemi [another accused person] recited a few lines from the Koran, and Mr. Ghods asked him: “Are you a Bahá’í or not?” He kept repeating his question and once he received an affirmative response, he said: “Very well, this is enough.” Mr. Kazemi responded: “this is not a trial and there is no justice; this is a battlefield.”196

The trial was partially televised, and covered by the media. An article in the state-run newspaper, Kayhan, described the events:

The Revolutionary Court of Yazd studied [the evidence] and sentenced seven of the accused to be executed, in accordance with Shari’a law. The sentence was carried out early this morning on the anniversary of the Black Friday of Tehran, 17 of Shahrivar [September 8, 1980]. This act of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Yazd was done as a salute to the brave men who willingly gave their lives to overthrow the tyrannical Pahlavi regime and kept the Holy Revolution of Iran alive with their blood. With this revolutionary action [the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Yazd] pays homage to the pure blood of the martyrs and warns the enemies of Islam and Iran that our beloved Iran will never again fall in the arms of the foreigner, and the enemies of Islam will be dealt with decisively.197

A statement prepared by Yadu’llah Lutfi describes how the remaining prisoners learned of the execution of seven of their members:

That night [September 8, 1980], Mr. Ghods accompanied by a few Revolutionary Guards entered the cell and read the names of Mr. Dhabibian, Mr. Faridani, Mr. Kazemi, Mr. Akhtar-Khavari, Mr. Mostaghim, Mr. Motahhari, and Mr. Hassanzadeh. He said that since their files had been transferred to Tehran, they should gather their belongings and leave for Tehran immediately. Of course, there was some doubt about the veracity of this. The seven aforementioned individuals said goodbye and left the rest worried. A few hours later, one of the Revolutionary Guards who had left with them returned. He threw Mr. Kazemi’s hat through the window of the prison cell and said: “The minibus that was taking them had an accident.” Then he threw [a Persian sweet] into the cell for the prisoners and said: “Tonight, Abbas Effendi [a reference to Abdu’l-Baha, the son of Bahá’u’lláh] is crying.”198

The media coverage of the events in Yazd was apparently so graphic that the Revolutionary Court of Yazd received complaints from the general public who did not wish to see such events televised. The Revolutionary Courts refrained from publicizing further executions, although the authorities continued to engage in the confiscation of Bahá’í property and the expulsion of Bahá’ís from schools and jobs.199 The eight surviving detainees were released four months later in December 1980.200

Tabriz

In late 1979 two members of the Tabriz Local Spiritual Assembly, Yadu'lláh Ástání and Dr. Farámarz Samandarí, were arrested and charged with conspiring against the government, spying for Israel, plotting against Islam, participating in Bahá’í conferences in London and New Delhi, prostitution and immorality, and conspiring against the sovereignty of the country.201 Dr. Samandarí was also formally charged with being the Chairman of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tabriz.202 The hearing was presided over by the Head of the Iranian Judiciary, Ayatollah Ardebili. There were no witnesses present and the defendants were not permitted defense counsel. The proceedings of this trial were not made public; however, the execution of the two men by a firing squad was announced by Tehran Radio on July 14, 1980.203

[194]Id. at 280.
[195]Statement of Yadu’llah Lutfi, supra note 193.
[196]Id.
[197]Bih Jurm-i Khiyanat bih Millat-i Muslaman-i Iran, 7 Bahá’í dar Yazd Tirbaran Shudand [For Committing Treachery Against the Muslim Nation of Iran, 7 Bahá'ís Were Executed by Firing Squad in Yazd], KAYHAN, No. 11089, 18/6/1359 (September 9, 1980), reporting from Islamic Revolutionary Court of Yazd. The victims included eighty-four-year-old 'Abdu'l-Vahháb Kázemí Manshádí.
[198]Statement of Yadu’llah Lutfi, supra note 193.
[199]THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD XVIII, supra note 113, at 259.
[200]Chronological Summary of Acts of Persecution, supra note 113, at 20-24.
[201]EZZATOLLAH DJAZAYERI (NATIONAL SPIRITUAL ASSEMBLY OF SWEDEN), STRANGERS IN THEIR NATIVE LAND 70 (1987) (citing
SOBH-I AZADIGAN, July 1980, no. 151, 24, 4.)

[202]Id.
[203]Statement by Dr. Victor De Araujo, Representative to the UN, Background Information on the Execution of Bahá’ís in Iran
(July 1980) (on file with IHRDC).

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Baha'i, Personal Liberty, Arbitrary Detention, Illegal Search and Seizure, Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Conscience