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

First National Spiritual Assembly of Iran

Throughout 1980, members of the National Spiritual Assembly were repeatedly harassed. In February 1980, National Spiritual Assembly member Dr. Husayn Nají sent a telegram to Ayatollah Khomeini, President Bani-Sadr, the Minister of Health Hadi Manafi, Attorney General of the Revolutionary Court Ayatollah Ali Qodusi, and the Iranian Medical Association describing several invasions of his home by armed men and the arrest of his wife. He requested advice about what he could do to stop this harassment.156 His protest was of little avail; all nine members of the National Spiritual Assembly were summarily arrested by Revolutionary Guardsmen on August 21, 1980, along with two members of the Auxiliary Board, while they were attending a regular National Spiritual Assembly meeting at a private home.157

Families of the missing individuals relentlessly pursued the case from the date of their disappearance to the end of January 1981, meeting with Attorney General Ayatollah Qodusi, Head of the Iranian Judiciary Ayatollah Muhammad Beheshti, and Speaker of Parliament Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.158 In a meeting on September 10, 1980, Rafsanjani confirmed that an order had been issued for the arrest of eleven Bahá’ís, but told family members that they would be denied access to the prisoners until their interrogation was complete. However, on October 9, 1980, Rafsanjani changed his story, telling family members that the government had not arrested any members of the National Spiritual Assembly, and instead rather implausibly suggested that an independent “group” might be behind their disappearance.159

The fate of the nine National Spiritual Assembly and two Auxiliary Board members remains unknown, although there are reports that they were briefly held in Evin prison;160 there has been no further news of them since August 29, 1980 and they are all now presumed dead.161

Second National Spiritual Assembly of Iran

Soon after the disappearance of the members of the National Spiritual Assembly, Iranian Bahá’ís gathered to elect a new National Spiritual Assembly. The members of this second National Assembly were fully aware that they risked being subjected to the same treatment as their predecessors.162

The authorities immediately targeted the new leadership. Amnesty International reported that on December 13, 1981, Iranian authorities arrested eight of the nine new National Spiritual Assembly members at the home of Zough’u’llah Momen. The eight NSA members arrested were Mehdi Amín Amín, Jalá'l Azízí, Izzatu’lláh Furúhí, Ginous Ni’mat Mahmúdí, Mahmúd Majdhúb, Qudratu’lláh Rawhání, Sírús Rawshání, and Kámrán Samímí.163 Momen was also detained as was Farídeh Samímí, wife of the Assembly’s Secretary Kámrán Samímí, who had been helping out as a hostess. Amnesty International issued an Urgent Action memo calling for appeals to be sent directly by telegram and postal service to the Head of the Supreme Court, Ayatollah Mousavi Ardebili, Prime Minister Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and Prosecutor-General Rabbani Amleshi demanding further information on the location of those arrested, as well as suggesting that appeals be sent by telex to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of the Interior.164

In an interview with IHRDC, Farídeh Samímí, who was arrested along with the second National Spiritual Assembly, described the events. Mrs. Samímí explained that because “there was always a fear that the [Assembly members] would be arrested”, the Assembly had taken the precaution of regularly changing their meeting place to different buildings and neighborhoods. Only four of the Assembly’s nine members would meet at a time, designating an intermediary to act as a go-between with the absent members.

[156]Translation of Statement by Dr. Nají, NSA Member (1980) (on file with the IHRDC).
[157]See Statement made by the Bahá’í International Community to the UN Subcommission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, 34th Session, August 28, 1981. According to THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD XVIII, supra note 113, at 257, the individuals forcibly disappeared include: Mr. 'Abdu'l Husayn Taslímí, Mr. Húshang Mahmúdí, Mr. Ibráhím Rahmání, Dr. Husayn Nají, Mr. Manúhir Qá’im-Maqámí, Mr. 'Atá'u'lláh Muqarrabí, Mr. Yúsif Qádimí, Mrs. Bahíyyih Nádirí, Dr. Kámbíz Sádiqzádih. Two Auxiliary Board Members, Dr. Yúsif 'Abbásíyán and Dr. Hishmat’ulláh Rawhání, also disappeared.
[158]For details of steps taken to pursue the case, see Bahá’í International Community, Statement to the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (January 31, 1981) [attached as Appendix 2].
[161]THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD XVIII, supra note 113, at 256-7. Since the execution of the second National Spiritual Assembly of Iran, it has been assumed that the first National Spiritual Assembly suffered the same fate.
[162]For example, Farídeh Samímí, who was arrested along with the second National Spiritual Assembly, described precautionary measures the NSA had taken, such as meeting only in small groups and frequently changing meeting locations. See Oct. 17, 2006 Statement of Farídeh Samímí (on file with IHRDC) [hereinafter Statement of Farídeh Samímí].
[163]The ninth member was not present at the meeting (see below) and was able to escape Iran at a later time.
[164]Amnesty International, Urgent Action: Fear of ill-treatment/Death Penalty- Iran: Members of the Bahá’í faith, December 18, 1981.

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