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

On July 29, 1981, all nine members of Tabriz’s reconstituted Local Spiritual Assembly were executed together in the courtyard of Tabriz prison. Each member of the Tabriz assembly had originally been arrested individually. On June 14, 1979, Ayatollah Khomeini’s personal representative in Tabriz, Judge Tabataba’i, arrested and imprisoned 'Abdu'l-'Alí 'Asadyárí for ten days before releasing him. On June 10, 1980 Adayari received a summons to return to court, at which point he was placed in solitary confinement for 21 days before being transferred to a regular cell where he was kept for over a year. Dr. Parvíz Fírúzí was arrested and imprisoned on July 19, 1980. Mr. Mihdí Báhirí was arrested on August 3, 1980. Dr. Masrúr Dakhilí was arrested on July 6, 1981. Husayn Asadu'lláh-Zádih was arrested in July 1980 in his home by Revolutionary Guards. Alláh-Virdí Mítháqí and Manúchihr Khází’í were arrested with 17 others (some of who were eventually released) meeting to discuss their dismissal from jobs because of their Bahá’í affiliation. Habíbu'lláh Tahqíqí was arrested in March 1981. Mr. Ismá'íl Zihtáb was first arrested on September 18, 1979 by Revolutionary Guards at a Local Spiritual Assembly and was released on April 11, 1980. He was rearrested on July 18, 1981 and was executed along with the others 11 days later.204

Hamadan

On June 14, 1981, seven members of the Local Spiritual Assembly of Hamadan were executed by a firing squad.205 Their bodies were released to the Bahá’í community for appropriate burial. Examination of the corpses while the bodies were being prepared for the funeral revealed that six of these men had been physically tortured before their deaths. The body of the seventh was “riddled with bullets.”206

Reuters published a detailed account of the men’s injuries:

The body of Husayn Motlaq Aráni showed no signs of torture but he had been shot nine times. Muhammad Baqer Habibi had a broken shoulder; Dr. Násir Vafá’í had had his thighs cut open as far as the waist and had been shot seven times; Husayn Khándil had had the fingers of one hand pressed and his back had been burned; Sohráb Habíbí had had his back burned and had been shot five times’ and Tarázu'lláh Khuzayn suffered a smashed chest and left hand and had been shot seven times.207

Similar reports reached the Bahá’í international community:

The ribs of Tarázu'lláh Khuzayn were crushed, and his hands were slashed. His legs and thighs had been pierced with a bayonet, and the injuries had turned his skin black and the tissues were swollen. [He was sixty-four when he died.] Suhráb Habíbí’s back had been branded with a hot ring – his own – and he had severe burns. The fingers of Husayn Khándil were slashed and his abdomen had been cut open. Dr. Na'ímí’s back had been broken and Dr. Vafá’í’s thighs had been cut open; Suhayl Habíbí’s shoulders had been broken and smashed. Hossein Mutlaq had not been tortured but his body showed the greatest number of bullet wounds.208

Shiraz

The Bahá’ís of Shiraz witnessed the largest waves of arrest and executions. From 1978 through 1981 the Bahá’í community of Shiraz had already suffered a large-scale mob attack (see 4.2 above), the destruction of the House of the Báb (see 5.2 below), and the execution of five prominent members of the community. On October 23, 1982 about forty-five Bahá’ís were arrested and taken to Sepah Prison for interrogations. In the month of November, the public prosecutor’s office ordered the arrest of an additional 40 Bahá’ís. The grounds for the arrests were not publicized; some detainees were subsequently released while others were held for nearly a year before being executed.209

On February 22, 1983, the newspaper Khabar-i Jonub reported that Hojatolislam Qaza'i, the Religious Magistrate and Head of the Revolutionary Court of Shiraz, had announced that the court had issued an order for the execution of twenty-two unnamed Bahá’ís.210 The court order provoked an international outcry. Three Bahá’í detainees - Túbá Zá’irpúr, Yadu'lláh Mahmúdnizhád, and Rahmatu'lláh Vafá’í211 - were executed on March 12, 1983. On May 23, 1983 U.S. President Ronald Reagan appealed to Ayatollah Khomeini not to allow the executions to continue, commenting “these individuals are not guilty of any political offence or crime, they have not plotted the overthrow of the regime and they are not responsible for the deaths of anyone.”212

Ayatollah Khomeini responded to President Reagan’s appeal in a speech delivered at the celebration of the anniversary of the birth of Imam Mahdi on May 28, 1983:

Mr. Reagan says that these poor, calm Bahá’ís are silently doing their prayers and religious ceremonies; and that Iran has arrested them only because our beliefs are against their beliefs. Were these people not spies, you would not be raising your voices! You are doing this because you benefit from them… Bahá’ís are not a religious group, they are a party which was previously supported by the British, and now is being supported by the United States. They [the Bahá'ís] are spies like them [the Americans and British].213

[204]MAHMEHR GOLISTANEH, A TRIBUTE TO THE FAITHFUL (1992) 77-84; THE BAHAI QUESTION: CULTURAL CLEANSING IN IRAN, supra note 118, at 80.
[205]They were: Mr. Muhammad (Suhráb) Habíbí, Mr. Muhammad-Báqir (Suhayl) Habíbí, Mr. Husayn Khándil, Mr. Tarázu'lláh Khuzayn, Mr. Husayn Mutlaq, Dr. Fírúz Na'ímí, Dr. Násir Vafá’í. See PR Newswire articles, June 15 and June 17, 1981 (citing statement released by the NSA of Bahá’ís of the U.S.); see also 7 Bahá’ís Executed By Iran, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, June 15, 1981 at
p. 12.

[206]THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD XVIII, supra note 113, at 261; Reuters article regarding Hamadan Local Spiritual Assembly (date unknown) (on file with IHRDC).
[207]Reuters article regarding Hamadan Local Spiritual Assembly (date unknown)(on file with IHRDC).
[208]THE BAHÁ’Í WORLD XVIII, supra note 113, at 283.
[209]Statement of Witness A (dated July 21, 2005) (on file with IHRDC).
[210]Guft-u-Guyih Ikhtisasiyyih Khabar Ba Hojatolislam Qaza’i Hakím-i Shar’ va Ra'is-i Dadgah-i Enghilab-i Shiraz, Hakem-i Shar’e Shiraz: Bih Bahá’ían Tazakkur Midaham Bih Daman-i Islam Biyayand [Exclusive Interview of Khabar with Hojatolislam Qaza'i, the Religious Magistrate and Head of the Shiraz Revolutionary Court; the Religious Magistrate of Shiraz: "I Warn Bahá'ís to Come to the Hem of Islam" [i.e., into the arms of Islam]], KHABAR-I JONUB, No. 782, 3/12/1361 (February 22, 1983).
[211]THE BAHÁ’Í QUESTION: CULTURAL CLEANSING IN IRAN, supra note 118, at 80.
[212]Reagan Asks Iran to Spare Bahá'í Lives, KHALEEJ TIMES, May 24, 1983.
[213]See Imam-i Ummat dar Didar-i bah Mas'ulin-i Kishvar bih Munasibat-i Milad-i bah Sa'adat-i Imam-i Zaman (AJ): Mavara'yih Taz'if-i Urganhayih in Jumhuri Dastha-i Ast kih Gardanandih Hastand [Imam of the nation in a visit with the authorities of the country on the occasion of the anniversary of the birth of the Imam of Time: There are hands masterminding the attempts to weaken this Republic], KAYHAN, 8/3/1362 [May 29, 1983] (on file with IHRDC).

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