Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

https://www.iranrights.org
Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Tahirih Arjumandi Siyavushi

About

Age: 32
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: June 18, 1983
Location of Killing: Abdollah Mesgar Garrison (Chogan Square), Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Religious offense; Espionage
Age at time of alleged offense: 32

About this Case

Ms. Arjumandi was an active, forgiving, selfless, and respectable woman. She had worked as a nurse in suburban Tehran, Yassuj, and Shiraz, and had been selected as an exemplary nurse.

News of the execution of Ms. Tahirih Arjumandi (Siyavushi), child of Massihollah, and 9 other Baha’i women was published in the Times newspaper (June 21, 1983). She was one of the 206 individuals whose name was published in the Worldwide Baha’i Community’s 1999 report. This report, entitled “The Baha’i Question: Iran’s Secret Blueprint for the Destruction of a Religious Community”, dealt with the persecution of members of the Baha’i faith in Iran by the Islamic Republic, and contained a list of Baha’is who were killed in Iran since 1979. Additional information was obtained from Khabar-e Jonoob newspaper (February 12, and February 22, 1983); The New York Times (May 22, 1983); Sahifeye Imam (The Imam’s Book”), Volume 17 (May 28, 1983); Baha’i World Almanac, Volume 18, 1979-1983 (Haifa, 1986); an account of events as published in “A Tribute to the Faithful” by Mah Mehr Golestaneh (1992); the book “Olya’s Story” written by Olya Ruhizadegan; Andalib Magazine (Winter 1988), the Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran (undated); Morteza Esmailipur’s YouTube Channel (April 27, and June 15, 2016); Martyrs of the Baha’i Religion website (undated); Dar Gozar-e Tarikh (“Throughout History”) Telegram Channel (June18, 2019); and the Report of the United States Congressional Hearing published in the World Order Magazine (Winter 1983-1984).

Ms. Arjumandi was born in 1951-52 in Tehran, and resided in the city of Shiraz. She was married and deeply loved her husband. As a young girl and later on as a young woman, Ms. Arjumandi was an active participant in morality and ethics courses and a member of the Youth Organization. Ms. Arjumandi was a graduate of Tehran University’s Nursing School and was an Assistant to the Baha’is Deputies Council and a member of the Publication of Teachings and Culture Lajneh* (“committee”) in Shiraz. Those who knew Ms. Arjumandi well said that she was a forgiving and selfless person and that they had great respect for her. (Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran, undated; Morteza Esmailipur’s YouTube Channel, April 27; Andalib Magazine; Morteza Esmailipur’s YouTube Channel, June 15, 2016).

Ms. Arjumandi passed the Study Abroad Examination and everything was set for her to continue her education in the United States, but she decided to stay in Iran and continue her studies at Tehran University. (Iran Wire).

In 1976-77, Ms. Arjumandi and her husband, Mr. Jamshid Siyavushi, settled in the city of Yassuj n order to establish a Baha’i spiritual assembly there. She worked at a hospital in Yassuj and was selected as an exemplary nurse. Ms. Arjumandi and her husband were forced to leave Yassuj in December 1978, and take up residence in Shiraz, after a group of individuals, instigated by a cleric, attacked and pillaged their home and property. They spent a period of time in poverty. She looked for employment at several hospitals in Shiraz but they did not hire her because she was a Baha’i. After being out of work for a while, Ms. Arjumandi finally found employment as a nurse at a private hospital. She and her husband supported Baha’is whose property had been expropriated. (Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran, undated; Andalib Magazine; Iran Wire).

Ms. Arjumandi’s case is related to the death sentence issued for 22 Baha’is and the execution of 6 Baha’i men and 10 Baha’i women in June 1983 in Shiraz.

Extensive international efforts were made in order to save the imprisoned Baha’is. About a month prior to the implementation of the death sentences, then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan asked the Islamic Republic of Iran’s authorities to stop the executions. A week after the American President’s message, Ayatollah Khomeini, then-Leader of the Islamic Republic, addressing the U.S. government at a gathering of Iranian officials and stated: “We wouldn’t have heard a peep out of you if these people were not spies. [You’re speaking up now] because these are a bunch of people who are on your side and [protect] your interests…And now [you] are making all this noise for 22 Baha’is, who, they claim, ‘have gotten entangled and been entrapped’ in Iran, and now all of a sudden [you] are humanitarians and are crying foul and pleading with the whole world to come to these people’s rescue. [But] people know you [better]…” (The New York Times, May 22, 1983; Sahifeye Imam, Volume 17, May 28, 1983).

The Baha’is in the Islamic Republic of Iran: Background

The Baha’i religious community is the largest minority group in Iran, with approximately 300,000 members in 1979 (more current figures are not available).**  The authorities of the Islamic Republic have subjected Baha’is religious  to systematic harassment and persecution, depriving them of their most fundamental human rights. The Baha’i religion is not recognized under the Constitution of the Islamic Republic, and Iranian authorities refer to it as a heresy. As a result, the Baha’is have been denied the rights associated with the status of a religious minority; they cannot profess and practice their faith and are banned from public functions. Discrimination under the law and in practice has subjected them to abuse and violence. ***

Arrest and detention

At midnight on November 29, 1982, approximately a month after her husband’s arrest, Ms. Arjumandi was arrested at her home by several Revolutionary Guardsmen and detained at the Revolutionary Guards Headquarters. After undergoing a preliminary interrogation on December 2, she was placed in front of a firing squad for a mock execution. Ms. Arjumandi was kept at the Revolutionary Guards Headquarters for approximately 30 days, 12 of which were spent in solitary confinement. The number of people that were kept at the Revolutionary Guards detention center’s general ward was more than the ward’s capacity, and she and her ward mates were forced to sleep on their sides. Ms. Arjumandi would sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and would move to her ward mates’ feet so they could sleep more comfortably. During her detention, she was interrogated orally and in writing about her beliefs, about any information regarding Baha’i leaders, membership in the Amri (“imperative”) organization, and participation in meetings. During her detention, prison officials considered her a “Kafir” (“infidel” or “pagan”) and therefore “filthy” (“impure”), and treated her in a degrading manner, as they did the atheist prisoners.  For instance, prison guards avoided any physical contact with her when she was blindfolded and was being led to the interrogation room. In these circumstances, the prison guard would roll a newspaper and order the prisoner to take one end while the guard took the other, and would lead her in that fashion, in order to avoid any contact or touching. Ms. Arjumandi underwent all kinds of physical and psychological torture during her detention. She and her ward mates were insulted in the course of interrogations under various pretexts such as not wearing thick socks. According to Ms. Arjumandi’s ward mate, she had two pairs of socks and would give one to her other fellow prisoners to wear when they were going for interrogations. Ms. Arjumandi loved her husband very much and her ward mates had seen her cry many times when she remembered him. The interrogators had also threatened her to “torture her husband to near death”. They had also told her that her husband had rejected the Baha’i faith, which was a lie, in order to force her to do the same. (Andalib Magazine, Morteza Esmailipur’s YouTube Channel, June 15, 2016; The Times newspaper, June 21, 1983). 

The interrogators had allowed Ms. Arjumandi to see her husband once, and he had been severely tortured. According to Ms. Arjumandi’s cellmate, “she was shaking, badly shivering and crying” when she returned to the ward. (Andalib Magazine).

Ms. Arjumandi was transferred from the Revolutionary Guards Headquarters to Shiraz’ Adelabad Prison, and was kept in the same cell with Mona and Farkhondeh Mahmudnejad. She was at Adelabad Prison until her execution. She had weekly visitations with certain members of her family from around early April until June 18, 1983. (Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran; Visitation Card/Receipt).

Trial

Shiraz Islamic Revolutionary Court tried Ms. Arjumandi. According to available documentation, the trial lasted from mid-December 1982 until mid-February 1983. Ms. Arjumandi’s final trial session in the presence of the Shari’a Judge started in the morning and lasted all day into late afternoon. (Andalib Magazine).

According to information published in the book “Olia’s Story”, quoting Ms. Arjumandi’s cellmates, she was either tried by an individual, or by the Shari’a judge. According to available reports, the authorities had given Ms. Arjumandi four “sessions” for her to reject her religion and accept Islam. They told her that she would be killed if she did not sign a prepared statement in repudiation of Baha’ism. It is not clear whether all of these sessions took place, and whether they were intended to replace trial sessions or not. (Khabar-e Jonoob, February 12, 1983; the book “Olia’s Story”; Iran Wire).

At trial, Ms. Arjumandi had asked the judge to give her or her husband 15 days to pay the back rent they owed their landlord. The judge had angrily told her: “We will expropriate all your property when we kill you and will give some money to your landlord.” And Ms. Arjumandi had responded: “My dear judge! You have left us nothing; no property to speak of. Four years ago, all our belongings were looted by spiteful and fanatical people on your orders and on the orders of people like you.”

Ms. Arjumandi did not have an attorney at trial.

Charges

The court decision in Ms. Arjumandi’s case was not given to her family. Available information indicates, however, that the charges brought against her were related to her religious beliefs. Ms. Arjumandi had been interrogated and put under pressure to deny her faith during her detention. According to one of her ward mates, quoting Ms. Arjumandi, the Shari’a judge (the trial judge) had told her during the proceedings: “Your charge has been clearly proven and your sentence is death. The only way out is for you to repudiate [your religion]. If you repent and take refuge in Islam, I will release you immediately.” (Andalib Magazine).

Furthermore, according to an interview published in Khabar-e Jonoob newspaper, the Shari’a judge adjudicating the case who was the head of the Shiraz Islamic Revolutionary Court, had warned Baha’is “to take refuge in the arms of dearest Islam… and to reject Baha’ism which is intellectually and logically damned [and void].” (Andalib Magazine; Khabar-e Jonoob newspaper, February 22, 1983).

Ms. Arjumandi was tried for being a Baha’i and was accused of having contacts with the State of Israel. No evidence was presented in support of these charges, however.

In explaining the charges brought against the defendants, the Shari’a judge stated that they were arrested because they were active members of the Baha’i organization, and that they were also [charged with and] being tried for their “direct or indirect” contact with [the Baha’i] “Beit-ol-Adl” (“The House of Justice”) headquartered in Israel which follows [the dictates of] the State of Israel. The Shari’a judge emphasized that the religious activities of the defendants were “criminal” activities, and that “pursuant to Principle Thirteen of the Constitution, any activity by the Baha’is is unconstitutional, and organizing and establishing Assemblies, “Lajne” (“committees”), Parties, and the like, are all crimes.”

In the interview, the Shari’a judge called on all Baha’is (and not just Baha’i activists) to either reject their faith, or accept and suffer the consequences, “otherwise, in a not too distant future, there will come a day where the Ummah (“people”, “adherents”) of Islam will act in accordance with their Islamic duties toward Baha’is…who adhere to [the dictates of] a Satanic religion. And a word of warning to Baha’is… the Ummah of Hezbollah (“the Party of Allah”) will be perfectly capable of eradicating them [once and for all].” (Khabar-e Jonoob newspaper, February 22, 1983).

In a speech given in late May 1982, Ayatollah Khomeini alluded to the 22 Baha’is put on trial and expressly called them “spies”, stating: “Baha’is are not a religion, they’re a political party, a political party that Britain used to support in the past, and now America is supporting … [We would not have tried and sentenced them] if they were not spies. There are many other people who also have misguided and deviant beliefs, who are communist, [for example,] or other things; but our courts did not arrest and imprison them just because they were communist or had deviant beliefs.” (Sahifeye Imam, Volume 17, May 28, 1983; The Times newspaper, June 21, 1983).

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial.  International human rights organizations have drawn attention to reports indicating that the Islamic Republic authorities have brought trumped-up charges, including drug trafficking, sexual, and other criminal offences, against their opponents (including political, civil society activists, as well as unionists and ethnic and religious minorities). Each year Iranian authorities sentence to death hundreds of alleged common criminals, following judicial processes that fail to meet international standards. The exact number of people convicted and executed based on trumped-up charges is unknown.

Evidence of guilt

There is no indication of what the evidence presented against Ms. Arjumandi regarding allegations of contact with Israel and spying was. In his interview with “Khabar-e Jonoob” newspaper, the Shari’a judge and head of the Revolutionary Court stated Baha’is’ activities and beliefs constituted the evidence of crime. The Shari’a judge dismissed the claim that Baha’is do not interfere in politics and abide by the government, and noted that they had not supported the Islamic Republic and had their own [independent] organization. [Applying an incoherent double standard,] the Shari’a judge considered, on the one hand, the Baha’is’ independent organization [and apparatus] in Iran as evidence of not adhering to and following the government of the Islamic Republic, but on the other hand, considered the mere fact that [the Baha’is’] Dar-ol-Adl (headquarters) is located in Israel, and is similarly independent of that country’s government, as evidence of the adherence [and allegiance] of the Baha’i faith and its followers’ to the State of Israel.

From the Shari’a judge’s perspective, the fact that the Baha’is’ organization was separate and independent of “Islam’s organization”, was, in and of itself, evidence of the adherents of the Baha’i faith’s treachery, betrayal, and sin: “We are therefore witnessing that these germs, these seeds of corruption, these children of Satan and mercenaries of Israel’s Beit-ol-Adl, have established an organization and governance, albeit ridiculous, to confront the rule and organization of Islam. What’s funny is that they say we follow the government’s rule and we will abide by whatever the government tells us. But this is in fact a cover to hide their actions that are separate from [and independent of the wishes of] the people.”

Defense

In response to the Shari’a judge who had asked to reject and repudiate [her Baha’i faith], Ms Arjumandi said: “I am a Baha’i and I will not repudiate [my faith] under any circumstances.” (Andalib Magazine).

Furthermore, in the course of interrogations, Ms. Arjumandi had been forced to provide explanations regarding the organization of the Baha’i faith and their religious activities on numerous occasions. She had told her interrogator: “We are not a political group and there is nothing secret [about our faith], and we do not do anything against the government and the people.” (Andalib Magazine).

Ms. Arjumandi did not have access to an attorney and no further information is available regarding her defense at trial.

Judgment

In mid-February 1983, the Shiraz Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Ms. Tahirih Arjumandi (Siyavushi) and 21 other individuals to death. The sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court.

On June 18, 1983, two days after the execution of her husband, Jamshid Siyavushi, Ms. Tahirih Arjumandi (Siyavushi) and 9 other Baha’i women**** were transferred from Adelabad Prison to Shiraz’ Abdollah Mesgar military base, better known as Chogan (“Polo”) Square and forced her to witness the hanging of her ward mates. When it was her turn, she was given one last chance to reject her religion. She refused, and she too was hanged. (The Times newspaper, June 21, 1983; Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran).

According to Ms. Arjumandi’s cellmate, after she got her sentence, “she had said in utter calmness, grace, and cheerfulness, ‘up until now, I thought they would kill Jamshid (her husband) [and he would be all] alone. But now it’s clear to me that…I will be accompanying him on this journey’”.

The authorities did not provide Ms. Arjumandi’s family with a copy of the court decision. In an interview with Khabar-e Jonoob newpaper, however, the head of the Shiraz Islamic Revolutionary Court, justifying the ruling in the Baha’is case, stated: “It is a clear and unquestionable fact that there is not the slightest room for Baha’ism and Baha’is in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” He labelled the individuals sentenced to death as “Koffar Herabi” (meaning atheists who live outside the boundaries set by Islamic rule and have no rights, even the right to life. [The terms literally means “atheists or infidels with whom Moslems must wage war”]), and added: “These people who have been sentenced to death were active members of Baha’ism, from whom naïve people were not safe, and whose affiliation [and allegiance] to domestic and foreign devils was unquestionable, and their enmity toward Islam and Moslems was obvious to a great extent.” He also cited Koran’s Nooh Surah, Verse 26, and promised the prompt execution of the convicted Baha’is. In this Verse [and in Verse 27 that follows], Noah calls upon God and says: “My Lord! Leave not a single one of the disbelievers on Earth. Indeed, if You leave them, they will mislead Your servants and will beget none except [ingrate] sinners and disbelievers.” (Khabar-e Jonoob newspaper, February 22, 1983).

As a result of the publication of this interview, the families of the prisoners went to see the Fars Province Friday Prayer Imam and the Province Governor, as well as the authorities in the capital, to make sure the news was accurate. At the same time, international efforts to save the Baha’is from execution also began, but they bore no fruit.

The authorities did not inform Ms. Arjumandi’s (Siyavushi) family of her execution. Her family became aware of her execution by chance but was not [permitted] to bury her themselves. The authorities buried her and the other Baha’is in Shiraz’ Golestan-e Javid cemetery, without washing the corpses and without observing any burial rites. (Andalib Magazine).

----------------------------------------

* “Lajneh” is a committee that functions locally and is managed by the Spiritual Assembly. ‘Slow Death for Iran’s Baha’is’ by Richard N. Ostling, Time Magazine,20 February 1984. Also see ‘The Persecution of the Baha’is of Iran, 1844-1984, by Douglas Martin, Baha’i Studies,volume 12/13, 1984, p. 3. There is no information about the current number of Baha’is in Iran.
**  “Slow Death for Iran’s Baha’is” by Richard N. Ostling, Time Magazine, February 20, 1984; “The Persecution of the Baha’is of Iran, 1844-1984, by Douglas Martin, Baha’i Studies, Volume 12/13, 1984, page 3. It is not clear how many Baha’is are currently in Iran.
***The Islamic Republic Penal Code grants no rights to Baha’is, and the courts have denied them the right to redress or to protection against assault, murder, and other forms of persecution and abuse. In so doing, the courts have treated Baha’is as unprotected citizens or “apostates,” citing eminent religious authorities whose edicts are considered a source of law equal to acts of Parliament. The Founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Khomeini, made execution a punishment for the crime of apostasy and decreed that a Muslim would not be punished for killing an apostate.
Banishment from public functions has seriously damaged the Baha’is’ professional, economic, and social lives. Soon after the revolution, a Ministry of Labor directive called for the dismissal from public office and all governmental organizations and associations of those “who belong to any of the misguided sects recognized by all Muslims as heretical deviations from Islam, or to organizations whose doctrine and constitution are based on rejection of the divinely-revealed religions.” Finally, the mandatory requirement of specifying religion in application forms and official documents (lifted recently in some areas under international pressure) has seriously limited Baha’is’ freedoms and opportunities in all areas of their lives including divorce, inheritance, access to universities and travel.
In practice, since 1980, thousands of Baha’is have lost their jobs, pensions, businesses, properties and educational opportunities. By banning the Baha’i administration including Spiritual Assemblies -  the elected bodies that lead and administer the affairs of Baha’i communities at both local and national levels -  the Islamic Republic has denied Baha’is the right to meet, elect, and operate their religious institutions. Further, the Iranian government has executed at least 200 Baha’is and has imprisoned, tortured, and pressured to convert to Islam scores more.
Because of the unanimous international condemnation of the persecution of this quietist, apolitical religious community, Iranian authorities do not always admit that the Baha’is are being punished for their religious beliefs. Therefore, judicial authorities have often charged Baha’is with offenses such as “being involved in counter-revolutionary activities,” “having supported the former regime,” “being agents of Zionism,” or “being involved with prostitution, adultery, and immorality.”
**** Roya Ishraqi, Akhtar Thabit, Izzat Janami Ishraqi, Shahin (Shirin) Dalvand, Simin Sabiri, Nusrat Ghufrani Yalda'i, Mona Mahmudnizhad, Zarin Muqimi Abyanih, and Mahshid Nirumand.

Correct/ Complete This Entry