Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Bahar Vojdani


Age: 57
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: September 28, 1979
Location of Killing: Mahabad, Azarbaijan-e Gharbi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Religious offense; Corruption on earth

About this Case

Information about the execution of Mr. Bahar Vojdani (also spelled "Vujdani"), father of four, and three others was obtained from an announcement made by the Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards in Mahabad published in Jomhouri Eslami Daily and Enqelab Eslami Daily (September 29th, 1979), and an excerpt from Haghighat Newspaper (September 27th, 1979). Additional information was acquired from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center for Human Rights in Iran with an individual who was familiar with Mr. Vojdani (August 31st, 2019), and documents published on the Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran, including a short biography, Mr. Vojdani’s letter to his family before execution (date is unknown), a letter from his wife, Mansureh Akhlaghi, to the governor of Western Azarbaijan about the execution of her husband (October 11th, 1979), and a letter from the Baha’i community of Iran to Ayatollah Qoddusi, signed by Dr. Hossein Naji and Manuchehr Ghaem-Maghami, about the execution of a Baha’i (October 11th, 1979).

Mr. Bahar Vojdani is also one of the 206 Iranian Baha’is listed in a 1999 report published by the Baha’i International Community. The report, Iran’s Secret Blueprint for the Destruction of a Religious Community, documents the persecutions of the members of the Faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran and lists the Baha’is killed since 1978. (See also: www.question.bahai.org ). Additional information has been drawn from various issues of The Baha’i World. See for example: Vol. XIX, 1982-1986, Haifa 1994.

Mr. Bahar Vojdani was born in 1922 in Miandoab, West Azarbaijan, to a Baha’i family (ABPI, Bio). After completing his high school education, he moved to Mahabad, where he owned a furniture store, with the goal of promoting Baha’i principles. He served on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Miandoab for many years (ABPI, Bio). According to an interview with an acquaintance, Mr. Vojdani was “kind and caring,” and respected his wife and kids very much (ABC Interview August 31, 2019).

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

The authorities of the Islamic Republic have subjected the members of the Baha'i religious community of Iran - the largest religious minority, with approximately 300 thousand members in 1979(1)- 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.(2)

Persecution of Baha’is in Iran is not specific to the time of the Islamic Republic but it was in this era that it was amplified and institutionalized. During the Revolution itself, supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini attacked Baha’i homes and businesses and in certain instances, even committed murder.

On the eve of his return from France to Iran, in response to a question regarding political and religious freedom of Baha’is under the rule of an Islamic government, Ayatollah Khomeini stated: “They are a political party; they are harmful and detrimental. They will not be acceptable.” The interviewer asked another question: “Will they be free to perform their religious rites?” The Ayatollah responded: “No.” Khomeini had previously “spoken of the Baha’i threat to the Shah’s regime, Islam, national unity, and national security” in various speeches. (Asoo website, October 6, 2015).

Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly After the Islamic Revolution 

In the organizational structure of the Baha’i community, the institution of the National Spiritual Assembly is a body composed of nine individuals that are elected annually with the votes of adult Baha’is in each country. This institution tends to the affairs and issues of the Baha’i community on the national level. The National Spiritual Assembly has the responsibility of guiding, coordinating, and moving forward the activities of each country’s local spiritual assemblies, and establishing contact with Beit-al-Adl (“House of Justice”), the international council of the Baha’i faith, the highest decision-making authority in the world Baha’i community. 

The Bah’I’s Spiritual Assemblies were gradually suppressed. In Baha’I’s literature, the first assemply whose members were kidnapped is commonly known as the First National Assembly. In 1980 and 1981, the First, Second, and Third National Spiritual Assemblies, as well as local Baha’i spiritual assemblies in various cities, including Tehran, Yazd, Hamedan, and Tabriz, were severely persecuted and the majority of their members were executed. In “The Final Message of the Iran National Spiritual Assembly to the Friends of the Country”, the Third Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly, abiding by the principle of obeying the government, announced the closure of the Baha’i organizations, and at the same time, sent an open letter to two thousand well-known and high-ranking government figures asking an end to the arrest, detention, torture, execution, and injustice against Baha’is. (BBC Persian website, October 11, 2015). 

Judicial officials of the Islamic Republic have come up with [unreasonable and unacceptable] justifications for the persecution and the execution of the members of the National Spiritual Assemblies. In a speech on May 28, 1982, Ayatollah Khomeini said: “The Baha’is are not a religion, they’re a [political] party; it’s a party that was supported by Britain in the past, and now it’s being supported by America. They are spies.” (Sahifeye Noor, Volume 17, May 28, 1982).

The Baha’is deny the charge of relations with countries such as Israel, citing “the religious principle of ‘the requirement of staying out of politics’. They say that religious relations know no bounds, and that the Iranian Baha’i Spiritual Assembly has done nothing, and taken no action, against the Islamic Republic”. (Asoo website, August 9, 2015). 

It must be noted that the Beit-al-Adl was established in Haifa at a time where there was no such country as the state of Israel. The founders of the Baha’i faith, Baha’ollah in particular, had no choice but to leave Iran in the latter part of the 19thCentury under pressure and persecution, and to turn to Turkey and Iraq. 

Baha’ollah did not escape persecution under the Ottoman Empire either. He was imprisoned for a time in present day Turkey and was released in 1908. In 1909, Baha’ollah transferred the body of Ali Mohammad Baab – who had been executed in Iran in 1850 – to Beit-al-Adl. A short time before the start of the First World War, Baha’ollah settled as the leader of the Baha’is in Haifa, a city where Beit-al-Adl is located, and began to tend to the affairs and the issues of the Baha’i community. After World War I, when Palestine was under the British Mandate, the Baha’i community remained safe from persecution. (Boroumand Center research).

Arrest and Detention

An order for Mr. Vojdani’s arrest was issued by the first revolutionary court and itinerant Shari’a judge, Sadeq Khalkhali (ABC Interview August 31, 2019). On the eve of September 26th, 1979, he was summoned to the Court of Mahabad where he was subject to a short interrogation (ABPI). After refusing to pay a sum of money for his freedom and being threatened to face an execution sentence, Mr. Vojdani was subsequently released but ordered to return to the Court the following day at 10am. When he returned the following day, he was arrested. (ABPI, Letter from the Baha’i Community. October 11, 1979). 


The trial for Mr. Vojdani was held on the evening of September 27th, 1979, hours after his arrest. There is no additional information about a trial for Mr. Vojdani. 


According to an announcement by the Chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards in Mahabad accused Mr. Vojdani and three others of being a part of “anti-revolutionary elements who attacked members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in various regions of the city [Mahabad], injuring and killing some.'' He was also accused of “sodomy” (Enqelab-e Eslami Newspaper September 29, 1979).

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 wrongfully 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."


There is no information available on the evidence presented against Mr. Vojdani.


Mr. Vojdani noted in a short letter to his family, that he refused to recant his faith (ABPI, Letter to family). In an ABC interview with a person with knowledge of the case, Mr. Vojdani had given money to the Komala Party of Iranian Kurdistan, who collected money from all the businesses in the area. Itinerant Shari’a judge, Sadeq Khalkhali used this financial support as evidence to target Baha’i minorities in the area, including Mr. Vojdani, whom he accused of having supported the Party (ABC Interview August 31st, 2019).

In a letter published by the Baha’i community condemning his death, the atuhors assert that “[the Baha’i community of Iran] constantly endeavour and make every effort to benefit their country through cultural and social acts of service, and they do not interfere in politics in any way. They do not join any political party, do not cooperate with any political factions or groups'' (October 11th, 1979).

The representatives of the Baha'i community stress that their members are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. They refute the validity of charges such as counter-revolutionary political activities or spying leveled against them in Iranian courts. They point out that the fundamental principles of their religion require them to show loyalty and obedience to their government and refrain from any political involvement.


The Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Mahabad declared Mr. Vojdani a "corruptor on earth" and an "enemy of God and His Prophet" and sentenced him to death (Enqelab-e Eslami Newspaper September 29, 1979). He was executed by a firing squad at 4am on September 28th, 1979. 

His body was buried in accordance with Baha'i law and in the presence of  his family and “some 2,000 townsmen” (ABPI Bio). Following his execution, his wife, Mansureh Akhlaghi, wrote a letter to the Governor General of Western Azerbaijan on October 27th, 1979 pleading for an investigation into the execution of her husband. In the letter she noted that the death of her husband was due to his faith of Baha’ism. No information is available regarding a response (ABPI, Letter from Mansureh Akhlaghi October 27, 1979).


1- ‘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.
2- 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 to be 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.

Correct/ Complete This Entry