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

Azematollah Fahandej

About

Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Unknown

Case

Date of Killing: December 7, 1979
Location: Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Mass murder

About this Case

Son of Zia’ollah and Tabandeh, the once-young military student would earn a Pahlavi-era Order of Military Merit and a position as an air force officer’s assistant.

Colonel Azematollah Fahandej, son of Zia’ollah and Tabandeh, is one of the 206 Iranian Baha’is listed in a 1993 report published by the Baha’i International Community. The report documents the persecution of the members of the Baha’i faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran and lists the Baha’is killed since 1978. Additional information has been drawn from various issues of The Baha’i World (see for example: Vol. XIX, 1982-1986, Haifa 1994). The information about him has been drawn from a book by Ms. Mahmehr Golestaneh, called A Tribute to the Faithful. His execution was announced in the Kayhan newspaper (Dec. 8 & 9, 1979) and Jomhuri Eslami (Dec. 9, 1979).

Colonel Fahandej was born on January 4, 1937 in Sa’di Village, Fars Province. Having finished elementary school there, he moved to Shiraz to study in high school. He then enrolled in the high school of the armed forces, and later in the military school in Tehran. He was promoted to the rank of second colonel and received a military merit medal. He served in different cities until he became the assistant of an air force officer in Shiraz. He was a husband a father of two.

On December 13, 1978, a group of unidentified individuals attacked the house of Colonel Fahandej’s cousin, who was killed, among others, in the shootings that ensued. The next day, houses of many Baha’is in the area were set on fire. Following the incident, Colonel Fahandej moved to Tehran and started working there. A few weeks later, some individuals accused Colonel Azematollah Fahandej of being the mastermind of the attack. His house in Shiraz was raided and looted.

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* 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

Colonel Fahandej was arrested in Tehran on April 7, 1979. According to Ms. Golestaneh’s book, he was interrogated at Youth Palace in Shiraz and detained at Adelabad prison from April 16 to November 27, 1979, during which he had visits twice a week.

Trial

The Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Fars Province held a session on November 25, 1979 to try Colonel Fahandej, without his prior knowledge.

Charges

The Kayhan newspaper refers to Mr. Fahandej as “one of the agents of the massacre in Sa’di village.” The newspaper report mentions that “through involvement with the clashes… he caused the death of two persons and injury to some.”

The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial.

Evidence of guilt

Ms. Golestaneh’s book refers to witnesses for Colonel Fahandej and witnesses who testified against him in court.

Defense

According to the available information, Colonel Fahandej was not present at the site of the incident on December 13, 1978; he spent that night in his house, located near the Azadi Park in Shiraz, in the presence of his wife, his brother and sister-in-law, as well as his two children. Mr. Fahandej did not have the opportunity to defend himself at the trial.

Judgment

The Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Fars Province condemned Colonel Azematollah Fahandej to death. He was shot in public by firing squad on December 7, 1979 at 9:30 p.m. in Shiraz.

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* “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.
** 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.
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 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.”

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