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

Mahmud Majdhub

About

Age: 61
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: December 27, 1981
Location of Killing: Evin Prison, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Unspecified execution method
Charges: Religious offense; Espionage

About this Case

“Baha’i is not a religion, it is a political party. It is a party that was initially supported by the British and is now supported by America. They [the Baha’is] are spies...”

Ayatollah Khomeini, Founder of the Islamic Republic.*

“The Qur’an recognized only the People of the Book as religious communities. Others are pagans. Pagans must be eliminated.”

Iranian Attorney General, Seyed Moussavi-Tabrizi.**

“The punishment for a Mortad-e Fetri [apostate who was born in a Muslim family] is death and his repentance is not accepted.”

Head of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Courts, Ayatollah Gilani.***

The authorities of the Islamic Republic have subjected the members of the Baha’i religious community of Iran (the largest 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.

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.”

_______________________

* Speech May 28, 1983, Sahife-ye Nur, Volume 17.

** The Baha’i Question: Iran’s Secret Blueprint for the Destruction of a Religious community: An Examination of the Persecution of the Baha’is of Iran, Baha’i International Community, 1999, p. 27. The quote was published in English in Sunday Times, 20 September 1981 and cited in The Persecution of the Baha’is of Iran, 1844-1984, by Douglas Martin, Baha’i Studies, volume 12/13, 1984

*** Kayhan, October 19, 1981.

****’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.

Reference to the execution of Mr. Mahmud Majdhub, a lawyer, and seven other members of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is in Iran, was made by the President of the Central Revolutionary Court in an interview published in Kayhan on 20 January 1982 (30 Day 1360). Mr. Majdhub is one of the 206 Iranian Baha’is listed in a 1999 report published by the Baha’i International Community. In addition, a report, The Persecution of the Baha’i Community of Iran, in The Baha’i World, Volume XIX, documents the persecutions of the members of the Faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran and lists the Baha’is killed since 1978. More information has been drawn from other volumes of the The Baha’i World, A Tribute to the Faithful by Mah Mehr Gulistanih, The Baha’i Question: Iran’s Secret Blueprint for the Destruction of a Religious Community as well as Surush-i-Mahmud and other reports provided by the Baha’i International Community.

Mr. Majdhub was appointed as a member of the Tehran youth committee in 1954. In 1960 he moved his family to Norway to assist the local Baha’i community. After his return, he was elected to the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tehran in 1970 until his election to the National Spiritual Assembly in 1980 [Gulistanih, p. 99].

Arrest and detention

Mr. Majdhub was arrested on December 14, 1981 (23 Azar 1360) following a meeting of the National Assembly. The meeting was hosted at the home of a member of the Baha’i community. After their meeting came to an end, the guests began to leave discreetly in order to not draw attention to their gathering, as was often the case during the early days of the revolution. A few minutes after the first two guests left, they were arrested by revolutionary guards who had surrounded the house. The guards then entered the house to arrest Mr. Majdhub, the rest of the members of the National Assembly and the hosts. They held Mr. Majdhub and everyone else against the wall, blindfolded them, all the while shouting and asking about the ninth member of the Assembly who was absent from that meeting. They then ordered Mr. Majdhub and the others to get into specific cars. According to eyewitness reports, when asked where they were being taken and at whose order, the guards made no response. The group was taken to the building of the National Oil Company’s Club, which served as Komiteh # 4 in Davudiyeh neighborhood.

According to reports by two survivors, the morning after his arrest, the authorities gathered Mr. Majdhub and the nine other Baha’is arrested in an interrogation room and ordered them to fill out a questionnaire about names of Assembly members, relationship of the Baha’is to Israel, and the amount and location of Baha’i funds. The authorities interrogated him several times during his detainment.

Trial

The authorities provided no information to Mr. Majdhub’s family regarding his trial and there are no eyewitness reports. However, there is an official document from the Central Islamic Revolutionary Chief Prosecutor’s Office, dated 28 December 1981 (7 Azar 1360), indicating that Mr. Majdhub was tried along with the other seven arrested members of the National Assembly by the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran.

Charges

The authorities did not provide the family of Mr. Majdhub with any information regarding his charges. However, the above-mentioned document from the Chief Prosecutor’s Office indicates his charges as follows:

“1. Disrespect for the sacred beliefs of Islam, the Ulama and officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran and ridiculing the people of Iran and considering the slogan of ‘not west nor east’ as barbaric.

2. Connection with Israel by telephone, letter or other means and sending documents and news of Iran to Israel for action.

3. Meetings with foreign dignitaries and officials of other countries with the aim of applying pressure to the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

4. Contacting foreign radio services in America and the BBC and instigating them against the Islamic Republic following a long connection with them, in order to intensify or silence [?] the voice of America against Iran.

5. Sending or receiving reports containing code words such as ‘Amoo jan’ etc. in various languages to the House of Justice in Haifa [Israel].

6. Sending information regarding prisons or decrees of Marajeh [religious guides] and Hazrat-e-Imam [Khomeini] and instructions issued by houses of blasphemy [Baha’i institutions] by the House of Justice in Haifa.”

Evidence of guilt

No information is available on the evidence presented against the defendant.

Defense

No information is available on Mr. Majdhub’s defense. However, the representatives of the Baha’i community stress that their members are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. They note that Baha’is’ requests to access their files are usually denied, and that even though they are allowed to avail themselves of the services of a defense counsel since the mid-1990s, attorneys are often under pressure not to accept Baha’i clients. 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 to refrain from any political involvement. They believe that the accusation of espionage for Israel is unfounded and based solely on the fact that the Baha’i World Centre is in Israel. They point out that this centre was established on Mount Carmel in the late 19th century, long before the establishment of the State of Israel.

Judgment

The authorities provided no details regarding Mr. Majdhub’s judgment to his family and there are no eyewitness reports available. However, based on the Prosecutor’s Office communiqué published in Kayhan on December 28, he and the other National Spiritual Assembly members were convicted of espionage:

“As espionage against the Islamic Republic and plotting against the people of Iran is proven and undeniable, they are the essence of treachery, agents of corruption on earth and insurgency against the Islamic government of Iran and are, therefore, condemned to death. All their belongings are confiscated for the benefit of the Foundation of the Martyrs. Any of them whose family is in Iran is allowed one house which should be ordinary and of medium size.”

Furthermore, during a press conference, the President of the Central Revolutionary Courts stated that: “It has become clear that this group or sect spy for colonial organizations. The damages that this destructive and vagrant sect has caused for our country! God is the Most Great! These colonial, more specifically Zionist, assistants and spies have fought for years with the rule of Islamic Sharia in our country. After the revolution, they continue to fight with the Islamic Revolution. It is binding upon religious judges and courts to punish them accordingly. Not only the individual members of this vagrant sect conducted political espionage, but after the detested and corrupted Pahlavi family, they were the largest group to pillage the wealth of this country… Some of the members of this sect suffer from mental weakness and the court is merciful to them and warns and returns them to life, because they are ignorant and have no understanding of the phenomenon of espionage.” According to the statement by the President, Mr. Majdhub was found guilty of espionage for Israel and its supporters. [Kayhan, p. 15, Wednesday 20 January 1982, Nr. 11488]

Mr. Majdhub was executed on 27 December 1981 (6 Day 1360) but the authorities did not notify his family. An official of Evin Prison informally telephoned family contacts, following which survivors visited the Behesht-e-Zahra cemetery and found his name on the list of those killed and buried by the authorities in a specific unmarked area referred to by the officials as kofrabad [land of infidels].

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