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

Hossein Vahdat-e Haq

About

Age: 56
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: February 28, 1982
Location: Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Religious offense

About this Case

A masterful electrical engineer, educated in several countries, Mr. Vahdat-e Haq helped Baha’is fired from their jobs after the revolution to re-tool for new trades, himself becoming C.E.O. of a Baha’i-owned gas company, Asan Gaz.

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

“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 300,000 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 information about Mr. Seyed Hossein Vahdat-e Haq has been drawn from interviews with his wife, Ms. Paridokht Vahdat-e Haq, his and her petitions to various authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran, his letter from prison (Feb. 4, 1982; from Ms. Mahmehr Golestaneh’s book A Tribute to the Faithful), two court verdicts, and official correspondence. His name (spelled “Husayn Vahdat-i-Haq”) is among 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 persecution of the members of the Faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran and lists the Baha’is killed since 1978.

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was born on August 6, 1925 in Shiraz. He graduated from the military high school, and in September/October 1947 he was promoted to Second Lieutenant. He married in April/May 1950, and he and his wife migrated to Tehran, where he started studying electronic engineering and telecommunications. He continued his education in Electrical Engineering at the University of Stuttgart (Germany). He returned to Iran in 1959, holding a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering. He travelled to Germany and Denmark several times to attend trainings; he studied in France for a year and a half.

Before the Revolution, his superior offered Mr. Vahdat-e Haq a promotion. However, according to his spouse, the fact that he was a Baha’i became an obstacle to this promotion. The 1979 Revolution led to Mr. Vahdat-e Haq’s dismissal from the army without pension. Subsequently, he petitioned, among others, the Supreme Leader and the Revolutionary Council. His petitions contained elaborated argumentation about the rights of the Baha’is, referring to verses of the Quran and Ayatollah Khomeini’s statements.

As many other Baha’is were also discharged from their jobs, Mr. Vahdat-e Haq became a member of an occupational committee, established by the Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly to teach various skills to the newly unemployed Baha’is. Mr. Vahdat-e Haq soon started working as the chief executive officer of a gas company called Asan Gaz, owned by other Baha’i individuals. He was not politically active.

According to his wife, she received a false phone summons by an unidentified individual on April 8, 1979, and, a week before his arrest, their house was under surveillance by plain-clothed persons.

The arrest and execution of Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was not the end of his family’s ordeal. His property and that of his wife and children were confiscated, and in 1984 his wife was arrested and detained for three months.

Arrest and detention

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was arrested on September 30, 1981, at 1:30 p.m. in Asan Gaz Company by two representatives of the Islamic Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office. He was taken to the prison of the Committee to Combat Vice (Dayereh-ye Mobarezeh ba Monkerat). On the day of his arrest, the authorities searched his house, sealed some rooms, including his wife’s room (where she had her clothes), and seized jewelry, rugs, television and radio sets, and his daughter’s violin, as a “forbidden object.” The family car was confiscated in December 1981. In July 1982, the authorities unsealed the doors to the rooms.

In a visit with his wife, two days after his arrest, Mr. Vahdat-e Haq looked pale and stated that the prison guards had not given him any food; some Zoroastrian prisoners shared their ration of bread with him. He also told his wife that he had to sleep on a wet floor in the cellar of the prison. Two armed prison guards monitored this visit. Later that day, his wife brought some food to the prison, but the guards did not give it to Mr. Vahdat-e Haq until it was spoiled, a day after. In subsequent visits, Ms. Vahdat-e Haq noticed that her husband always looked pale and had lost weight.

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was transferred to the Qasr prison on December 12, 1981, and fingerprinted and photographed the following day. In a letter dated February 4, 1982, Mr. Vahdat-e Haq wrote that he was detained with common criminals in dirty and unhealthy conditions; he coughed and had a cold and chest-pain. He added that prison guards humiliated prisoners.

Trial

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was tried at the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal to Combat Vice. The Tribunal was held in three sessions in Tehran on November 24, 25, and 26, 1981.

Charges

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was charged with “strong belief in Baha’ism, serious efforts in proselytizing this wayward sect … and using the facilities of the Asan Gaz company, as its chief executive officer, in order to train individuals and send them to other cities, and having written letters, which he claimed were petitions to the authorities, but which were, in fact, insults to the authorities and the regime of the Islamic Republic” (the verdict of the court).

The Judge orally told his wife that Mr. Vahdat-e Haq was an apostate since he had converted from Islam to the Baha’i faith.

Evidence of guilt

According to Ms. Vahdat-e Haq, at the time of arrest the officers found Mr. Vahdat-e Haq’s petitions to the authorities, including the Supreme Leader, and to the Pension department of the Army regarding his discharge from the army without pension, as well as a book of Baha’i prayers.

Defense

Mr. Vahdat-e Haq wrote in letters that “there was no trace of any misconduct in my 33-year long service with the army” (petition to Ayatollah Khomeini) and that he was always “obedient to the regime and the government” (letter from prison). He was denied the right to be represented by an attorney.

According to his wife, regarding the confiscation of their property, the religious judge told her in a visit that “detention is costly” and that “Baha’is are good but their religion is bad.” He also told her that according to the interrogator, Mr. Vahdat-e Haq proselytized, and that he would be freed if he recanted.

Regarding the “apostasy” charge, Ms. Vahdat-e Haq told the judge that Mr. Vahdat-e Haq’s father was a Muslim who became a Baha’i and therefore Mr. Vahdat-e Haq is considered to have been born into a Baha’i family. The judge replied that Mr. Vahdat-e Haq had voluntarily converted from Islam to the Baha’i faith as evident in his quotes from the Quran in his petitions to the authorities regarding his discharge from the army, and hence he was an apostate.

Judgment

The Islamic Revolutionary Court to Combat Vice called Mr. Vahdat-e Haq a “corruptor on earth” and condemned him to death. The family was not informed of this ruling as his spouse was told that Mr. Vahdat-e Haq had been sentenced to imprisonment and transferred to Evin prison. According to his wife, the High Judicial Council confirmed the ruling, stating that unless he repented and denounced his faith, he was condemned to execution.

Mr. Hossein Vahdat-e Haq was shot by firing squad in Qasr prison in Tehran on February 28, 1982. His body was never returned to his family. His wife received his will five years later, only after having petitioned various authorities.

Following the execution, the authorities continued to harass Ms. Vahdat-e Haq regarding their apartment building that belonged to her and her children. In the winter of 1982, she was twice forcefully expelled from the apartment she owned, as the property was de facto confiscated. She was eventually allowed to live in parts of her apartment, although she was deprived of the rental income used to pay her mortgage and taxes, both of which she was asked to pay. Despite many letters and petitions to various authorities, and some rulings in her favor, she was asked to either pay rent for her own apartment or buy it back. After years of effort, an expropriation sentence was issued on May 27, 1991, 10 years after the execution of her husband. Her children’s apartments were sold and she was forced to leave the premises on December 12, 1999.

 

*The Islamic Republic Penal Code grants no rights to Baha’is, and the courts have denied them the right of redress, or 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 life has seriously damaged the Baha’is’ professional, economic, and social lives. Soon after the revolution, a Ministry of Labor directive called for 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 London’s 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 current information about the number of Baha’is in Iran.

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