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

Ata'ollah Rezvani

About

Age: 53
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: August 24, 2013
Location of Killing: Bandar Abbas, Hormozgan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Extrajudicial Shooting
Charges: Unknown charge

About this Case

Information regarding the murder of Mr. Ataollah Rezvani, son of Enayatollah, was taken from various sources. His cousin, Mr. Navid Aqdasi, sent several emails to the Boroumand Foundation. In addition, the UN Human Rights Council published a report regarding the extra-judiciary killing of Mr. Rezvani on September 17, 2013. Several other reports were published on the websites of Rooz on August 27, 2013, HRANA on August 25 and October 17, 2013, Radio Zamaneh on August 25 and October 1, 2013, Hormozgan Provincial Courthouse on August 28, Farsi Deutsche Welle on August 27, 2013, Darolershad on August 12, 2010, and Baha’i International Community on August 29, 2013.

Biography

According to the information sent to the Boroumand Foundation, Mr. Rezvani was born in Birjand on March 19, 1961. After completing elementary and high school in his birthplace, he was accepted as a mechanical engineering major at Elm-o San’at (Science and Technology) University in Tehran in 1979. However, he was expelled from the university a year later during the Cultural Revolution. He then worked in Tehran for four years. Finally, he moved to Bandar Abbas to build water treatment units in Minab and Bandar Abbas where he resided until his death. He was married with two children. 

Professional Life

Mr. Rezvani’s cousin, Mr. Navid Aqdasi, provided ABF with detailed information about Mr. Rezvani’s case.  Mr. Rezvani was an active member of the Baha’i Community in Bandar Abbas and was popular in this city for his assistance to Baha’is and non-Baha’is. He was once arrested and detained for two weeks in 1983 during which he got some hearing problems in his left ear due to slaps he received.  In addition to Mr. Rezvani, some other members of his family had been arrested and detained for being Baha’i at various times. For instance his sister, Ms. Sahba Rezvani, was sentenced to three years imprisonment in Semnan and Tehran for being a Baha’i. In addition, officials disrupted Mr. Rezvani’s work in Bandar Abbas by preventing his participation in contract bids. Many of his colleagues and customers were forced to discontinue their business transactions with him due to pressure from authorities. The Intelligence officials imposed this pressure through various institutions such as Amaken (Places) Office and the Security Section of the Department of Water and Wastewater in Bandar-e Abbas. According to Mr. Aqdasi, on one occasion, the Intelligence Office in Bandar Abbas demanded that the Department of Water and Wastewater not purchase their goods from Mr. Rezvani. According to the same source, security officials threatened Mr. Rezvani several times including sending him a message through other interrogated Baha’is as, “tell Rezvani that his turn will come.”

According to Radio Zamaneh, during the past few years, the Intelligence Office in Bandar Abbas and the Emam Jom’eh (Friday Imam) threatened Mr. Rezvani several times. Rezvani sent a letter to Ayatollah Gholam’ali Na’imabadi, Bandar Abbas’s Friday Imam, requesting that the rights of Baha’i citizens be respected and asked the Ayatollah not to provoke people against Baha’is during his Friday sermons. During an interview with Rooz, Mr. Rezvani’s son referred to the multiple speeches of Bandar Abbas’s Friday Imam against Baha’is and added that his father and two other friends wrote a letter to the office of the Friday Imam objecting to his speech. Mr. Rezvani and his friends also filed a complaint with security and military authorities explaining that such speech could cause tension and bloodshed. However, these appeals proved fruitless.   

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. **

The Assassination

According to the existing reports, Mr. Rezvani was killed by bullet wounds in Bandar Abbas on August 24, 2013. In the official autopsy report by the coroner’s office dated August 27, 2013, it is clearly stated that a bullet passed from the top of his right ear, top to bottom and from front to back, causing Mr. Rezvani’s death. No sign of resistance or any other injury was observed.

During an interview with Deutsche Welle on August 27, 2013, a relative stated, “Mr. Rezvani as a routine on Saturday night went to the house of his friend who lives abroad and talked to his friend’s worker, Karim. While he was there, an unknown person called Rezvani on his cell phone and they had a long conversation. After this conversation, Rezvani left the house and was killed.” According to Mr. Aqdasi (Rezvani’s cousin, who contacted ABF), Karim was a young Afghan immigrant and was last to see Mr. Rezvani. Karim disappeared several weeks after the murder and there is no news of him.

During an interview with Rooz, Mr. Kurosh Rezvani, the victim’s son, described the night of the incident: “He left the house at 9 p.m. and was supposed to return home but never did. We became worried and searched for him everywhere we could think of including hospitals and police stations. There was no news of him and we had to file a missing person report. While we were doing so, a man called and asked us to go to the Intelligence Police office because our father was found. We went and they said he was dead. They found him on a road going out of town. They said he was shot in the head from behind.” Emphasizing that his father had no enemies, he added, “We called his cell phone until midnight. There was a ring with no answer. At midnight the cell phone was turned off.”

There are many factors indicating the role of official institutions in this murder . Some of them include Mr. Rezvani’s activities as one of the three members of Baha’i Community Servers, repeated threats by unknown individuals, prevention of his economic activities, being summoned and interrogated by security agents many times, provocative speeches against Baha’is by the Friday Imam, especially on the day before the murder (HRANA on August 25), and the physical harassment of several Baha’is in Bandar Abbas without any legal investigation.   In addition there has been no resolution of the investigation of his murder and of statements by the victim’s relatives.

Officials’ Reaction

In spite of the widespread coverage of the suspicious killing of Mr. Rezvani in the media and by international institutions, authorities in Iran did not make any official statement about it. Radio Zamaneh quotes an official who does not want to be named, saying: “It is a high probability that the murderer was seated beside the victim in the passenger seat. Since there was no sign of other injury on Mr. Rezvani’s body nor any scratch on the car’s body, it is clear that the assailant(s) entered the car without resistance and took Mr. Rezvani to a point outside of the town. It is possible that the assailant(s) had made an appointment with him during the phone conversation that the house worker mentioned. For this reason, they stole the cell phone to prevent disclosure of a contacted number.” According to this report, the officials did not respond to the family’s request to receive the list of phone numbers that contacted Mr. Rezvani. (October 1, 2013)

Baha’is in the area were frequent targets of hostile government rhetoric.  Ayatollah Gholam’ali Na’imabadi, Bandar Abbas's Friday Imam, talked against Baha’is in his Friday sermons several times. One speech in particular is described as “lessons” in various sources including the website of Darolershad. In part of this speech, he says:

“Unfortunately, due to society’s lack of awareness, Baha’is have a powerful presence in many sectors, especially in the economic [and financial] sector. Wretched are those who do business with them out of ignorance. I told you that not only are these people [the Baha’is] not Muslim, they are Kafer (“Infidels”). Worse yet, they are hard-core Infidels who are thoroughly and completely in fundamental conflict with Islam. They introduce and present themselves as Muslim and their pretense is, ‘We accept whatever you accept; our only difference is about the Imam of Time (Twelfth Imam in Shi’a Islam, who is absent but will appear someday and establish true Islam).’ They lie. They believe neither in our Koran, nor in the Holy Prophet Mohammad (Peace Be upon Him and His Descendants), nor in Ali (First Imam in Shi’a Islam and Mohammad’s son-in-law and rightful successor). They consider all of this to be in the past (and irrelevant): the Koran has passed, the Imam has passed, and the Prophet has passed; meaning that their time has gone.”

The Friday Imam then prayed: “Almighty God, protect our society from these germs!” [Darolershad website]

The Family’s Statements

 In spite of appeals by Mr. Rezvani’s family, so far there has been no effective action by authorities to identify the perpetrators of this murder. Mr. Rezvani’s sister, Ms. Sahba Rezvani, wrote letters to the president, the Head of the judiciary, the Head of Islamic Human Rights in Iran, and a representative in Parliament demanding follow up on the case of her brother’s assassination. In addition, Mr. Rezvani’s son wrote a similar letter to the president. None of these letters has received any response so far.

According to Mr. Aqdasi, officials claimed that they believed Mr. Rezvani committed suicice.  However,the fact that no gunpowder residue was found on the victim’s hand and the fact that he was left-handed proves the suicide speculation baseless. In his view, authorities attempted to derail the investigation's direction by appealing to such speculation. However, this was not pursued after a year. [Reports sent to Boroumand Foundation]

Mr. Rezvani’s cousin believes that possible motives for his murder may be his popularity. and his actions for public welfare and The fact that he was widely like in the community undermined the assertion that he was murdered by a personal enemy He told the Rooz website: “The more we think about the motivation for his murder, the more we are convinced that there is none except his beliefs. All the family members, friends, and acquaintances whether Baha’i or non-Baha’i draw the same conclusion because he was under pressure for years. He was the most well known Baha’i in Bandar Abbas or even in Hormozgan province. He had a good relationship with everyone and the Intelligence Ministry did not like that. They pressured him directly and indirectly many times.”  

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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 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.”

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