Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Ata'u'llah Rawhani


Age: 41
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: September 11, 1981
Location of Killing: Esfahan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Extrajudicial shooting
Charges: Unknown charge
Age at time of alleged offense: 41

About this Case

was killed extrajudicially, only because he was a Baha’i.

The news of the extrajudicial killing of Mr. Ataollah Ruhani along with four other people, was obtained through Abdorrahman Boroumand Center’s interviews with an informed person on March 18, 2012 (ABC interview). Additional information in this regard was obtained through Archives of Baha’i’s Persecution in Iran’s website (ABPI website).

Mr. Ruhani 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 Faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran and lists the Baha’is killed since 1979.

Mr. Ruhani was born in 1940 in the village of Chigan, Faridan County, Esfahan Province. After completing 5 years of elementary school, Mr. Ruhani joined his family in farming and raising cattle. In 1953, only because Mr. Ruhani was Baha’i, the people of the village of Chigan destroyed his home and farm and injured him. He was a member of the Local Spiritual Assembly* in the village of Chigan for three years. After a while, Mr. Ruhani moved to the Qaleh-ye Malek village, where his uncle-in-law Ahmad Rezvani’s family resided, to promote his religion. Shortly after the Islamic revolution in 1979, the persecution against the Baha’is was intensified. In 1981, Mr. Ruhani and Mr. Rezvani’s family were forced to flee their village and move to Esfahan. After about 40 days, the village’s council send them a letter and assured them that if they returned to the village, they would be safe. Although he did not trust that promise, Mr. Ruhani returned to the village (ABPI website).

In 1953, the people of the village of Chigan destroyed Mr. Ruhani’s home and farm and injured him, just because he was a Baha’i.


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

On August 17, 1981, Mr. Ruhani was arrested upon returning the Qaleh-ye Malek village.

Shortly after the arrest, he was transferred to Daran Prison, located 150 kilometers south of Esfahan. He did not access to a lawyer during his detention (ABPI website).


According to available information, no court session was held to try Mr. Ruhani.

Mr. Ruhani’s sole charge was “believing in the Baha’i religion”.


According to the interviewee, Mr. Ruhani’s sole charge was “believing in the Baha’i religion” (ABC interview).

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

Evidence of guilt

The report of this execution does not contain information regarding the evidence provided against Mr. Ruhani.


No information is available on Mr. Ruhani’s defense.

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 access to attorneys is often denied.

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 access to attorneys is often denied. 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. 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 Center was established on Mount Carmel in the late 19th century, long before the establishment of the State of Israel.


There is no information on the court order issued against Mr. Ruhani.

Shortly after Mr. Ruhani and four other Baha’i prisoners left Daran Prison, the prison’s officials shot them in the back.

Mr. Ruhani’s death

On the morning of September 11, 1981, the prison’s officials told Mr. Ataollah Ruhani and four other Baha’i prisoners named Ahmad Ridvani, Gushtasb Thabit-Rasikh, Ezat'ollah Atefi Afusi, and Bahman Atefi Afusi that they were free to go home. Shortly after they left Daran Prison, the prison’s officials shot them in the back. The officials then spread word in the village that the men had been executed for intending to escape from prison (ABC interview).

The officials buried Mr. Ruhani’s body in a Muslim cemetery in Chikan without informing his family and without following the Baha’i’s burial laws (ABPI website).


* The affairs of the Baha’i’ community are administered through a system of institutions, each with its defined sphere of action. At the local level, the affairs of the Baha’i’ community are administered by the “Local Spiritual Assembly”. Each Local Assembly consists of nine members who are chosen in annual elections. At the national level, the affairs of the Baha’i’ community are administered by the “National Spiritual Assembly”, a nine-member elected council responsible for guiding, coordinating, and stimulating the activities of Local Spiritual Assemblies and individual members of the Baha’i’ community within a given country.
** “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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