Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Hossein Naji


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


Date of Killing: August 21, 1980
Location of Killing: Naft Street, Tehran, Tehran Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Enforced disappearance

About this Case

Dr. Naji was a reputable physician, both in his own medical practice and at Tehran’s Misaghieh Hospital. News of his and the Hospital’s “special services and humanitarian efforts” had been published in several newspapers.

Information regarding the killing of Dr. Hossein Naji, son of Haj Gholamhossein, was obtained from documents published on the Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website (Date of research: July 23, 2021). Additional information about this case was obtained from an interview conducted by the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center with Shahin Milani, human rights activist and son of a disappeared member of the Baha’is Second Spiritual Assembly (June 12, 2017); the book Shohada-ye Amr-e Elahi (“Martyrs of the Baha’i Faith”) by Ariana Khadem-Mahmudi, Juxta Publications (2012); the book One Hundred and Sixty Years of Fighting the Baha’i Faith, by Fereydun Vahman, Sweden, Baran Publications (2010-11); the book Sahifeye Nur, Ayatollah Khomeini, Volume 17 (May 28, 1982); Jomhuri-e Eslami newspaper (January 27, 1982); Kayhan newspaper (October 19, 1981); Ettela’at newspaper (July 2, 1979, December 22, 1981); Andalib Magazine, Second Year, Volume 7, pages 49 to 52 (Summer 1983); Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website (July 23, 2021, June 3, 1980, June 17, 2019, August 23, 1980, October 23, 1980, November 1, 1980); BBC Persian website (October 11, 2015); Asoo website (August 9, September 6, and October 6, 2015). 

Mr. Naji was born in Tehran in 1924-25 into a Baha’i family. (The Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website, July 23, 2021). He was the son of a Shiite cleric who had converted to the Baha’i faith. Mr. Naji graduated from Tehran University Medical School. He was married and had a son and a daughter. Mr. Naji went to England on a military scholarship and studied at the London Royal Medical College between 1957 and 1961-62, and returned to Iran a cardiovascular specialist, and began treating patients in the Armed Forces and at the hospital. Mr. Naji was the first cardiovascular specialist who introduced the Iranian medical community to the procedure known as angioplasty. He later obtained another scholarship for medical research in the United States, and started his own private clinic in Tehran upon his return in 1964-65. (The Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website, July 23, 2021; Iran Wire, December 27, 2020). 

Dr. Naji was a reputable physician, both in his own medical practice and at Tehran’s Misaghieh Hospital. News of his and the Hospital’s “special services and humanitarian efforts” had been published in several newspapers. (Ettela’at newspaper, July 2, 1979). According to an Iran Wire report, in 1978-79, he retired from the military after 32 years, with the rank of colonel. Mr. Naji’s daughter has been quoted as saying that “the main reason why her father contented himself with the rank of colonel was that Dr. Ayadi, the Shah’s physician, had told her father that he wanted to present him to the Shah as his successor, but that the Shah’s doctor had to have the rank of brigadier-general … Since her father was not interested, he retired with the rank of colonel so that he would not have to accept the position of Physician to the Royal Court”. (Iran Wire, December 27, 2020). Dr. Naji was the Army Cardiac Center’s (I.C.C.U) Chief of Emergency Services; the Center was one of the Army’s more sensitive centers, with a great deal of responsibility. According to Mr. Mashalla Moshrefzadeh, a friend of Mr. Naji’s, his great wish was to leave the Armed Forces somehow because “he wanted to first emigrate and serve the Baha’i faith, and then continue treating patients”. (Andalib Magazine, 1983). Mr. Naji’s name was mentioned in a list of 168 Baha’is fired from the military, and according to a confidential letter from the Ministry of War and Defense to Sepah Bank (Servicemen Affairs Administration), published by the Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran, his monthly salary had been cut off. (The Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran, June 3, 1980). 

Mr. Naji’s name was mentioned in a list of 168 Baha’is fired from the military, and according to a confidential letter from the Ministry of War and Defense to Sepah Bank (Servicemen Affairs Administration), published by the Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran, his monthly salary had been cut off.

After the 1979 Revolution, suppression of the Baha’is intensified, especially the professionals. Misaghieh Hospital, where Mr. Naji was an active physician, was expropriated by the Islamic regime without a court order and the purge of Baha’is employed there began. Dr. Naji was among the physicians who were banned from working at the Hospital after the first few months of 1979. (Iran Wire, December 27, 2020). 

Mr. Mashallah Moshrefzadeh, one of Mr. Naji’s friends said that he was “an articulate and eloquent speaker with an extraordinary memory in memorizing [Baha’i] Holy Scripture and works”. (Andalib Magazine, 1983). 

Prior to leaving Iran, Mr. Naji was a member of the [city of] Rasht local Baha’i Spiritual Assembly. After migrating to England, he became a member of the Watford local Spiritual Assembly. Upon his return to Iran, he became a member of the Tehran Local Spiritual Assembly, and was subsequently elected to the Iran National Spiritual Assembly. (The Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website, July 23, 2021). 

A few months after the Islamic Revolution, Mr. Naji went to Germany to visit his children. Upon his return, unidentified individuals attacked his home, and since they were unable to find him, they beat his wife and took her to an unknown location. Ms. Vajdieh Naji was kept hostage at Evin Prison for 17 days so that her spouse would turn himself in. Mr. Naji made tremendous efforts to have his wife released in those days. (Iran Wire, December 27, 2020). 

In a letter published on the Iran Wire website, he confirmed that he had contacted Ahmad Khomeini, the son of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Founder of the Islamic Republic, in order to follow up on his wife’s situation. In describing this phone call, Mr. Naji wrote: “I told him I was ready to be executed as a Baha’i in front of the hospital where his father was being treated, but that I was not willing to turn myself in to unidentified groups. I also said that I obeyed [the exigencies of] the State, in accordance with my religious beliefs, and that he therefore had to name the officials to whom I was supposed to surrender.” (Iran Wire, December 27, 2020). 

A few months after the Islamic Revolution, Mr. Naji went to Germany to visit his children. Upon his return, unidentified individuals attacked his home, and since they were unable to find him, they beat his wife and took her to an unknown location. 

Mr. Naji wrote letters to Ayatollah Khomeini, then-President Abolhassan Bani Sadr, then-Minister of Health Hadi Manafi, Ayatollah Qoddussi, Islamic Revolution Prosecutor General, etc., in which he described several attacks by armed individuals on his home and the arrest of his wife, and asked that the matter be prosecuted. The authorities did not pay attention to his request, however, and no official government organ accepted responsibility for his wife’s detention. According to Mr. Naji’s wife, several armed individuals came to their home four separate times. On one occasion, they came under the pretext of “finding weapons”; the other times, however, they had come looking for Mr. Naji. (A Forbidden Religion, Page 29; BBC Persian website, October 11, 2015). 

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

Authorities of the Islamic Republic have subjected the members of the Baha'i religious community of Iran (the largest minority, with approximately three hundred thousand members) [1] 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. [2]

They have been banned from any activities in the public realm, and their political, social, and economic rights are constantly violated. Baha’is are deprived of the right to education, particularly higher education, and are banned from holding jobs in the government or in government-affiliated entities. They are not even safe and secure in owning private businesses, and in many cases, their places of business have either been attacked by individuals and groups affiliated with the government or are shut down for refusing to work on religious holy days. The Iranian regime arrests Baha’is on trumped up charges on a regular basis. 

Persecution of Baha’is in Iran is not specific to the time of the Islamic Republic but it was in this era that it was amplified and institutionalized. During the Revolution itself, supporters of Ayatollah Khomeini attacked Baha’i homes and businesses and in certain instances, even committed murder. On the eve of his return from France to Iran, in response to a question regarding political and religious freedom of Baha’is under the rule of an Islamic government, Ayatollah Khomeini stated: “They are a political party; they are harmful and detrimental. They will not be acceptable.” The interviewer asked another question: “Will they be free to perform their religious rites?” The Ayatollah responded: “No.” Khomeini had previously “spoken of the Baha’i threat to the Shah’s regime, Islam, national unity, and national security” in various speeches. (Asoo website, October 6, 2015). 

Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly After the Islamic Revolution 

In the organizational structure of the Baha’i community, the institution of the National Spiritual Assembly is a body composed of nine individuals that are elected annually with the votes of adult Baha’is in each country. This institution tends to the affairs and issues of the Baha’i community on the national level. The National Spiritual Assembly has the responsibility of guiding, coordinating, and moving forward the activities of each country’s local spiritual assemblies, and establishing contact with Beit-al-Adl (“House of Justice”), the international council of the Baha’i faith, the highest decision-making authority in the world Baha’i community. 

In 1980 and 1981, the First, Second, and Third National Spiritual Assemblies, as well as local Baha’i spiritual assemblies in various cities, including Tehran, Yazd, Hamedan, and Tabriz, were severely persecuted and the majority of their members were executed. In “The Final Message of the Iran National Spiritual Assembly to the Friends of the Country”, the Third Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly, abiding by the principle of obeying the government, announced the closure of the Baha’i organizations, and at the same time, sent an open letter to two thousand well-known and high-ranking government figures asking an end to the arrest, detention, torture, execution, and injustice against Baha’is. (BBC Persian website, October 11, 2015). 

Judicial officials of the Islamic Republic have come up with [unreasonable and unacceptable] justifications for the persecution and the execution of the members of the National Spiritual Assemblies. In a speech on May 28, 1982, Ayatollah Khomeini said: “The Baha’is are not a religion, they’re a [political] party; it’s a party that was supported by Britain in the past, and now it’s being supported by America. They are spies.” (Sahifeye Noor, Volume 17, May 28, 1982).

The Baha’is deny the charge of relations with countries such as Israel, citing “the religious principle of ‘the requirement of staying out of politics’. They say that religious relations know no bounds, and that the Iranian Baha’i Spiritual Assembly has done nothing, and taken no action, against the Islamic Republic”. (Asoo website, August 9, 2015). 

It must be noted that the Beit-al-Adl was established in Haifa at a time where there was no such country as the state of Israel. The founders of the Baha’i faith, Baha’ollah in particular, had no choice but to leave Iran in the latter part of the 19thCentury under pressure and persecution, and to turn to Turkey and Iraq. 

Baha’ollah did not escape persecution under the Ottoman Empire either. He was imprisoned for a time in present day Turkey and was released in 1908. In 1909, Baha’ollah transferred the body of Ali Mohammad Baab – who had been executed in Iran in 1850 – to Beit-al-Adl. A short time before the start of the First World War, Baha’ollah settled as the leader of the Baha’is in Haifa, a city where Beit-al-Adl is located, and began to tend to the affairs and the issues of the Baha’i community. After World War I, when Palestine was under the British Mandate, the Baha’i community remained safe from persecution. (Boroumand Center research). 

Arrest and death of Mr. Hossein Naji 

On August 21, 1980, the First National Spiritual Assembly held a joint meeting with members of the Deputy Council, Yussef Abbasian Milani and Heshmatollah Rohani, in order to discuss the situation of imprisoned Baha’is in the cities of Yazd and Hamedan. The Assembly members’ concerns were justified because the members of these two cities’ Spiritual Assemblies, all of whom had been arrested in the previous weeks, were executed in 1980 and 1981. Around 4 o’clock in the afternoon of August 21, “armed Revolutionary Guards” attacked the Assembly, and took away Hossein Naji and the other members of the National Spiritual Assembly, Manuher Qa'em Maqami, Hushang Mahmudi, Ebrahim Rahmani, Abdolhossein Taslimi, Ata'ollah Moqarebi, Yussef Khorassani Qadimi, Kambiz Sadeqzadeh Milani, Bahiyeh Naderi, and the two members of the Deputy Council. There was no trace of them afterward, ever again. (Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website, July 3, 2018). 

Given the execution of the members of the Second Assembly and most of the members of the Third Assembly, which convened after the First, the Baha’i community has no doubt that they were all murdered. (Shohada-ye Amr-e Elahi, p. 156; BBC Persian website, October 11, 2015). 

There is no information regarding Mr. Hossein Naji’s burial site.

Officials’ Reaction 

The Islamic Republic authorities (official or not) never officially accepted responsibility for the arrest and execution of the members of the Baha’is First National Spiritual Assembly. Nevertheless, in a meeting the spouses of the disappeared had with Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on September 2, 1980, the then-Head of the Parliament claimed that “these Baha’is are in detention for their participation in the Nojeh coup d’état”. These charges were vehemently denied by the Baha’is. One week later, on September 10, 1980, Rafsanjani stated that the order to arrest the 11 Baha’is had been issued, but that their families were not allowed to visit with them until the conclusion of preliminary investigations. He gave assurances that they would be freed if they were found to be innocent. On September 18, 1980, the country’s Prosecutor General announced that 9 Baha’i individuals had been arrested on charges of participating in the recent failed coup attempt. (The book One Hundred and Sixty Years of Fighting the Baha’i Faith, p. 426). 

Addressing the execution of the members of the Baha’is Second National Spiritual Assembly, Ahmad Tavakkoli, Minister of Labor and government Spokesman, stated: “Not only do we not execute Baha’is simply because they’re Baha’i, we also do not kill communists just because they’re communists. We do not consider holding a belief to be a crime. But if an individual, with any type of belief, wants to take action against the interests of the people, that individual will be tried and punished in accordance with the law. We will not allow people who take money from Israel and engage in espionage in Iran to remain in this country; we will deal with them in the harshest possible manner and it makes no difference if they are called Moslem or non-Moslem.” (Jomhuri Eslami newspaper, January 27, 1982). 

Additionally, Ayatollah Mohammadi Gilani, the Chief Shari’a Judge of the Central (Tehran) Islamic Revolutionary Courts stated this about Baha’is: “There are two kinds of Mortad (“apostates”), Fetri apostate and Melli apostate. Fetri apostate is one who was born into Islam, that is, one or both of his/her parents were Moslem at the time of birth, and Melli apostate is one whose birth was not in that fashion. The punishment for a Fetri apostate is death and his/her repentance will not be accepted.” (Kayhan newspaper, October 19, 1981). 

The anti-Baha’i statements of Ayatollah Khomeini, the Guardian High Scholar and founder of the Islamic Republic, such as “they are apostates … they must be eliminated” (Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website, June 17, 2019), as well as general policies where anti-Baha’ism has been institutionalized, alongside charges that were brought in the Baha’is Second National Spiritual Assembly trial, clarify to a great extent the motive for the killing of the members of the Baha’is First National Spiritual Assembly. 

A video of the trial session of 7 male members of the Baha’is Second National Spiritual Assembly has been published in recent years [3]. The defendants at this trial were faced with a wide spectrum of charges such as “waging psychological war and propaganda against the [Islamic Republic] Regime” which included collecting documentation and correspondence with international institutions for the purpose of seeking justice, as well as the content of the Baha’is National Spiritual Assembly’s correspondence in the 1960’s and not condemning Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians. (Asoo website, August 9, 2015). 

Follow ups on the attacks against the life and property of Baha’is, before and after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, was done by members of local and national spiritual assemblies. Documenting the evidence of violations of Baha’is’ rights in various eras, members of these assemblies first corresponded with governmental authorities, and if their actions in seeking justice did not bear fruit, they would correspond with international institutions to seek remedies. The Islamic Republic authorities considered the Baha’is’ corresponding and working with officials of the previous regime, as well as their correspondence with international institutions, as propaganda against the Islamic Regime.

Familys’ Reaction

After four decades, family members of the Baha’is First National Spiritual Assembly still do not have any definitive information about the fate of their loved ones. Following up on their cases, they met with various officials of the Judiciary and Legislative Branches: While expressing a lack of knowledge as to what had happened, the latter stated that the government was not at fault in the kidnapping of these individuals, and attributed the actions to obstinate groups that did not answer to anyone. (Radio Zamaneh, December 21, 2013). The family members have stated that they had made great efforts in the first months after “the disappearance” of their loved ones to obtain information. Vajdieh Rezvani said: “ … We went everywhere you could possibly imagine: This prison, that prison, to Ayatollah Beheshti, Ayatollah Montazeri’s son, Ayatollah Behjat, Ayatollah Gilani, and they all said they did not know anything and had no information … ” (BBC Persian website, October 11, 2015). 

In a letter to Ayatollah Khomeini, the then-leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, dated November 1, 1980, the families of the 11 detained Baha’is, including Ms. Vajdieh Naji (Mr. Naji’s spouse), alluded to the lack of news about their loved ones and emphasized that “the only reason they were arrested was because they were Baha’i”. They asked him to issue a decree to the effect that “the necessary investigations about these 11 individuals be conducted and that the means of their release” be secured. They further asked that “arrangements be made that these individuals’ family members be apprised of their place of detention so that they can visit them prior to their release, and stop worrying." (Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website). In a letter dated October 23, 1980, to Abolhassan Bani Sadr, President; Ayatollah Mahdavi Kani, Minister of the Interior; Ayatollah Qoddussi, Revolutionary Prosecutor General; Ayatollah Mussavi Ardebili, Islamic Republic Prosecutor General; and Ayatollah Heshemi Rafsanjani, Head of the Islamic Consultative Assembly (“Majless” or Parliament), the families emphasized once again that the only reason for the arrest of the 11 individuals was that they were Baha’i, and asked that these officials order that “investigations be conducted into the manner and place of the aforementioned individuals’ arrest, and arrangements be made for their release.” (Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website). 

In a letter to Ayatollah Qoddussi, Islamic Republic Revolutionary Prosecutor General, dated August 23, 1980, the detainees’ families stated the names of the 9 detained members of the Baha’is First National Spiritual Assembly, and further stated that they had no news of where their loved ones were being detained, and added: “What we know for certain is that they were arrested for being followers of the Baha’i faith. Pursuant to [their] religious tenets, Baha’is are prohibited from interfering in political affairs, and consider obedience to the government a definitive obligation. It is self-evident and certain that any aspersion or slander, and any injustice, will not be to the Almighty’s liking.” (Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website). 

After four decades, family members still do not have any information about the details of the events. According to the son of an Assembly member, however, ever since 1981, the time of the execution of the members of the Baha’is Second National Spiritual Assembly by firing squad, it was clear to the families that the members of the First Assembly had met with the same faith and “had been killed”. (Boroumand Center interview with Shahin Milani, June 12, 2017).


[1] ‘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.
[2] 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. 
[3] The time between the members of the Baha’is Second National Spiritual Assembly’s arrest (December 13, 1981) and their trial (December 27, 1981) is about two weeks. The possibility has been advanced that the defendants spent these two weeks in solitary confinement. Furthermore, many legal defects have been attributed to said trial, including the fact that the judge began the session by introducing the defendants, and not himself. “We see in the video that the judge calls the National Spiritual Assembly’s report to the World Baha’i Headquarters fabricated and political. Therefore, issuance of a decision and sentence based on falsehoods and unlawful [conjecture] is clear evidence of the illegality and illegitimacy of the trial.” (Asoo website, September 6, 2015). 

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