Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

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

Yadollah Astani


Age: 49
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: July 14, 1980
Location of Killing: Central Prison, Tabriz, Azarbaijan-e Sharqi Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Religious offense

About this Case

Information about the execution of Mr. Yadollah (also spelled "Yadu'llah") Astani, son of Ahmad, and fourteen others was obtained from a ruling by Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tabriz published in Kayhan Daily Newspaper (July 14th, 1980; July 16, 1980), Jomhuri Eslami Newspaper (July 15th, 1980), Ettela’at Newspaper (July 15th, 1980), Sobh-e Azadegan Newspaper (July 15th, 1980), and Bamdad Newspaper (July 15th, 1980). Additional information about his life was acquired from Archives of Baha’i Persecution, including a brief biography and a letter from his wife, Nayyereh Astani, to Judge Musavi (November 7th, 1979).

Mr. Astani is also 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 Baha’i faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran and lists members killed since 1978. Additional information has been drawn from various issues of The Baha’i World. See for example: Vol. XIX, 1982-1986, Haifa 1994.

Mr. Yadollah Astani was born in 1931 in Maragheh, East Azerbaijan province, Iran (ABPI). He established his own business in Maragheh, following his graduation from high school. Then, when he moved to Tabriz later, he moved his business with him (ABPI). He was elected to serve on the Local Spiritual Assembly of Tabriz in 1969 (ABPI).

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

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(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) 

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. 

The Bah’I’s Spiritual Assemblies were gradually suppressed. In Baha’I’s literature, the first assemply whose members were kidnapped is commonly known as the First National Assembly. 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 Detention

Mr. Astani was arrested on October 20th, 1979. According to his wife, he was kept at an unknown location for at least “19 days with no legal or religious permit,” “without visiting permission” Due to him being “ill” and “under medical care and treatment,” his wife raises concerns that his continued detention would put his life at risk (Nayyereh Astani ABPI, November 7th, 1979). 


There is no information available about a trial held for Mr. Astani.


The Islamic Revoltuionary Court of Tabriz announced the charges against Mr. Astani, published in Kayhan Newspaper, as “effective collaboration with the corrupt Pahlavi regime and the dissolved SAVAK to suppress devout Muslims, spreading prostitution and vice, cooperation with the occupying regime of Israel and the International Zionism to suppress noble and innocent Muslims, forwarding precise reports, cultural information, political, geographical, military, collecting and forwarding money and financial support to Israel, fighting against Islam and Muslims, and also frequent travels to Israel to carry out the sinister plans of Zionism” (July 16, 1980).

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 wrongfully 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."

Evidence of Giult

There is no information available about the evidence used by the prosecution.


In a letter to Judge Musavi, Mr. Astani’s wife, Nayyereh Astani, states that her husband is “completely innocent of any crime and [has] lived the days of [his life] in piety and righteousness” (ABPI, November 7th, 1979).

The representatives of the Baha'i community stress that their members are being persecuted for their religious beliefs. 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 Center 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.


The Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tabriz declared Mr. Yadollah Astani guilty of “waging war against God and his prophet and spreading corruption on earth” and sentenced him to death by firing squad (Kayhan, July 16, 1980). He was also referred to as being the “head of the Assembly of Baha’is of Tabriz.” He was executed alongside a close friend at dawn on July 14, 1980. His body was buried in accordance with Baha’i law and in the presence of a large crowd (ABPI, Bio).


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.  

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