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

Tuba Za'irpur

About

Age: 51
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: March 12, 1983
Location of Killing: Central Prison (Adelabad), Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Hanging
Charges: Religious offense; Espionage

About this Case

Mrs. Tuba Za'irpur, a retired teacher and a liaison between the Local Spiritual Assembly and the Baha'i community in Shiraz and member of several committees, is one of 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 persecutions of the members of the Faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran and lists the Baha’is killed since 1978. Additional information was drawn from the newspaper Khabar-e Jonub, published in Shiraz (22 February 1983), and from various issues of the The Baha’i World.See for example: Vol. XVIII, 1979-1983, Haifa 1986 or description of events as published in A Tribute to the Faithful by Mah Mihr Gulistanih, or Olya's Story by Olya Roohizadegan.

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 (1) 

“The Qur’an recognized only the People of the Book as religious communities. Others are pagans. Pagans must be eliminated.”

Seyed Moussavi-Tabrizi, Iranian Attorney General (2) 

“...The punishment for a Mortad-e Fetri [an apostate who was born in a Muslim family] is death, and his repentance is not accepted.”

Ayatollah Guilani, head of the Islamic Republic Revolutionary Courts (3) 

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) 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 23 October 1982 a few revolutionary guards arrived at the home of Mrs. Za'irpur and presented an order for the arrest of Qudsiyyih Za'iri (A Tribute to the Faithful, p.138). Even though she clarified that was not her name, the officials searched her home, confiscated various articles and arrested her. During her initial interrogations at the Sepah, she was sentenced to 224 lashes within two days (Olya's Story, pp.118-119). She was placed in solitary confinement for 55 days (A Tribute to the Faithful, p.138) and was tortured regularly based on a misunderstanding over her position with regards to the Local Spiritual Assembly and suffered from many injuries as a result. While she was kept at the Sepah for more than 2 months, she was allowed a 3-minute visit with her family, but the authorities did not permit Tuba to receive her ulcer medication from her family, nor did they provide her with medical care. (A Tribute to the Faithful, p. 138).

Because of her religious beliefs, the prison authorities considered her to be an unbeliever, and thus "unclean", and she was subjected to humiliating treatment similar to that of atheist political prisoners. Prison wardens refused to have any physical contact with the prisoner even when, for example, they were guiding the blindfolded prisoner to the interrogation room. In such case guards would give her the end of a folded newspaper and hold the other end, avoiding contact. She was transferred to Adelabad prison on December 26th (Olya's Story, p. 120), where she remained in custody until her execution.

Trial

There is no detail available about Mrs. Za'irpur's trial. However, accounts by a former prisoner state that she was subjected to three sessions, lasting as long as 8 hours, during which she was asked to recant her faith or face death by hanging. (Olya's Story, p. 120)

Charges

The text of the indictment was not provided to the family. However, the available information indicates that her charges were related to her religious beliefs and activities. The defendant was charged with being a Baha’i and being a member of the Baha’i Administration. It is also reported that she was charged with: "Not being married" (Olya's Story, p. 158), which is not considered a crime in the Islamic Republic's Penal Code. It should also be noted that reports by her cellmates indicate that she was questioned more than the other Baha’i prisoners due to her membership in the Baha’i administration and was pressured to recant her faith. .

Further, in an interview published in the Newspaper Khabar-e Jonub the religious judge, Head of the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal of Shiraz, in charge of the case, warned the Baha’is “to embrace dear Islam and …recant Baha’ism, which is rationally and logically doomed, before it is too late.”

The judge also discussed at length the charges and the alleged crimes committed by the defendants and argued that they were arrested because they were active members of the Baha’i administration and because of their “direct or indirect” relationship with the House of Justice based in Israel, which follows the Israeli government.

The judge’s statements regarding those arrested also stressed that the religious activities of the defendants were criminal activities based on Article 13 of the constitution, which “deems illegal any activity for Baha’is and considers a crime the organization of committees, councils, or receptions and any such activities…”

Finally, in his interview, the head of the Shiraz Revolutionary Tribunal addressed the Baha’i community as a whole, asking its members to recant their faith or face the consequences: “Soon a day will come when the Muslim nation will deal with the Baha’is the same way they dealt with the Hypocrites** …who have diabolic religious pretexts and will carry out its religious duty, and Baha’is should know that …the Hezbollah Umma will have no difficulty uprooting them.”

Evidence of guilt

No information is available on the evidence presented against the defendant. However, when the head of the hospital where she worked called the religious judge to inquire about her case, he was told that her crime of membership in the Baha'i Faith had been proven. Furthermore, in his February interview the religious judge elaborated on the Baha’i community’s activities and beliefs as the evidence of their guilt.

The Judge refuted the assertion that Baha’is do not get involved in politics and abide by their government noting that they had not been supportive of the Islamic Republic and had their own administration: “…These people say: ‘We did not participate in any demonstration against the idolatrous [regime]… We did not participate in any of the Islamic Republic’s votes…because all this is politics and, from a religious perspective, we condemn participation in politics. We have our own elections and the Baha’i administration is independent...” While establishing the fact that Baha’is act independently from the state and have an independent administration, the House of Justice, as evidence that they are not loyal to the government, the judge also argued that because the House of Justice is located in Israel, the Baha’is are loyal to the government of Israel.

The very fact that Baha’is have a religious administration outside the “administration of Islam”, is, for the judge, a proof of disloyalty and guilt: “So we can see that these…children of Satan and mercenaries of Israel’s House of Justice have created an administration and a government, no matter how ridiculous, in the face of the government and the administration of Islam. Ironically, they say that ‘we are submissive to the government and whatever the government says we abide by it.’ However, this is only a way of covering the fact that they are acting independently from the people.”

Defense

No information is available on Mrs. Za'irpur's defense. 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 that even though they are allowed to avail themselves of the services of a defense counsel since the mid-1990s, attorneys are often under pressure not to accept Baha'i clients. 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 centre was established on Mount Carmel in the late 19th century, long before the establishment of the State of Israel.

Judgment

The authorities did not communicate the text of the sentence to her family. However, the Chief Judge of the Islamic Revolutionary Tribunal justified the sentence against the arrested Baha'is in his February interview with Khabar-e Jonub newspaper where he stated:

“It is clear that there is no room, whatsoever, for Baha’is and Baha’ism in the Islamic Republic of Iran.. ...” He referred to the individuals who were sentenced to death as kofar harbi [refers to those unbelievers who live in areas outside Muslim rule and who have no rights, not even the right to live] and noted that: “the individuals who have been sentenced to death were active members of the Baha’i faith to whose evil, naïve people were exposed. Their association with satans inside and outside [the country] and their enmity with Islam and Muslims are to a large measure obvious.”

The publication of this interview led the families of the prisoners to visit the Emam Jom'eh (Friday Prayer leader) and Governor of the Fars Province as well as officials in the Capital to look into the authenticity of the news. At the same time an international campaign in favor of the imprisoned Baha'is was launched, but it remained unsuccessful. The Revolutionary Court of Shiraz sentenced Mrs. Tuba Za’irpur to death and the Supreme Court approved the sentence. She was hanged along with two other Baha'is on 12 March 1983 and her properties were later confiscated.

The authorities did not inform Mrs. Siyavushi’s family of her execution. Her family learned of the execution accidentally and was not allowed to bury her body. The authorities buried her along with the other executed Baha’is in the Baha’i cemetery of Shiraz, without washing her or observing any other burial custom.

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*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 organization, an elected spiritual body that administers the affairs of the faith 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."

** Or Monafeqin, a term used by the Iranian authorities to identify the members of the Muslim dissident group Mojahedin Khalq Organization which was brutally repressed in 1981 and lost thousands of its members and sympathizers between 1981 and 1989.

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(1) Speech of Khomeini, 7 khordad 1362, Sahife-ye Emam, Volume 17

(2) Iran, Secret Blue Print for the Destruction of a Religious Community, p. 27).

(3) Kayhan, October 19, 1981 

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