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

Ehsanollah Mehdizadeh

About

Age: 32
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Baha'i
Civil Status: Married

Case

Date of Killing: April 30, 1981
Location of Killing: Central Prison (Adelabad), Shiraz, Fars Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Shooting
Charges: Unknown charge
Age at time of offense: 31

About this Case

News and information regarding the execution of Mr. Ehsanollah Mehdizadeh (son of Khan Agha) and two other individuals* was published in Kayhan (May 2, and 5, 1981), Khabar-e Jonoob (May 2, 1981), Ettela’at (May 2, 1981), and Jomhuri Eslami (May 3, 1981) newspapers. Additional information about this case was obtained from the Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website, Golshan-e Eshgh Facebook page (May 6, 2019), as well as from documents existing at the Abdorrahman Boroumand Center, including Mr. Mehdizadeh’s letters written in prison and the death certificate dated May 1, 1981, issued by the Fars Province Judiciary.

Mr. Mehdizadeh was one of the 206 individuals whose name was published in the Worldwide Baha’i Community’s 1999 report. This report, entitled The Baha’i Question: Iran’s Secret Blueprint for the Destruction of a Religious Community”, dealt with the persecution of members of the Baha’i faith in Iran by the Islamic Republic, and contained a list of Baha’is who were killed in Iran since 1979.

Mr. Mehdizadeh was born into a Baha’i family in the city of Shiraz on November 3, 1948. He started working at a pharmacy upon finishing his elementary school education, and was hired by the Pepsi Cola Company a few years later. He lost his job after the arson of the Pepsi Cola factory during the events of June 6, 1963, and started working at the offices of the local Baha’i Spiritual Assembly** in the city of Shiraz. Mr. Mehdizadeh was married in 1967-68. Two years later, he immigrated to the town of Ras al Khaimah in the United Arab Emirates with his wife and 6-month-old newborn baby, and returned to Iran a little while later. He was a member of the Golestan Javid Lajneh*** (Lajneh, meaning “association”, is a sub-group of the Spiritual Assembly) in the city of Shiraz.

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. *****

Arrest and detention

On May 3, 1980, Mr. Mehdizadeh was arrested at the offices of the Shiraz Spiritual Assembly and taken to Shiraz Comiteh’s detention center. (Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website, Golshan-e Eshgh Facebook page). No other detail is available about this arrest and detention.

Mr. Medizadeh was later transferred from the Shiraz Comiteh’s detention center to Shiraz’ Adelabad Prison where he spent about one year at the prison’s Ward 4, Cell number 11. (Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website).

Trial

There are no information available on the trial session/s of Mr. Mehdizadeh.

Charges

State-run newspapers enumerated the same charges for the three co-defendants in this case. These charges included: “1. Efforts and activities toward strengthening the vile Pahlavi regime; 2. Membership in the West Asia espionage organization in connection with imperialism and Zionism; 3. Active membership in the Baha’i Zionist organization; 4. Controlling Shiraz’ clergymen and religious scholars during the Islamic Revolution; 5. Working toward disseminating the culture of heresy and infidelity, particularly among pure-hearted village folk and tribes people; 6. Attempting to exhume the body of a Moslem individual in order to dispatch the remains to Israel with the cooperation of those with allegiances to the previous regime, the then-Governor [of Fars Province], and the then-Custodian of the Shah-e Cheragh Holy Site; 7. Having contacts with sensitive actors of world imperialism, including Brand Scott, former United States President Jimmy Carter’s close associate; 8. Distributing funds received from Haifa in Israel to promote heresy and enmity with Islam and to create havoc and uprisings in order to advance the evil and Zionist objectives of Baha’ism in the region; 10. Contacts with foreign countries such as England, India, Kuwait, and Israel regarding espionage issues in the course of numerous trips; 11. Preparing precise information and statistics regarding rural and tribal regions and sending the same to Israel; 12. Openly insulting and cursing the Greatest Prophet [Mohammad] and the Purest Imams [of Shiite Islam], and insulting Islamic sacred beliefs; 13. Immigration planning and promotional planning in the country’s various regions, including Fars, Bushehr, Kohkiluyeh and Buyerahmad, Esfahan, Yazd, Kerman, Azarbaijan, and other provinces; and dozens of other crimes”. (Kayhan, Khabar-e Jonoob, Ettela’at, and Jomhuri Eslami newspapers)

No information is available about the charge(s) brought specifically against Mr. Mehdizadeh.The validity of the criminal charges brought against this defendant cannot be ascertained in the absence of the basic guarantees of a fair trial. 

Evidence of guilt

The report of this execution did not provide any specific information on the evidence presented against Mr. Mehdizadeh.

Defense

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

According to the statements made by the representatives of the Baha’i community, the main reason for the arrest and prosecution of adherents of the Baha’i faith is their religious beliefs. The information these representatives have obtained about their brethren indicates that the defendants’ requests to read the content of the case file are usually denied, and even though the defendants are allowed by law to avail themselves of legal representation, attorneys at law are under pressure not to accept any Baha’i clients.

Representatives of the Baha’i community deny charges such as anti-revolutionary political activity or espionage leveled in courts against Baha’is, and note that the constitutive principles of their faith require loyalty to a government and obedience thereto, and prohibits them from any interference in political affairs. These representatives add that espionage for Israel is another one of those baseless charges brought against adherents of the Baha’i faith simply because the Baha’is’ world headquarters is located there, whereas these headquarters were established in that location at the end of the 19th century, years before the establishment of the state of Israel. 

Judgment

Shiraz Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Mr. Ehsanollah Mehdizadeh to death. The ruling was upheld by the Judicial High Council.

At 7 PM on April 30, 1981, Mr. Ehsanollah Mehdizadeh and two other individuals were executed by a firing squad at Shiraz’ Adelabad Prison. According to available information, “initially, government agents intended to immediately bury the bodies in Shiraz’ Baha’i cemetery, without the knowledge of their families. However, the cemetery groundskeeper and several other Baha’is found out and insistently asked the officials to allow the burial to take place in accordance with Baha’i rites. The agents ultimately granted the request; however, no one other than a few close relatives was allowed to take part and be present at the burial. (Archives of Baha’i Persecution in Iran website).

Shiraz’ Islamic Revolutionary Court also ruled to expropriate all of Mr. Mehdizadeh’s property.

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*The other individuals executed along with Mr. Mehdizadeh were Messrs. Yadollah Vahdat and Sattar Khoshkhu.
** 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.
*** In the bureaucratic hierarchy of the Baha'i community, the "Lejneh" is an association that operates in districts and under the supervision of “Local Spiritual Assembly”
**** ‘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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