Translation by Iran Press Watch
Thirty-one years ago today, Mona Mahmudnezhad, only 17 years old, was executed, along with nine other Bahá’í women at the Abdullah Mesgar Garrison (Shiraz Chogan Circle). At the time of her execution, Mona was a high school student and a Baha’i children’s class teacher. Born on 10 September 1965, she would have been a 48-year-old woman today.
On 23 October 1982, Mahmudnezhad was arrested at home with her father and transported to the local Revolutionary Guard Corps center. Mona later was sent to Adelabad prison in Shiraz, and her father was also detained. She was subjected to interrogation and pressure to recant her religion; her refusal to succumb to pressure to reject it led to her death sentence. On the day of the execution Mona was not alone, though she was the youngest member of the group execution. On that day, nine young and middle-aged women were sent to their deaths by hanging due to their belief in the Baha’i Faith. Roya Eshraqi (23 years old), Simin Saberi (24 years old), Akhtar Sabet (25 years old), Shirin Dalvand (27 years old), Mahshid Nirumand (28 years old), Zarrin Moqimi-abianieh (29), Nosrat Ghofrani Yalda’i (56 years old), Tahirih Arjomandi Siyavushi (32 years old), and Ezzat Janami Eshraqi (50 years old) were all in the same group that was executed along with Mona. Mona Mahmudnezhad’s father had been executed by hanging three months previously, in March of 1983.
Mona Mahmudnezhad, who is a symbol of innocence to Baha’is today, was an eloquent writer, according to her sister. She had written many penetrating and beautiful pieces in her writing class; however, expressing her belief was generally not acceptable to her teachers. A few days prior to her arrest, Mona wrote an essay entitled “Islam is a tree and its fruit is liberty”, which was contested by high school officials; she was asked to change her beliefs. In this essay Mona wrote of persecution and oppression against people who shared her religious beliefs, stating: “Why in my country are those who are members of my religion abducted from their homes at night and taken to mosques in their nightgowns, and subjected to whipping? As we have recently witnessed in our own city, Shiraz, their homes are looted and set on fire. Hundreds of people leave their homes in fear. Why? Because of the gift of liberty that Islam has brought? Why am I not free to express my ideas in this society? Why do I not have freedom of speech so that I can write in the newspapers, and express my ideas on the radio and television? ”
Mona’s mother was arrested in January 1983 due to her inquiries about her husband and daughter on charges of membership in the “marriage and intimacy” group, which is the “Friendship Society of Baha’s”. At that time, her only daughter who was not in prison was Taraneh, who was 22 years old at the time.
Over many years Taraneh has exerted much effort to keep alive the memory of her father and only sister. She said in an interview that her mother Farkhundeh spent five months in detention and interrogation, and that she was released just a few days before Mona’s execution. While Mona’s mother was in prison, her husband Yadu’llah Mahmudnezhad was executed, on 13 March 1983. Mona’s father was a teacher and one of the administrators of the Baha’i Community. Before becoming a Baha’i, he had been a Muslim; because of this he was charged with apostasy. According to reliable sources, many Baha’is were allowed a visit with their families one day before their execution, while neither they nor the families were aware that they would be executed the very next day.
The charge that led to Mona’s detention was belief in the Baha’i Faith. The interrogators had subjected her to up to four interrogation sessions in which she was pressured to recant her faith. They also tried to force Mona and other detainees to sign a statement denying the Baha’i Faith’s veracity in order to avoid execution. Trial documents do not contain much information regarding the details of the allegations against Mona. Although it seems that on two occasions she was issued a release verdict conditional upon payment of 500,000 tumans (approx $5,000), but although her mother came to the prison to pay the fine, this verdict was never implemented.
The atmosphere of detentions and arrests and the executions were done in secret in the 1980s; many relatives of prisoners only became aware of the condition of their loved ones after they saw interviews with officials and judges. The Supreme Leader and the official in charge of the Islamic Courts of Shiraz gave interviews with the Khabar Jonoob newspaper at that time, and stated that the accused Baha’is had been detained due to being active in Baha’i activities, which they directly or indirectly linked to the World Center of the Faith, located in Israel.
The sentencing results for the detained Baha’is were announced by the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Shiraz in an interview with the Khabar Jonoob newspaper in this manner: “These individuals who have been sentenced to execution are active members of Baha’ism, from whom simple minded people were not safe; their dependence on devils inside and outside Iran has made their animosity towards Islam and Muslims evident.”
After this interview, the families of the detainees tried hard to obtain the release for their family members with no result; after a few days after the reports, they were notified that their loved ones had been executed. Mona was the youngest member of the group; at the end of that period she was given another chance to recant her Faith, which she rejected, and so she was ultimately hung.
Her body was not handed over to her family; along with others and without any ceremony she was secretly buried at the cemetery for the Baha’is of Shiraz. This Cemetery was demolished by Iranian Revolutionary Guards in April 2014. This cemetery was the only memorial left of these executed Baha’is during those years; it is said that over 900 executed members of this religious minority were buried there.
In Mona’s will, she writes of her belief in the will of God and in destiny. Her execution in her youth, a jolt for her family and friends and for the Baha’i community of Iran, has become a symbol of the murder of the innocents of this religious community.
The text of Mona Mahmudnezhad’s will is as follows:
“Oh God, Thy will is my hope.
My mother and kind sister, who are more dear to me than my own life: what can I say? What can I write? God’s grace is abundant and surrounds all His servants under all conditions, even a feeble servant such as I who am not worthy to serve at His threshold.
Dear ones, pray for us with heart and soul to be submissive to God’s will under any condition, be satisfied with our fate, and fix your gaze upon no one but the Friend so that we may be found worthy of His blessings to the extent possible.
I Love you with all my life, do not forget that He doeth whatsoever He willeth: what can we do? Therefore we must bow our heads in submission to the kind Lord. Do not let grief and sorrow overcome you; pray for us ̶ we are in need of prayers.
* See The Story of Mona at http://www.adressformona.org/monasstory/storyofmona1.htm