The cousin of Ataollah Rezvani, a Baha’i citizen who was murdered, has spoken with Deutsche Welle*, saying:
“He was very much loved; the people of Bandar Abbas, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, had excellent relations with him.” According to his cousin, this situation made the Ministry of Information very touchy about this man.
Ataollah Rezvani, a 54 year old Baha’i, was the father of two children aged 15 and 20. He owned a private water pump company, and was murdered on Saturday night Shahrivar the 2nd (August 24), in the city of Bandar Abbas.
As was his habit, Mr. Rezvani went to the house of one of his friends who lives abroad, and spoke with an employee of the friend. While there, someone contacted Mr. Rezvani on his mobile phone and carried on a prolonged conversation with him. After this phone call, Ataollah Rezvani left that location and was murdered.
At the onset of the Iranian Revolution (in 1979) he was a mechanical engineering student at the Iran University of Science and Technology. After the revolution, he was expelled from the university because of his adherence to the Baha’i Faith, and was never allowed to continue his education.
His cousin, Navid Aghdassi, told Deutsche Welle about Mr. Rezvani’s personality: “Without a doubt, his nobility, his popularity both among Baha’is and non-Baha’is (whether Muslim Sunni or Shi’i) of Bandar Abbas was well known. He carried on a very friendly and loving relationship with all, and was very well-known. Many Baha’is in Bandar Abbas referred their problems to him, whether financial or family problems, and he would assist them.”
Continuation of pressure on Baha’is
From the beginning of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran until now more than 200 Baha’is have been killed. Based on unconfirmed reports approximately 300 Baha’is are currently in prison. The entire previous leadership of the Baha’i community in Iran (the “Yaran”, or “Friends” of Iran) have each been condemned to imprisonment for 20 years. They have been in prison for several years now, and internal as well as external objections have not resulted in their release. The substitude Baha’i university has been closed and their faculty and staff have been imprisoned.
But this is not all the torment and persecution that threatens the Baha’i community. Mr. Aghdassi continues: “Since the Revolution I have personally witnessed and have been raised with not just the news that over 200 Baha’is have been killed, that young Baha’is are not allowed to enter university, that we are barred from accessing government offices nor allowed to enter government employment, but also for many jobs such as jobs dealing with food services like cake and confectionaries and coffee shop stores we cannot apply for permits or we would be exposed to constant persecution such as the burning of our stores, permits not being renewed, threats and the like.”
From Shahrivar of 1390 (Aug-Sept 2011) on, the sealing and locking of Baha’i businesses has speeded up. During the past two years, many Baha’is of Semnan have had their business permits removed and lost the ability to earn a livelihood.
Navid Aghdassi relates the employment persecution carried on against Mr. Rezvani: “They pressured Mr. Rezvani’s customers not to conduct business with him. They pressured Mr. Rezvani’s colleagues to stop their cooperation with him. Mr. Rezvani had a high level specialty experience with respect to water purification and sanitation. He had worked with “Degramit International” for several years and was very familiar with related issues, working with Hormozgan Provincial Water and Sanitation company. The Ministry of Information brought pressure to bear against Hormozgan Water and Sanitation and forced them to stop working with Mr. Rezvani. For a long time they could not find anyone else to carry on with the work. They needed the expertise of Mr. Rezvani and his colleagues, but were not allowed to work with them.”
An Organized and belief-based death
Mr. Rezvani’s cousin said: “The murdered person had no problems with anyone, and was very popular, therefore, the only motivation can be based on his beliefs.”
He said: “Not only for his family, but also for relatives, including us, and all the members of the Bandar Abbas Baha’i community, and even for non-Baha’i friends, the prevailing guess is that it was a matter that was organized and had a belief-based motive, because he was a Baha’i. Without any exaggeration, and not because he was a relative of mine, Mr. Rezvani was the most well-known and the most-loved Baha’i in the whole Hormozgan province. For this very reason the Ministry of Information was very sensitive about him – and still is. He was not involved in drugs, in his whole life he did not smoke, nor did he use any drinks, nor had he any minor financial misdeed. He was so kind to everyone that he forgave some of his debtors. Therefore it is not even thinkable to suppose that someone might have killed him because of money matters. At this point, we can not even imagine any other matter than a belief-based motive – being a Baha’i.”
Mr. Aghdassi said that the Ministry of Information was not happy about Mr. Rezvani’s popularity, and many a time they had said that he was planning on reviving the Baha’i community’s activities as evidenced by his helping other Baha’is.
According to him, it had even been suggested that Mr. Rezvani leave the country. Navid Aghdassi said:
“The general policy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in terms of relations with Baha’is during the past few years, has been to put pressure on them to leave the country, and always it has been stated to many indirectly or even just verbally: why aren’t you leaving? Other countries accept you as refugees, so why don’t you go? This is their policy. If someone, somehow, prevented this from happening, it would certainly have consequences for him. Among such people, one was Mr. Rezvani, who caused the policy to fail by solving the problems many Baha’is faced.”
Evidences and documents for finding the potential murderer(s)
The last person who was with Mr. Rezvani has stated that Mr. Rezvani had a prolonged phone call. Finding the person talking to Mr. Rezvani on the phone would not be a difficult matter; all that would be needed would be to obtain a list of his calls from the office of the Telecommunication Company of Iran. Naturally, Mr. Rezvani’s cell phone was the sole item that was stolen after his death.
The location of Mr. Rezvani’s visit with his friend’s employee was a public place that probably has a camera that can show what transpired after the employee left.
The report of the medical examiner and examining the body could also assist the case. That is why Mr. Rezvani’s family has not yet acted in collecting the body and burying it.
Mr. Rezvani’s cousin says: “The reason we have not yet received the body is that we want to wait until the lawyer has a chance to see the body. Unfortunately, in Iran the number of lawyers accepting this kind of cases does not exceed the fingers of one’s hands, i.e., 10. And in the provinces, almost no one takes this type of case. For this reason, we have referred the case to a lawyer in Tehran, and it takes a while before the lawyer can reach Bandar Abbas. So we have held off and not received the body until the lawyer arrives and examines the body.”
Shirin Ebadi**, Nasrin Sotoudeh***, Abdolfattah Soltani**** and Mohammad Olaeifard***** were the lawyers who have worked on Baha’i cases. Shirin Ebadi and Mohammad Olaeifard were forced to leave Iran, and the other two lawyers are currently in prison. One of the accusations against these two was accepting legal cases to defend Baha’is.
Extended pressure on Rezvani family
Ataollah Rezvani was in detention for two weeks in 1362 (1983-4). Due to the slaps to his face in the course of his investigations, he suffered deafness in his left ear – a condition that lasted to the end of his life.
His sister, Sahba Rezvani living in Semnan, was arrested in 1387 (2008-9) and condemned to three years in jail. The daughter of Mrs. Rezvani, Anisa Fanaian******, is currently in prison, and her husband Siamak Yegani was released from prison only three weeks ago. The couple have two children under the age of eight who were cared for by their grandmother Shahla Rezvani.
The uncle of Mr. Rezvani, Mohammad Hossain Nakhai, was arrested and imprisoned for one year in Ordibehesht 1391 (Apr-May 2012) at the age of 86*******. Mr. Nakhai had been imprisoned for five years in Gondad Kavoos in the ‘60s.
The other uncle of Mr. Rezvani, named Badiollah Nakhai, is a resident of Sannadaj. He has been called before the Ministry of Information officials of the city and investigated on many occasions.
These are the only instances that Navid Aghdassi could recall. He said that were he to relate the list of his family members who have been imprisoned over the years it would take hours to do so.
By Mitra Shoja’i
* for information about Deutsche Welle, see http://www.dw.de/dw-akademie/about-us/s-9519
** The winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirin_Ebadi
*** see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasrin_Sotoudeh
**** see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abdolfattah_Soltani
***** see http://www.advocatenvooradvocaten.nl/lawyers/mohammad-olyaeifard/
****** see http://iranhr.blogspot.com/2012/10/prisoner-info-for-anisa-fanaian-updated.html
******* see http://hra-news.org/en/tag/mohammad-hossein-nakhai
Translation by Iran Press Watch