Iran’s Raisi: A 1980s Killer of Baha’is

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Kian Sabeti

Judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi said the 1988 executions were justified because Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa

President Ebrahim Raisi, a longtime establishment figure in the Islamic Republic who has been Iran’s president since August 2021, was before his election a senior judiciary official for more than 40 years. His role as a prosector in political executions is well-documented – but what is less widely-reported is that members of Iran’s Baha’i religious minority were also executed under Raisi as a prosecutor.

Raisi’s bloody judiciary start

Ebrahim Raisi first joined the judiciary in 1981, two years after the 1979 Islamic Revolution, starting as an investigator for the Karaj city court before being appointed as the city’s general prosecutor.

In the summer of 1982 he was also appointed as Hamedan’s general prosecutor, while still holding the role in Karaj, exclusively becoming the Hamedan prosecutor two years later.

Baha’i citizens in Karaj were targeted by the new Islamic authorities in the first months of the Revolution. The persecution of Baha’is in Karaj continued during Raisi’s time as prosecutor and armed forces from different organizations targeted the community. Homes owned by Baha’is were attacked and property such as cars, cash, gold, and personal or other documents were seized.

The authorities would also confiscate the homes and assets of Baha’is when they were out of the country and without warrants.

The home of a Baha’i in Karaj, for example, Ali Quds Jorabchi, was one of the first to be seized by a group led one Sheikh Mustafa Rahnama. The attorney-general then transferred the property to Rahnama.

Five Baha’is in Karaj were executed when Raisi was prosecutor. Evidence indicates that the Karaj prosecutor’s office was directly involved in the execution of three of Baha’is and indirectly involved in the other two.

The five Baha’is, Farhang Mavaddat, Hashem Farnoosh, Badiullah Haqpeikar, Eshraqieh Kambin (Foroohar) and Mahmoud Foroohar, were executed in 1981 or thereabouts.

Mavaddat’s arrest was his second that year. He had previously been detained in Azimieh Prison for 19 days.

Mehraeen Mavaddat, Farhang Mavaddat’s wife, has described how her husband was summoned and arrested in her book Flame of Tests.

“One night, our phone rang again and it was the harsh voice of the prosecutor, who angrily asked for Farhang and ordered him to immediately present himself to the Central [Revolutionary] Committee in Tehran, which he did,” Mehraeen Mavaddat wrote.

Farhang Mavaddat was executed in the notorious Evin Prison seven months after handing himself over to the prosecutor’s office.

Ebrahim Raisi goes to Tehran

Raisi was transferred to Tehran’s judiciary after three years in Hamedan. He was appointed as deputy prosecutor of Tehran in early 1985 and remained in this position until late 1988.

During this period, eight Baha’i citizens were executed in Evin Prison, and another one named Abbas Edelkhani died in Evin after four years of imprisonment without ever being taken to trial.

Sarraleh Vahdat, Fareed Behmardi, Soroush Jabari and Abulqasem Shayeq were executed in 1985. Ardeshir Akhtari Rad and Amir Hossein Naderi were executed in 1986 while Iraj Afshin and Behnam Pashaei were executed in 1987. No evidence has been uncovered to suggest that any of the eight were taken to trial. Each Baha’i citizen was denied access to a lawyer and, after the executions, their remains were never returned to their families.

Raisi was appointed Tehran’s prosecutor in 1989. He held the position for five years. One example of the prosector’s approach to the Baha’is in this period was that of a Baha’i citizen named Bahman Samandari – who was detained and executed in less than 24 hours after receiving a summons.

Samandari’s body was never returned to his family and he was buried without a Baha’i religious ceremony. Questions remain even today as to whether Samandari was executed by order of the court, why his family was not informed, and why the case never went before the Supreme Judicial Council, as was the norm.

A few months later, Raisi is recorded to have said: “The execution of a Baha’i named Bahman Samandari this year was not because he was a Baha’i; this person was executed because of espionage.” But the accusation that Baha’is are “spies” is a claim that officials of the Islamic Republic have used since the 1979 Revolution to justify these executions. The Iranian government has yet to present any evidence for these claims to the United Nations or to international human rights organizations.

Raisi’s rise to the highest levels of the judiciary

Raisi was also the head of the National Inspection Organization for a decade before then being appointed as the judiciary’s top deputy. He remained in this post from 2004 to 2014, later serving as attorney-general from 2014 to 2016, and was then the head of Iran’s judiciary from 2019 to 2021. He was then elected president.

Seven informal leaders of the Iranian Baha’i community, known as the Yaran, or “Friends” of Iran, were arrested during Raisi’s time as deputy, in 2008, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. Raisi again used the false charge that Baha’is are “spies” as the reason for the arrest and trial of the seven former leaders. But instead of providing evidence to support his claim he accused European countries of violating human rights.

Three of these Baha’is, Fariba Kamalabadi, Afif Naimi and Mahvash Sabet, were arrested again on July 31 of last years. Kamalabadi and Sabet have since been sentenced to another 10 years behind bars.


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