No one was safe. Ali Murad Davoudi, the philosopher and former member of the Iranian Baha’i National Spiritual Assembly, received many death threats. One 11 November 1979, he was abducted during a walk in the park, never to be seen again.

The revolutionaries also targeted Husayn Naji, another member of the nine-person National Spiritual Assembly. A group of men raided his home and arrested his wife. Naji appealed to Islamic officials, including the Ayatollah Khomeini, for his wife’s release. His pleas went unanswered.

Then, during a meeting in a private home on 21 August 1980, all nine members of the Baha’i assembly were abducted by agents from the Revolutionary Guards. The television broadcaster Houshang Mahmoudi was among those who disappeared. The families of the missing searched for months – but, like Davoudi, none of the nine would ever be seen again. Today, they are presumed dead.

In September, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the Speaker of Iran’s parliament, publicly confirmed that the Baha’is had been arrested by the government. A month later he denied official involvement. No one has ever claimed responsibility for the kidnappings.

Mass Murder

The Iranian Baha’is were not cowed in practicing their faith. They knew they must elect a new National Spiritual Assembly. But caution demanded different approaches to meeting. They regularly changed their meeting places and only four members were allowed to gather together at any time. But when the members met in plenary on 13 December 1981 to discuss pressing business, the authorities seized the opportunity to arrest the assembly members. No warrant was presented for their arrest. Eight members were taken. The ninth escaped only because she was in hospital on the day.

The eight Baha’i leaders were blindfolded and taken to a holding facility, where they were interrogated for two weeks. Over and over, the interrogators demanded that they name other Baha’is and recant their faith.

On 27 December, the questioning came to an end. All eight Baha’is were executed by the government. The meteorologist Zhinous Mahmoudi was one of those who were murdered. Western powers protested the murders, but the Islamic Republic claimed it was justified and that the Baha’is had been spies.

The Iranian authorities went on to execute more than 200 Baha’is, half of them from local elected assemblies, in these days of blood.


The Baha’i community was thrown into a state of shock. Thousands of Baha’is felt they had no choice but to flee Iran. Rahim Rahimian, a Baha’i businessman and father of two young boys, Keyvan and Kamran, decided to remain in Iran. He scrambled to find safe-houses for Baha’is in Tehran.

On 4 May 1983, the revolutionaries arrested Rahimian and sent him to Evin Prison, where hundreds of Baha’is, and thousands of other Iranians, were tortured and executed after the Revolution. Rahimian’s arm and teeth were broken during multiple beatings; his feet were whipped until they were swollen and bleeding. He was held at Evin for a year, during which he was allowed only five visits from his family. Every time the guards demanded that he convert to Islam, he refused. The Islamic Republic executed him in October 1984.

The United Nations, Amnesty International, many Western leaders, and the international media called for an end to the Islamic Republic’s brutal persecution, but the anti-Baha’i campaign continued unabated.