August 24, 2013
WASHINGTON — On Saturday, August 24, 2013, Mr. Ataollah Rezvani, a member of the Baha’i Faith, was killed in Bandar Abbas, Iran. Based on available information, his murder was religiously motivated.
Rezvani was shot in the back of the head and his body was found in his car near the railway station on the outskirts of Bandar Abbas. Information received thus far points to the possibility that his assailants had forced him to drive to that location. His body was discovered following a search when he failed to return home.
“I will always be struck by the fact that, despite the continual harassment and threats directed at my brother, he was happy. He was a truly joyful person who lived to serve others. He loved his family, his community, and his country. He leaves behind his wife, his 14-year-old daughter and his 20-year-old son,” said Reyaz Rezvani, the brother of Ataollah Rezvani and a resident of Covington, Washington. “He was loved and respected by his neighbors and friends and he will be sorely missed.”
Rezvani was well-known as a Baha’i and was respected by the people of Bandar Abbas for his honesty and helpfulness. As a young man, he was expelled from his engineering studies at university because he was a Baha’i. He, nonetheless, came to be regarded as an expert in water purification. Recently, owing to pressure and threats from agents of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence, he was dismissed from his job and had to resort to selling water purification equipment. These intelligence agents had also been pressuring Rezvani to leave the city.
More recently, Rezvani had begun receiving menacing telephone calls from unknown persons. It should also be noted that, on several occasions in the past few years, senior local clerics have attempted to incite the population through incendiary sermons against the Baha’is of the city.
“The murder of Mr. Rezvani is, unfortunately, emblematic of the plight of the Baha’i community in Iran, which has been systematically persecuted for the last 34 years,” stated Ken Bowers, Secretary of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. “The Baha’is are targeted by the government solely on the basis of their religious beliefs and cannot obtain redress for the crimes committed against them.”
Some 300,000 Baha’is live throughout Iran, making the Baha’i Faith the country’s largest minority religion. While Baha’is have been persecuted since the religion began in Iran in the nineteenth century, the oppression has greatly intensified since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. More than 200 Bahá’ís were killed between 1978 and 1998, the majority by execution, and thousands more were imprisoned.
Baha’is are routinely arrested, detained, and imprisoned in Iran. Additionally, they are often denied business licenses and excluded from public universities, Baha’i marriages are not recognized, and Baha’i cemeteries are desecrated. Currently, there are 115 Baha’is in prison and 436 awaiting trial, appeal, sentencing, or the commencement of their sentences.
Although a Baha’i died in prison in 2005, this marks the first confirmed instance since 1998 in which a Baha’i has been intentionally killed for religious reasons in Iran.
Contact the Media Relations Officer, at USBahaiMedia@usbnc.org to arrange for interviews.