Baha’is of Iran

Bahman Samandari: The Baha’i Executed 24 Hours After His Arrest

April 22, 2022
Kian Sabeti
11 min read
Bahman Samandari was secretly executed and secretly buried without informing his family
Bahman Samandari was secretly executed and secretly buried without informing his family
Bahman Samandari was executed just 24 hours after his arrest
Bahman Samandari was executed just 24 hours after his arrest

Ebrahim Raisi, then Tehran’s Revolutionary Prosecutor, now President Raisi responded in a 1992 interview to United Nations accusations regarding persecution of the Baha’is.

“The execution of a Baha’i by the name Bahman Samandari this year was not because he was a Baha’i. He was executed because he was a spy,” Raisi said.

Raisi did not support his claim by providing any evidence and did not explain how somebody can be executed 24 after his arrest if due process had been respected. Samandari had been summoned on March 17, 1992 and was executed in the late hours of March 18.

A letter by Rosa Mahboubi (Samandari), Bahman Samandari’s wife, to the chief of Iranian judiciary in 1992, detailed the circumstances of Samandari’s arrest and execution.

“On April, 5 1992, I went to the prosecutor’s office with my son. The duty officer said, ‘You should come with a male relative, not your son.’ I returned the same afternoon with a friend. This time they did not allow me in to the Office of the Execution of Sentences and the friend went in alone. In response to his inquiry about my husband’s situation, the officer gave him my husband’s will, which he took out of a desk drawer. It had the date of March 18, 1992, on it. On April 6, 1992, I went to Behesht Zahra [Tehran’s main cemetery]. Their registry showed that my husband’s body had been buried on March 20, 1992. On April 7, 1992, I went to the prosecutor’s office. When I asked why they had killed my husband, they insulted me instead of answering me. Then they gave me my husband’s empty wallet and his broken eyeglasses and said ‘This is all that your husband had.’”

Who was Bahman Samandari?

Bahman Samandari was born to a Baha’i family in November 1939 in Karaj, near Tehran. After his graduation from high school in Tehran, he was sent to the United States to continue his studies. In 1960 he returned to Iran to work and in 1965 he went to Turkey to obtain a degree in Economics from Ankara University.  He then returned to Iran and married Rosa Mahboubi in 1971.

Before the Islamic Revolution of 1979, Samandari owned a travel agency; after the Revolution, when the government of the Islamic Republic started confiscating assets and properties of the Baha’is, Samandari Travel Agency was confiscated as well and Samandari and his colleagues lost their jobs.

He was first arrested in 1987 with a group of other Baha’is and was released after 57 days. He then worked at a textile factory until his second arrest. And while he was encouraged by his associates to leave Iran, he always smiled and said “I must serve Iran.”

Helping Baha’i Students Banned from Higher Education

In 1980, the newly-established Islamic Republic launched a “Cultural Revolution” when Iranian academia was purged of Western and non-Islamic influences. Baha’i students and professors were included in the purge. Baha’is have banned from higher education in Iran ever since and, in the early years, young Baha’is had no alternatives. But in the mid-1980s, as a result of efforts by the Baha’i International Community, the University of Indiana offered correspondence courses for Baha’i students in Iran.

One of the conditions set by the University of Indiana was that the correspondence courses and exams must take place exactly on time. The Internet had yet to connect Iran to the rest of the world at that time and everything had to be done through mail – so the executive board of this project had a difficult job especially as the courses had to be conducted in secret.

Responsibilities of the executive board of the project, chosen by Iran’s Baha’i community, included collecting homework, returning corrected homework to student, supervising exams and recording and archiving documents. But communicating with students and managing their educations were not the only challenges. Baha’is were being persecuted and, at any moment, a member of the board or one the students could be arrested or security agents could raid a home and confiscate documents, books and other items.

Bahman Samandari was a member of this board. He was chosen for his education, his fluency in English and his enthusiasm for working with young people. He worked as a volunteer to manage the correspondence courses for Baha’i students until March 15, 1992, two days before he answered a summons issued by the Revolutionary Court.

First Arrest

On October 21, 1987, agents of the Ministry of Intelligence raided the home of a Baha’i in Tehran where members of the informal administrative group of the Iranian Baha’i community, later known as the Yaran, or Friends, were meeting. The agents arrested Jamaloddin Khanjani, Changiz Fanaian and Hassan Mahboubi, three members of the group. They also detained Bahman Samandari and another Baha’i named Hajian who were present – although they had no warrants for their arrests.

The detainees were released on bail on December 17, 1987, after spending close to two months in solitary confinement.

Second Arrest and Execution

On March 15, 1992, Bahman Samandari was summoned to the Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office in Tehran. No reason was given but Samandari thought the authorities perhaps wanted to release the property collateral he had posted as bail after his first arrest. He had been asking for it for some time. His assumption seemed credible because, a few days earlier, Hajian, with whom Samandari had been arrested, had been summoned and then released; Samandari therefore thought his new summons was about his first arrest.

Samandari presented himself on the morning of March 17, 1992 at Branch 6 of the Tehran Revolutionary Court prosecutor’s office. He was executed without trial 24 hours later, on March 18, on the eve of the new Iranian calendar year. He was 52 years old and had a nine-year-old daughter. Samandari had been arrested upon answering the summons and had been transferred to Evin Prison.

The authorities buried Samandari’s body without informing his family. They were told the news only two weeks later, on April 5. Rosa Mahmoudi, Bahman Samandari’s wife, was not officially informed of the charges against her husband, But her father,  Hassan Mahboubi, also a member of the informal Baha’i administrative group, wrote that he had been charged with membership of the Baha’i community, “activities against national security through the Baha’i community,” organizing religious ceremonies at his home and hiding a member of the Yaran.

Rosa Mahboubi later described these events in her letter to Mohammad Yazdi, chief of the Iranian Judiciary.

“My husband, Mr Bahman Samandari, son of Azizollah, born in 1939, was summoned to the Office of the Islamic Revolutionary Prosecutor on Moallem Street, on March 17, 1992,” her letter said. “At 2:00pm on the same day, I was informed by phone that my husband had been detained. But my questions about the reason and for what crime were not answered and the line was disconnected.

“On March 18, 1992, I went to the office of the prosecutor to get information and to take [Bahman] some medication, clothes and money. I asked to see the officer on duty but I was referred to the information unit. They said such a person was not available and referred me to Evin Prison. They declined to accept the personal items and medication and said that I should go to Evin after Nowruz [the new Iranian calendar year] holidays.

“On March 25, 1992, after going to the office of Evin Prison twice, I was told that my husband’s name was not registered in their records, and the duty officer told me to go to the prosecutor’s office. When I went there, I received the same response. In answer to my request that they accept the medication for my husband’s illness, they said they had their own doctors; but that this prisoner was not there and that I should return after Nowruz holidays.

“On March 28, 1992, I went to the prosecutor’s Office. They referred me to the Office of the Execution of Sentences. In response to my question about the reason for his detention, the duty officer told me they would only release this information to his beneficiary. When I asked who was more of a beneficiary than his spouse, they said to come after the holidays and make sure I came with a man. He repeated that instruction. In response to my persistence in asking about my husband, he said, ‘Don’t insist, go and come back after the Ramadan holidays.’

“On April, 5 1992, I went to the prosecutor’s office with my son. The duty officer said, ‘You should come with a male relative, not your son.’ I returned the same afternoon with a friend. This time they did not allow me in to the Office of the Execution of Sentences and the friend went in alone. In response to his inquiry about my husband’s situation, the officer gave him my husband’s will, which he took out of a desk drawer. It had the date of March 18, 1992, on it. On April 6, 1992, I went to Behesht Zahra [Tehran’s main cemetery]. Their registry showed that my husband’s body had been buried on March 20, 1992. On April 7, 1992, I went to the prosecutor’s office. When I asked why they had killed my husband, they insulted me instead of answering me. Then they gave me my husband’s empty wallet and his broken eyeglasses and said ‘This is all that your husband had.’”

Rosa Mahboubi’s father, Hassan, Bahman Samandari’s father-in-law, had been detained five years earlier, in 1987; and on July 21, 1992, four months after Bahman’s execution, Hassan died in suspicious circumstances. He was killed in a hit-and-run at the age of 75. The driver escaped.

Bahman Samandari’s Execution and Violations of Iranian Law

The execution of Bahman Samandari – 24 hours after his arrest and without a trial – was a clear violation of the Islamic Republic’s own laws. In her letter to the judiciary, Rosa Mahboubi, Samandari’s wife, listed a number of these violations and discrepancies.

1.  “Why was my husband summoned on March 17, 1992, and why was he killed near the end of the working day on March 18, just as the whole country was closing down for the holidays, and without an order from the Supreme Judicial Council?”

2.  “What charges made it necessary for him to be executed so quickly?”

3.  “Why were his remains not transferred to us and why was the location of his grave kept a secret?”

4.  “Under what legal or religious laws have my two children and I been deprived of a basic human right, namely, being informed of my husband’s situation from March 17, 1992, to April 5, 1992?”

5.  “There is a discrepancy between the dates on the death certificate and his will. His death certificate was issued on March 17 and the date on his will is 3pm on March 18, 1992. How can someone who is not alive write a will? Or if the date of the will is correct, then why is March 17, 1992 the date on the death certificate?”

Samandari’s will – given to his family by the prosecutor’s office – starts with this sentence addressed to his wife and his children: “I hope you forgive this decision that I have made. But I am sure I have made the right decision.”

International Protests and Iran’s Response

On 9 April, 1992, the Baha’i International Community (BIC) reported Bahman Samandari’s execution to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in Geneva, and other national committees gathered in Geneva to prepare for the World Conference on Human Rights, held under the auspices of that Committee. The BIC said that Samandari was executed without the charges against him having been announced and without a trial – and that the execution of Bahman Samandari was part of the Iranian government’s efforts ahead of the fourth round of elections for Iran’s parliament. The BIC urged the United Nations to take actions to prevent a resumption in executions of the Baha’is, which had peaked with more than 200 killed in the early 1980s.

Reynaldo Galindo Pohl, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran from 1986 to 1995, cited in one of his reports the execution of Bahman Samandari as an example of the conduct of the Iranian Judiciary.

Ebrahim Raisi, then Tehran’s Revolutionary Prosecutor, now President Raisi responded in a 1992 interview to United Nations accusations regarding persecution of the Baha’is.

“The execution of a Baha’i by the name Bahman Samandari this year was not because he was a Baha’i. He was executed because he was a spy,” Raisi said.

Raisi did not support his claim by providing any evidence and did not explain how somebody can be executed 24 after his arrest if due process had been respected.

But in a November 1992 letter, the Iranian government stated: “Mr. Bahman Samandari was a spy, and in numerous cases had involved individuals in his espionage. He has a corrupt personality and has frequently committed adultery with married women. He was previously arrested on charges of spying, several years ago, but because of his repentance for previous conduct and because the charges against him were not severe, he was released from the prison. And while he was Baha'i by birth, his indictment had nothing to do with his beliefs. The verdict issued … was approved by the High Court.”

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