Childhood and Adolescence
Mohioddin Zehni was born in 1963 in the city of Miandoab in the province of West Azerbaijan. His father was a Baha’i and his mother a Muslim but he grew up according to the teachings of the Baha’i faith.
Mohioddin was the second child of the family. He studied until the third year of middle school but then dropped out to work as his family was poor. He was known for his kindness; when Mohioddin saw his father work dawn to dusk, he decided to help by joining him to work the farm. He spent his adolescence working while many others of his age could play and half fun.
Answering the Draft
In the early 1980s, when the war between Iran and Iraq was at its height, Mohioddin decided to answer the draft and join the Iranian army. Some members of his family asked him to wait for the war to cool but he was determined to serve his country as a soldier. His birth certificate had been lost, which he could have used as an excuse to delay going into military service, but he quickly obtained a duplicate and presented himself to the conscription organization.
Mohioddin started his military service in the winter or the spring of 1984. He was trained at Ajabshir Recruit Training Centre 03 in East Azerbaijan province. The Revolutionary Guards and the Revolutionary Committees refused to accept to train the Baha’is and Baha’i conscripts were sent to the regular army’s training centers.
After his training was complete, Mohioddin served a few months in Ahvaz, capital of Khuzestan province. He then served two months in Tehran and was then sent to Piranshahr in the province of West Azerbaijan.
On August 19, 1986, Mohioddin had only 18 days left before being discharged. His service ought to have ended two months earlier but, because of the ongoing war, the government had ordered that all conscripts must serve an extra two months.
A group of soldiers in a trench in the mountains around Piranshahr needed provisions on that day. They were supposed to travel to the army base in Piranshahr’s village of Davoud Abad – but instead Mohioddin volunteered to get the provisions for the unit.
He left Davoud Abad in a damaged IFA truck and, on the mountainous road to the trench, the brakes failed and the truck tumbled down the mountainside. Mohioddin was killed – he was 23 years old.
Mohioddin was the first Baha’i martyr in the city of Miandoab and he was buried next to other war casualties in the city. The Martyrs’ Foundation initially treated his family the same as it treated other families of war martyrs: the family’s Baha’i faith was not an issue. But Mohioddin’s name was removed from the Martyrs’ Foundation list of martyrs, a few years later, because of his Baha’i faith.
Thirty years after Mohioddin’s death, the Martyrs’ Foundation rejected his mother’s request to recognize him as a war martyr, saying: “As you yourself have mentioned in your request, you belong to the Baha’i deviant sect and, based on the directive and bylaws of the Martyrs’ Foundation, creating a file as a martyr or a veteran for anybody who belongs to the Baha’i deviant sect is forbidden and this foundation cannot provide you with any services” that are offered to the families of war martyrs.