- Assassination was pre-planned and based on religious belief
- September 8th, 2013
Interview with Mr. Ataullah Rezvani’s family:
The body of 54-year-old Ataullah Rezvani, a Baha’i resident of Bandar Abbas, was discovered on an abandoned road outside of town. In an interview with Rooz, his family stated that he went out at 9 PM on Saturday evening, and they were notified of his murder the following day by the Criminal Police Department. “He was shot in the head from behind. No personal items or car parts were stolen. They only took his mobile phone.”
Koorosh Rezvani, Ataullah Rezvani’s son, and Navid Aghdassi, his cousin, told Rooz there was no personal reason for the killing. Their family and friends believe it was ideologically motivated. According to his family, Mr. Rezvani, who was well known in Bandar Abbas, had been under constant pressure by the Intelligence and Security Department.
His wife, Roshanak Shakibai, and daughter, Malika Rezvani, who were in Mashad at the time, returned home yesterday. His son, Koorosh, related, “He went out at 9 in the evening; he was expected to return home, but when he did not we became concerned and began to enquire at hospitals, police stations and wherever we could think of. Finally, as we were in the process of reporting him missing, we received a call from the Criminal Police. They said, “Your father has been found; he is dead. He was found on a road leading out of town; he has been shot in the back of the head.” His body is still at the Coroner’s; they have not delivered him to us.”
I asked him if his father had any enemies or personal disagreements with anyone. He said, “My father was a special man. All he ever wanted was to be of service. He had no enemies or disputes with anyone. This murder was organized; it was not a spur-of-the-moment killing. To take someone to an abandoned road and to shoot him from behind must have been pre-planned. He had been in his car, so he must have been threatened and taken out of town by force. We kept calling my father’s mobile phone until midnight; it rang, but no one answered. At midnight it was turned off.”
I asked his opinion about rumors that his father had received a summons and threats from the Intelligence and Security Department. He said, “I don’t know. It could be anything. It may be because we are members of a religious minority. My father did receive summonses and threats.” What kind of threats? Do you think there is a connection between your father’s murder and those threats? He says, “When Baha’i administrative activities were banned, my father undertook to carry out the affairs of the Baha’i community here. Whenever the authorities took someone in for questioning, they would put pressure on them and threaten that they would act against my father. They contacted my father on numerous occasions, but he would not respond. They considered him to be the leader of the Baha’i community here, and harassed him a lot. Government and administrative departments were ordered not to cooperate with my father. Basically, they created a lot of obstacles for him. These pressures came from either the Intelligence and Security Department or the department in charge of public places.”
Some websites have reported that there were threats and pressure from the office of the Imam Jumih (Friday prayer leader) of Bandar Abbas. According to Mr. Rezvani’s son, “The Imam Jumih had been making threats and speaking against Baha’is for quite a while. Before Baha’i activities were banned, my father and two of his friends sent a letter to the Imam’s office to the effect that ‘your remarks against Baha’is are false. We Baha’is are not the kind of people portrayed by you. You are the religious leader of this town, and your words will incite people to harass and harm Baha’is. As a religious leader, you should not make such assertions against us.’ During his talks at Friday prayers, the Imam mentioned their letter. My father and his friends even appealed to the security and military authorities that these remarks would create conflict and would lead to bloodshed; to no avail. Of course, my father did not receive any direct threats from the Imam Jumih or his office. The threats and pressure were coming from the Intelligence and Security Department. They would summon him, but of course my father never went. He said a telephone summons is not legal. And now we really don’t know who murdered my father in this manner or why. The only reason we can think of is the difference in religious beliefs. Nonetheless, we will keep up our efforts; we will hire an attorney, and will file our case with the Public Prosecutor’s office in order to find the killer.”
Regarding the family’s efforts in the matter, Navid Aghdassi, a cousin of Ataollah Rezvani, states, “Koorosh’s visits to the Criminal Police Department in the last two days have mainly consisted of questioning. We have not yet seen the body. What is certain is that neither his car nor any of its contents were stolen; not a cent was taken. The only thing taken was his mobile phone. An acquaintance who was the last person to see him said he had been talking on his phone for half an hour. We want to obtain a court warrant to access his phone records through Telecommunications to find out with whom he had the conversation and what it was about.” He added, “This is all we know for now. The rest is conjecture. If they want to pursue the case, there are many leads – his mobile phone, the calls he received the previous day, the bullets, and the manner in which he was shot. The problem is, we are afraid there is no incentive to solve the case; the Intelligence and Security Department may hinder the investigation. The murder is one thing, but the motive for the killing is the main question.”
I asked, what do you think was the motive? “This was the biggest shock, not only to his family and the Baha’i community, but to the entire community of Bandar Abbas. There can be no legitimate motive. Mr. Rezvani was a devout Baha’i who neither drank, nor even smoked. He had no financial disputes with anyone. He offered his services without any regard for personal gain. He was well liked by Baha’is and Muslims alike. The only motive we can think of is differences in religious beliefs. His family, his Baha’i and Muslim friends and his acquaintances are all agreed on this point, because he had been subjected to coercion for years. He was the most prominent Baha’i in Bandar Abbas, and maybe the whole province of Hormozgan. He was on good terms with everyone. He was well known, and the Intelligence and Security Department didn’t like that. He was constantly subjected to direct and indirect pressure. He was hounded in his business. When his friends were summoned to the Intelligence Department they were told to stop seeing him, or to put pressure on him. We can only assume that the motive was religious, but we have no proof as yet, and may never be able to prove it. At any rate, this is the Islamic Republic, and we are a persecuted religious minority. This is the only motive we can think of.”
Mr. Aghdassi declares that Mr. Rezvani was repeatedly threatened. “There are two kinds of threats. Some are overt, and we are all aware of them. For instance, the department in charge of public places used to hound him and Intelligence agents would create complications in his business. He was one of the most qualified people in the field of water purification and installations. One of his business partners was a Muslim. The Intelligence Department instructed the Hormozgan Department of Water Affairs not to work with them, and their whole business depended on this department. Later, he opened an optometry shop with another partner. Again, Intelligence created obstacles with the aid of the department in charge of public places. They threatened his son and his partner. They would criticize him to other Baha’is who were summoned for questioning, and would tell them to put pressure on him or to sever relations with him. He was a very unassuming person. He did not always report these threats to his family for fear of worrying them. He would not disclose covert threats, but we know he was pressured. His family was going on a trip to Mashhad. His wife said he had been brooding and despondent for several days, but would not say why.”
He adds, “As far as we know, there were no direct threats from the Iman Jumih of Bandar Abbas, but the Imam has been repeatedly making declarations against the Baha’i Faith and the Baha’is of Bandar Abbas for the last two years. Mr. Rezvani and several friends who were in charge of the affairs of the Baha’i community of Bandar Abbas wrote a letter to him stating that creating schisms and inciting zealotry would lead to tragic events. That was the only conflict with the Imam. We know that the Imam never addressed Mr. Rezvani directly.”
Mr. Aghdassi reiterates that Mr. Rezvani had no personal disputes. “Everyone here agrees that the motive was ideological. The family will continue their quest. They have filed a complaint. But, as you know, since Mrs. Sotoudeh and Mr. Soltani were jailed*, few attorneys have been willing to take such cases.”
He mentions the incarceration in recent years of some of Mr. Rezvani’s relatives. “Sahba Rezvani (Fanaiyan)**, Mr. Rezvani’s sister and a resident of Semnan, was in jail for three years because she is a Baha’i. His brother-in-law and nephew were in jail in Semnan for a long period; they were recently released. Many Baha’is of Bandar Abbas have been detained, tormented and persecuted. Since the beginning of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, more than 200 Baha’is have been executed under false accusations such as espionage. It is interesting they were told that that if the accused would only recant their Faith, the espionage charges would be withdrawn! How can a charge of espionage be so easily dismissed? It is not just about executions and assassinations. Unlawful jail sentences, hindrance of Baha’i businesses, barring Baha’i youth from participating in university entrance exams; these are some of the difficulties Baha’is have been facing because of their religious beliefs. And now we’re dealing with the killing of my cousin, which was motivated by religious differences and nothing else.”
* see for example http://www.lsuc.on.ca/with.aspx?id=2147487387
** see for example http://www.iranpresswatch.org/post/2651
Translation by Iran Press Watch
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- Bahai martyred in Bandar Abbas | Sen's daily | September 9th, 2013 - 7:18 am
[...] ( صهبا رضوانی ), has served three and a half years in prison in Semnan and Tehran. Iran Press Watch has an interview with a son and cousin of Mr. Rezvani, which contains further details (Sept. [...]
- Vafa-Canada | September 9th, 2013 - 6:26 pm
May God bless Mr. Rezvani’s soul and his entire family. He has offered his life as the most great sacrifice.
The Islamic Republic of Iran and its clergy have been tarnishing the name of Shia Islam since the 1979 revolution started. It just gets worse and worse. It is anyone’s guess how much longer and how much worse the situation will get, before their reign of terror is stopped for good.
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[...] by police, who informed his family members the next afternoon. Rezvani’s son, Koorosh, told Rooz Online of his family’s [...]