‘I wished my mother a speedy execution, I didn’t want her to be tortured’

‘i wished my mother a speedy execution, i didn’t want her to be tortured’

Mona Mahmoodi recalls how the oppressive Iranian regime had both her parents executed in the 1980s - Jeff Gilbert

Mona Mahmoudi’s parents were among the first members of Iran’s Baha’i religious minority to be executed under the Islamic Republic’s decades-long crackdown.

When her mother, the country’s first female meteorologist, was arrested alongside seven others, her daughter wished for her speedy execution.

“I knew they were going to be executed and I was hoping it would happen sooner than later,” she told The Telegraph during a Baha’i event in London.

“There were so many cases of Baha’is who were being tortured in prison,” she added, “and I did not want them to be tortured.”

Mrs Mahmoudi was in east London for an event remembering the 40th anniversary of a dark chapter in the persecution of Baha’is in Iran – the public execution of 10 Baha’i women, including a 17-year-old girl.

‘i wished my mother a speedy execution, i didn’t want her to be tortured’

Mona's father and mother Houshang and Zhinus Mahmoudi, murdered in Iran

The oppression of women in Iran had been endured by the Baha’i community “for many many years”, Omid Djalili, a British-Iranian comedian who is a Baha’i, told The Telegraph.

“The regime is trying very hard to stop people from figuring about the prosecution against the Baha’is,” he said.

Mrs Mahmoudi says her family had a “nice and easy life” before the 1979 revolution, which brought the clerical establishment into power.

The five-member family, with her meteorologist mother and children’s TV show presenter father at the helm, would travel to the seaside in northern Iran on the weekends in the 1970s.

The Islamic Revolution, like a sudden, violent storm, upended the Mahmoudis’ world.

Their faith, once a cornerstone of their identity, became a target for the new regime’s wrath.

Overnight, Mrs Mahmoudi’s parents went from respected professionals to persecuted outcasts.

The couple were fired from their jobs and were asked to pay their years-long salary back to the new government.

The family found themselves caught in the eye of a political and religious tempest. The new establishment outlawed the Baha’i faith and unleashed a torrent of persecution.

Thousands were imprisoned, their lands confiscated and their right to higher education revoked.

Shia Islam is the state religion in Iran. The constitution recognises several minority faiths, including Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism, but not the Baha’i faith.

Since September 2022, when Mahsa Amini died in custody after being arrested for allegedly violating hijab rules and the subsequent nationwide protests, the Iranian government has ramped up its crackdown on the Baha’i community.

Authorities have imprisoned hundreds of them over the past year, as well as confiscating or destroying personal properties and their cemeteries.

‘i wished my mother a speedy execution, i didn’t want her to be tortured’

A young Mona Mahmoudi with her family, devastated by a cruel regime

They have been conducting searches at the residences of Baha’i citizens daily across the country.

The escalation of persecution against Baha’is in the aftermath of the protests follows a familiar pattern of the Iranian regime targeting minority groups during times of broader social and political tension.

Houshang Mahmoudi, Mona’s father, was also a lawyer and a member of the national assembly of Baha’is in Iran, in charge of overseeing the affairs of the Baha’i community.

When the nine-member assembly was holding a meeting on Aug 21 1980, their hopes and plans for their beleaguered community were still alive, but soon forces of the newly-formed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) descended upon them.

In a moment, the entire leadership of the Baha’i community in Iran vanished – kidnapped, never to be seen again.

“It was a devastating feeling,” Mrs Mahmoudi says. “If they were arrested and were in prison, it would be a different feeling, but they just disappeared.”

Mrs Mahmoudi believes her father and other members of the assembly were executed right away, without the knowledge of their families.

Undeterred by the loss, they soon elected a new national assembly. Among those chosen to lead was Zhinus Mahmoudi, Mona’s mother.

But the storm that had swept away the first assembly was far from over. On Dec 13 1981, history repeated itself with cruel precision.

As Zhinus and her fellow assembly members gathered, the IRGC struck again. This time, there was no mystery, no disappearance into the unknown.

“My mother was elected to the next national assembly,” Mrs Mahmoudi recounts.

“Around a year and a half later, when they were meeting, the IRGC raided again and arrested all of them.”

The assembly members were taken to the notorious Evin prison.

For two weeks, Mona lived in a state of agonising suspense. But unlike the uncertainty that shrouded her father’s fate, she knew what was coming.

All eight captured members, including Zhinus, were executed without trial.

‘i wished my mother a speedy execution, i didn’t want her to be tortured’

Remembering the 40th anniversary of the public execution of 10 Baha'i women, including a 17-year-old - Jeff Gilbert

The woman who had once read the skies for Iran, who had stepped up to lead her faith community in its darkest hour, was silenced forever.

Mrs Mahmoudi was living in California at the time and was informed by the national assembly of the Baha’is in the US about the executions by phone.

“They had a very useful life and I’m very proud of them,” she says.

“My parents had a choice, they could leave Iran but they wanted to stay and serve even though they knew the price for that would be their lives.”

Mrs Mahmoudi, a Phoenix-based retired cyber security expert and university lecturer, now has a foundation with her siblings in honour of their parents, providing education for children in unprivileged countries, including other activities.

Narges Mohammadi, the imprisoned 2023 Nobel Peace Prize laureate and several other prominent female prisoners condemned the regime last month for its intensified “relentless pressures and injustices the Baha’is endure for their beliefs”.

As attendees of the London event converged, a small card lay on the floor.

”The dawn chorus is the outbreak of birdsong,” it reads. “In Iran, executions are carried out at the break of dawn and just before the morning call for prayer.”

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