Habib Elghanian

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Habib Elghanian
Habib Elghanian
Born5 April 1912
Died9 May 1979(1979-05-09) (aged 67)
Tehran, Iran
Known forOwner of PlascoKar Com

Habib (Habibollah) Elghanian (Persian: حبیب (حبیب‌الله) القانیان, 5 April 1912 – 9 May 1979) was a prominent Iranian Jewish businessman and philanthropist who served as the president of the Tehran Jewish Society and acted as the symbolic head of the Iranian Jewish community in the 1970s.

He was arrested and sentenced to death by an Islamic revolutionary tribunal shortly after the Iranian Revolution for charges including corruption, contacts with Israel and Zionism, and "friendship with the enemies of God", and was executed by firing squad.[1][2] He was the first Jew and businessman to be executed by the Council of the Islamic Revolution.

Early life and education[edit]

Elghanian was born in 1912 in Persia[3] and had six brothers, Aghadjan, Davoud, Nourollah (father of Henry Elghanayan), Sion, Ataollah and Nedjatollah.[4]


In 1959, Elghanian established Plasco, a plastics manufacturing factory in Tehran which later became the largest and most technologically advanced plastics manufacturer in Iran. He played a significant role in bringing Western technology to Iran in the 1960s and 1970s. A self-made multi-millionaire, Elghanian was known for his entrepreneurial accomplishments in Iran and Israel.[5] In addition, he served as the leader of the Tehran Jewish Society in the 1960s and 1970s.[6]

Arrest and execution[edit]

Elghanian was arrested in 1975 as part of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi's attempts to eliminate corruption among major businesspeople.[7] He was both fined for illegal activities and then, jailed.[7]

Shortly after the Islamic revolution in 1979, Elghanian was arrested on 16 March after returning to Iran, and accused of spying. The charges included corruption, contacts with Israel and Zionism, and "economic imperialism". On 8 May, he was tried and convicted of a number of crimes, including meeting with Israeli leaders. According to his granddaughter, the trial lasted less than twenty minutes. He was sentenced to death, with his execution carried out before dawn the next day. All of the property belonging to the Elghanian family in Iran was confiscated by the state.[2] A report by Time magazine states:

Elghanian, who was convicted of spying for Israel, was said to have made huge investments in Israel and to have solicited funds for the Israeli army, which the prosecution claimed made him an accomplice "in murderous air raids against innocent Palestinians."[8]

Elghanian stated that he was not a supporter of Zionism, though his Plasco Building was built by Israeli engineers during the Shah era when Iran had close relations with Israel, and he had made investments in Israel.[9]

On 9 May 1979, Elghanian was executed by firing squad in Tehran. He was the first Jewish citizen and one of the first civilians of Iran to be executed by the new Islamist regime.[10][6]


Elghanian's death was considered one of the reasons for the departure of 75% of the 80,000 Jews who lived in the country before the revolution.[1]

Amid the post-revolution chaos, the government with its many rival factions initially refused to release Elghanian's body to his family for burial.[citation needed] With the intervention of Chief Rabbi Yedidia Shofet and other prominent members of the Tehran Jewish community, his body was finally released and initially buried in an unmarked grave in Tehran's Beheshtieh Jewish Cemetery. Out of fear of further retaliation, only a handful of people attended Elghanian's burial. A modest tombstone was later placed on his grave making no reference to his execution.[11]

Shortly after Elghanian's execution, the United States Senate passed a resolution authored by New York Senator Jacob Javits to condemn his execution as well as that of other civilians as a violation of human rights in Iran.[12]

In the aftermath of the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iran's nuclear facilities, there was speculation by security researchers working for Symantec that a number found in the Stuxnet code – "19790509" – which was used as a marker to identify computers that should not be affected, was a reference to his execution date; however, researchers also warned against using this possible connection to draw any conclusions as to Stuxnet's origin.[13]

On 19 January 2017, the 17-storey Plasco Building in downtown Tehran collapsed live on TV after a fire engulfed its top floors. Twenty firefighters were killed[14] and at least seventy people were injured.[15]


  1. ^ a b "Builder of Wrecked Tehran Tower: Iranian Jewish Businessman Executed in '79 as 'Zionist Spy'". Haaretz. 19 January 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Law And Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran" (PDF). Amnesty International. 13 March 1980. Archived from the original (Report) on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  3. ^ "Iran executed my grandfather. Now the regime is trying to hide the way it has treated other Jews". Washington Post. Retrieved 19 January 2017.
  4. ^ "ELGHANAYAN V. ELGHANAYAN" 190 A.D.2d 449, 453 MILONAS, J. | The document, which was drawn up in Persian and signed in Teheran, provides that the four older siblings, defendants Aghadjan, Davoud, Nourollah and the late Habib Elghanayan, would each own a 20% share of the business while the three younger brothers, plaintiffs Sion, Ataollah and Nedjatollah Elghanayan, would divide among themselves the one remaining 20% share.
  5. ^ Eminent Persians: The Men and Women Who Made Modern Iran, 1941–1979, Vol II, by Abbas Milani, pp. 616–621, 2008
  6. ^ a b Elghanayan, Shahrzad (27 June 2012). "How Iran killed its future". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 February 2013.
  7. ^ a b Farhang Morady-Kolkhouran (December 1993). Continuity and Change: A Study of Shia Islam and Modernisation in Iran (PDF) (PhD thesis). University of Leeds. p. 116.
  8. ^ "A Nation Still in Torment". Time. 21 May 1979. Archived from the original on 17 April 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2010.
  9. ^ Eminent Persians: The Men and Women Who Made Modern Iran, 1941–1979, Vol II, Abbas Milani, pp. 616–621, 2008
  10. ^ Sarshar, Houman (2002), Esther's Children, p. 423
  11. ^ Website of the Tehran Jewish Cemetery
  12. ^ Mousavian, Seyed Hossein; Shahidsaless, Shahir (2014). Iran and the United States: An Insider's View on the Failed Past and the Road to Peace. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1628927603.
  13. ^ Murchu, Liam O; Chien, Eric; Falliere, Nicolas. "W32.Stuxnet Dossier" (PDF). wired.
  14. ^ "Tehran fire: Twenty firemen killed as high-rise collapses". BBC. 19 January 2017. Retrieved 20 January 2017.
  15. ^ Bengali, Shashank; Mostaghim, Ramin (19 January 2017). "50 firefighters killed in Iran as burning high-rise collapses". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 January 2017.

External links[edit]