September 10, 1965|
near Aden, Yemen
|Died||June 18, 1983
|Known for||Execution for membership in the Bahá'í Faith|
Mona Mahmudnizhad (September 10, 1965 - June 18, 1983) was an Iranian Bahá'í who, in 1983, together with nine other Bahá'í women, was sentenced to death and hanged in Shiraz, Iran because of her membership in the Bahá'í Faith. The official charges ranged from “misleading children and youth” because she was teaching children who had been expelled from school for their beliefs and serving in an orphanage, to being a "Zionist" because the Bahá'í World Centre is located in Israel.
Mahmudnizhad was born on September 10, 1965 to Yad'u'llah and Farkhundeh Mahmudnizhad, who had left their home in Iran to teach their religion in Yemen. She was the second child in the family; the family's first daughter, Taraneh, was seven years old at the time of Mahmudnizhad's birth. Mona spent her first four years in Yemen; at age two, she was hit by a car and thrown to the sidewalk, but sustained no serious injury.
In 1969 the government of Yemen expelled all foreigners and the Mahmudnizhad family returned to Iran. They spent two years in Isfahan, six months in Kirmanshah and three years in Tabriz before finally settling in Shiraz in 1974. During this time her father repaired small appliances for work and served the Bahá'í community as part of various Bahá'í administrative bodies.
Arrest, interrogation, and sentencing
While Bahá'ís regularly faced persecution in Iran, the Islamic Revolution of 1979 refocused the persecution. At 7:30pm on October 23, 1982, four armed revolutionary guards, sent by the public prosecutor of Shiraz, entered the Mahmudnizhad household and ransacked the home in search of Bahá'í material. When they were finished they took Mona and her father into custody. The two were blindfolded and taken to Seppah prison in Shiraz, where they were placed in separate quarters; Mahmudnizhad was detained in Seppah prison for a total of 38 days.
On November 29, 1982, she and five other Bahá'í women were transferred from Seppah prison to Adelabad prison, which was also in Shiraz. After some time in Abelabad she was transferred to the Islamic Revolutionary Court where she was interrogated and then returned to prison. A few days later, she was once again taken from the prison and interrogated in front of an Islamic Revolutionary Judge. After these series of interrogations which involved physical torture by the use of a cable being whipped at the sole of the women's feet, Mahmudnizhad was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging. At the time of her sentencing, the President of the United States, Ronald Reagan, made a plea for clemency; despite this, the sentence of the 10 women was carried out on the night of June 18, 1983, in a nearby polo field.
The names and ages of the other women who were hanged with Mahmudnizhad were:
- Nusrat Yalda'i, 54 years old
- 'Izzat Janami Ishraqi, 50 years old
- Roya Ishraqi, 23 and daughter of 'Izzat
- Tahirih Siyavushi, 32 years old
- Zarrin Muqimi, 28 years old
- Shirin Dalvand, 25 years old
- Akhtar Sabit, 19 or early 20's
- Simin Saberi, early 20's
- Mahshid Nirumand, 28 years old
- Pop culture
Mahmudnizhad's story is the subject of several art works; music artist Doug Cameron recreated Mahmudnizhad's story in a music video, Mona with the Children, which made the pop charts in Canada (#14 for the week of October 19, 1985). The video was distributed throughout the music scene and was effective in bringing the human rights situation of the Bahá'ís in Iran to the attention of the public. More recently a play, A Dress for Mona has been produced and currently Jack Lenz is working on a movie called Mona's Dream. Her pictures are also featured in Mithaq Kazimi's Quenching The Light video.
- Affolter, Friedrich W. (2005). "The Specter of Ideological Genocide: The Bahá'ís of Iran" (PDF). War Crimes, Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity 1 (1): 59–89.
- Reuters (1983-06-20). "Iran reportedly executes 16 Baha'is in secret". New York Times.
- Mullins, Sandy (2007). "Mona Mahmudnizhad". Bella Online. Retrieved 2007-09-25.
- NOEL GRIMA (03 August 2008) ‘Mona’s Dream’ may be directed by Mario Philip Azzopardi, perhaps not in Malta, The Malta Independent
- The Story of Mona: 1965-1983. Thornhill, Canada: Bahá'í Canada Publications. 1985.
- International Federation for Human Rights (2003-08-01). "Discrimination against religious minorities in Iran" (PDF). fdih.org. Retrieved 2006-10-20.
- IHRDC: Community Under Siege: The Ordeal of the Bahá’ís of Shiraz
- ""Pop Annual 1955-1999: Sixth Edition" for October, 1985". Retrieved 2007-09-25.
- "Mona's dream". 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-25.