[Newspaper:] The New York Times

[Date:] Thursday, 14 January 1982


2,500 in Los Angeles Mourn Deaths in Iran of 15 Bahais

By Thomas C. Hayes

Special to The New York Times


Los Angeles, Jan. 13 – More than 2,500 people, including many exiled Iranians, joined in a solemn afternoon of prayer, song and remembrance this week for 15 members of the Bahai faith who have been slain in recent weeks by firing squads in Iran.

Information about the imprisonment, execution, torture and economic deprivation of Bahais in Iran has shaken this city's Bahais. About 4,000 Bahais live in the Los Angeles area, including 1,500 of Iranian descent. There are 100,000 Bahais in the United States and about five million in the world. The Bahai population in Iran has shrunk to about 350,000 from 500,000 at the time of the Islamic revolution early in 1979.

According to the Bahai International Center in Haifa, Israel, the religion's world headquarters, 111 Bahai's are known to have been executed with the approval of the Islamic Government of Iran in the last 18 months, including eight on Dec. 27 and seven on Jan. 4. In addition, personal accounts and letters from imprisoned Bahais tell of beatings, torture, mock trials and hidden executions and secret burials.


Seals and Crofts Perform

At the memorial service Sunday, photographs of some of the latest victims were projected on a large screen as Mohi Sobhani, a Bahai who escaped from Iran only a week ago, sat at the rear of the crowded room and gazed forlornly at the photographs of beaming faces.

As one of the photographs was shown, Mr. Sobhani said, "I spent five months in prison with him." Then he pulled out a white handkerchief and wiped away a tear.

At the three-hour service in a convention hall in the Los Angeles Hilton Hotel, the popular singers Seals and Crofts, who are Bahais, led a rendition of "The Prisoner," a song about Baha Ullah, who founded the faith in 1844 and who was imprisoned by Persian leaders for 40 years. "Remove the chains and let him live," they sang, accompanied by their own guitars.

Bahais are considered heretics by the Islamic clergy and are subjected to scorn and ridicule by the Islamic Government of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Iran's 50,000 Jews and 25,000 Christians, on the other hand, belong to recognized faiths and are guaranteed freedom of religion.

Anthony A. Lee, an American who is secretary of the Bahai Assembly in Los Angles, said that "it's clear now that Bahais are facing a genocidal attack" in Iran and have few resources with which to defend themselves.

"What is happening to Bahais in Iran is unbelievable, just like what the Nazis did with the Jews in Germany," Artin Mahmoudi, a 23-year-old medical student at the University of California at Los Angeles, said in an interview. His mother, Jinous Mahmoudi a physicist who headed the Government's Meterology Department and worked for women's rights in Iran, was executed on Dec. 27, two weeks after she was imprisoned. She was a former leader of the Bahai National Assembly in Iran.

Mrs. Mahmoudi's death "is the most clear sign of what is happening" to Bahais in Iran, said Amin Banani, a professor of Iranian history and literature at U.C.L.A., continuing: "She was a top scientist, chairman of the Bahais highest administrative body. She illustrated the educational and professional opportunities for women that our religion stressed. This stuck in the throat of the current rulers in Iran."

Mr. Mahmoudi said: "I spoke to her often before my father disappeared, and she warned me of what the persecution could come to. My parents' dream was for me to become a doctor and that is what I must do. If I would return, I would also be killed.























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