Baha'is in Iran, Our Story is One

#OurStoryIsOne: Tahereh Arjomandi Siyavashi, 30 years old

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Can you believe that only now, almost at the end of the list of women executed on that fateful day, we have reached the first who is above the age of 30?  The first seven of the ten women (to read their stories, click here) were either in their late teens or in their twenties.  That is ridiculously young, and it is truly a loss foe society that such driven and purposeful women were lost at such a young age.  Had they not been executed, they would be between the ages of 57 and 69, most of them probably still alive, accomplishing good deed after good deed. We tend to think of the loss to them of their lives, the loss to their families and friends—but we have all lost.  Every time, today, someone is executed or killed because they stand up for justice and equality, we all lose.

Tahereh Arjomandi Siyavashi was born in Tehran.  She completed her diploma with honors in Tehran and married Jamshid Siavashi a few months later, in 1972, after which the couple moved to the village of Chendar, near Tehran. She registered to take the University of Tehran Faculty of Nursing exam. She was also told she was eligible to take an exam for students wanting to go abroad to study, and plans were made for her to travel to the United States. However, she decided to stay in Iran and continue her studies at the University of Tehran. She traveled to Tehran once or twice a week to attend classes.

Two years later, the couple returned to Tehran and Arjomandi continued her studies. In 1976, she received a Bachelor’s degree in nursing and later moved to Yasouj with her husband. She worked as a nurse at Yasouj Hospital where she was highly regarded and was selected as “model nurse of the year.” Her husband opened a small electrical appliance store.

In late 1978, a group of people stormed her husband’s workplace, looting and destroying the shop. Tahereh was fired because she was a Bahá’í. A few days later, the city’s police chief, who knew Jamshid, called them and informed them that a group of local people, with the support and instigation of a cleric, were planning to storm their home at night, loot it, and force them to convert to Islam. He was told that the police would not intervene. Instead, the couple left for Shiraz in the middled of the night to start a new life in that city.

Tahereh initially worked at Fatehinejad Hospital in Shiraz but was fired after a year, again because she was a Bahá’í. She was then employed at the private Dr. Mir Hospital, where she worked for about three years. Her brother, who lived in the United States, insisted that Tahereh and her husband should immigrate to the United States. But they refused, and she wrote to her brother that she wanted to serve her compatriots in her home country.

In October 1982, security forces raided the couple’s home and arrested Jamshid. Forty days later, in December, Tahereh was also arrested. “During the 40 days that Tahereh was not detained, officers accompanied Jamshid to his home three times, and they inspected the whole house,” one of Arjomandi’s relatives said. “Jamshid was not in good physical condition. He was walking bent over and could not keep his balance; his feet were swollen, and he was not walking properly … The officers did not even allow them to speak, even to greet each other.”

According to another relative, they were a loving couple and their devotion to each other was well known. During Siavashi’s time in detention, Tahereh had said: “I can’t live without Jamshid. Pray for me to be arrested so that I can go to Jamshid.” After she was arrested, when her family asked about her condition, she would say: “I’m glad they arrested me, because when I’m in the cell, I feel like Jamshid is behind one of these walls and I’m close to him.”

While she had been interrogated and put under pressure to deny her faith during her detention, there have been no reports of Tahereh enduring physical torture to convert to Islam, but during visits from her family, she talked of psychological torture. For example, she was told that her husband had become Muslim and that she should do the same; other times, she was told her husband had been tortured to death. She was even taken to Jamshid’s interrogation room to witness her husband being pressured to recant and tortured when he refused.  Despite all of this, Tahereh used her training to care for other prisoners during her imprisonment.

When the prison authorities brought the Bahá’í prisoners together in February 1983, Tahereh saw her husband for the first time since their arrest. He had been so badly beaten that she could barely recognize him. She could not sleep that night. The prison authorities did not believe he would last the night and the guards felt so sorry for him that they asked Tahirih to take him some fruit. But Jamshid was unable to eat it. He recovered, somewhat, only to be executed by hanging.

One of Tahereh’s fellow inmates, wrote: “On the same day that Jamshid was executed, Tahereh was taken to court to be notified of the ruling of the religious judge. When Tahereh returned, I asked her: What happened? Tahereh said, I used to think that they will only kill Jamshid, but now it has become clear that the judge has also sentenced me to death.”

Two days after her husband Jamshid’s execution, Tahereh was hanged in Chogan Square in Shiraz, at the age of 30, along with nine other Baha’i women on charges of religious dissidence and following the Baha’i faith. The bodies of those executed were not given to their families and the location of their graves is unknown.

Find my entire #OurStoryisOne project here. For more information, visit the official #OurStoryisOne website, here, or follow on Instagram.

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