Sixty-three-year old Farhang Amiri, a Baha'i man that was well-known in his community, was stabbed to death outside his home in the city of Yazd, 312 miles southeast of Tehran, on September 26, 2016, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has learned.
"The suspects have confessed that they killed Amiri because he was an 'apostate,' and they wanted to go to heaven," a source close to the victim told the Campaign. "They said the Quran has sanctioned killing apostates, and that's what they did. Their written confessions are in the case file."
"He had a knife up to the handle in his side and another in his heart," said the source. "He also had stab wounds in other parts of his body."
The Baha'i community is one of the most severely persecuted religious minorities in Iran. The faith is not recognized in the Islamic Republic's Constitution and its members face harsh discrimination in all walks of life as well as prosecution for the public display of their faith.
Amiri's murder is part of a "systematic effort by the Iranian authorities to encourage hatred and bigotry against Baha'is," Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha'i International Community (BIC), said in a statement on October 26, 2016.
"Just in the city of Yazd alone, there have been multiple acts of persecution over the past few years, including dozens of wrongful arrests and imprisonments as well as scores of raids on Baha'i residences and businesses," she added.
"The Amiri family wants this case to be investigated fairly and hopes it will take its legal course," the source told the Campaign. "The Baha'i faith does not believe in retribution, but [the family] demands the next maximum punishment."
The source described the events surrounding the murder to the Campaign: "... Two days before the incident on September 24, two men came to the door at Mr. Amiri's house. His son lived upstairs with his family and his elderly mother lived downstairs. The two men rang the doorbell and asked if the car parked outside was for sale. Mr. Amiri's son said the car was not for sale. Two days later [the men] returned in the evening and rang the doorbell again. This time Mr. Amiri's mother opened the door. She's an elderly woman and has a habit of opening the door without asking who's there."
The source continued: "She opened the door and didn't see anyone. So she called her son to go outside and see who rang the bell. Mr. Amiri went outside and after a few minutes they heard him scream. His wife and daughter went outside. The wife held his bloody body in her arms and the daughter ran after two men who were running away in the alley and she screamed for help. One of the suspects was arrested by neighbors and shopkeepers and the other, who got away, was later arrested by police. Unfortunately, the ambulance arrived half an hour later and Mr. Amiri died before reaching the hospital."
The suspects are in custody while the case is being investigated by Branch 7 of Yazd's Criminal Court, according to the source.
Asked if Amiri promoted the Baha'i faith in his community, the source told the Campaign: "He never promoted the Baha'i faith, but he and his family were well-known in the neighborhood as Baha'is because they had lived there a long time."
Amiri had retired from his job in the private sector a year earlier in 2015 and had started working as a truck driver. After Iran's 1979 revolution, the government confiscated his family's property and he was left with no choice but to work in the private sector after Baha'is were banned from working for the government, said the source.
"In 1955, Farhang Amiri's father, Hedayatollah Amiri, was killed along with six other relatives-Roghieh Amiri, Fereydoun Amiri, Ali Akbar Amiri, Abdolrazagh Amiri, Amanollah Amiri and Gholamali Amiri-because of their Baha'i faith," added the source. "They were known as 'Yazd's Seven Martyrs'."
In its report published on October 30, 2016 titled "The Baha'i Question Revisited: Persecution and Resilience in Iran," the BIC estimates that since 2005, "when the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad began to re-intensify the persecution [of Baha'is]," there were more than 860 arrests of Baha'is in Iran and around 275 Baha'is were sent to prison.
"During that time, at least 240 Baha'is have been expelled from university and thousands more have been blocked from enrolling through various ruses," continued the report. "There have been more than 950 specific, documented incidents of economic discrimination, such as shop closings or dismissals."
In addition to being denied constitutional rights as citizens, Baha'is are referred to in Iran's state media as "unclean," "members of a deviant religious cult," "agents of foreign powers" or "supporters of the toppled Pahlavi regime." They are also consistently denied entry into universities and are prohibited from working in governmental offices.
In April 2016, 54 leading international business owners and economists wrote a letter to Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, calling for an end to the harassment and discrimination of Baha'i business owners.
"We view the recent spate of business closures by Iranian authorities not only as a violation of religious freedom and human rights, but also as an affront to the freedom to do business," said the letter, which was signed by prominent figures from Brazil, India, Australia, Germany, the United States, and the United Kingdom.
In his annual reports, Ahmad Shaheed, the United Nation's special rapporteur for human rights in Iran until October 30, 2016, repeatedly detailed the widespread abuse and discrimination against Baha'is in Iran, and has called on the Iranian government to end its religious intolerance.