In May 1979, Habib Elghanian, the leader of the Jewish community in Iran was tried in a one-hour sham trial and then promptly executed by the Iranian regime for being a supposed “American and Zionist spy”.
Elghanian’s execution and the random killings of other innocent Jews in Iran, as well as the dire situation the Iranian regime had created for Jews resulted in more than 80,000 Jews fleeing Iran since 1979 for Europe, the U.S. and Israel. While somewhere between 10,000 to 20,000 Jews still live in Iran, many are risking their lives on a daily basis by remaining there and some have even lost their lives. For example, just this past November, Toobah Nehdaran, an impoverished, 57-year-old married Jewish woman was strangled, then repeatedly stabbed to death and had her body mutilated in a ritual manner by Muslim thugs who had broken into her home located in the Iranian city of Isfahan. Iranian authorities have still not investigated the case and no suspects have yet been arrested.
Likewise, this past December, a 24-year-old Iranian Jewish young man was randomly shot to death in his home by unknown assailants. Various rumors have circulated regarding the circumstances surrounding his death, but again the regime’s leadership has not investigated the case.
Yet these killings of Jews are not uncommon for the current Iranian regime. According to a 2004 report prepared by Frank Nikbakht, an Iranian Jewish activist and head of the Los Angeles-based “Committee for Minority Rights in Iran,” since 1979, at least 14 Jews were murdered or assassinated by the regime’s agents. Likewise, 11 Jews have disappeared after being arrested, at least two Jews died while in custody and another 11 Jews have been officially executed by the regime. In 1999, Feizollah Mekhoubad, a 78-year-old cantor of the popular Youssefabad synagogue in Tehran was the last Jew to be officially executed by the regime, stated the report.
In 2000, the Iranian Jewish community in the U.S. was at the forefront of an international human rights campaign to save the lives of 13 Jews in the Iranian city of Shiraz that were facing imminent execution after being arrested on trumped up charges of spying for Israel and the U.S. Ultimately, the Shiraz Jews were not executed but sentenced to prison terms and have since been released. The Shiraz Jews were lucky.
Between 1994 and 1997, 12 Iranian Jews were arrested by the Iranian secret police while attempting to flee from southwestern Iran into Pakistan. They have not been heard from since and their families now living in the U.S. and elsewhere have been enduring endless pain not knowing the status of their loved ones. In September 2007, seven Iranian Jewish families in Los Angeles and Israel filed a lawsuit in New York Federal Court against former Iranian President Mohammad Khatami holding him responsible for the arrests and disappearance of their loved ones.