Karmel Melamed
Iranian American Journalist and Commentator

Iranian Regime and Zarif Owe Iranian Jews Apology

Habib Elghanyan
Habib Elghanyan

On May 9th, the nearly 45,000 Iranian Jews living in Southern California and 25,000 Iranian Jews living in New York and Iranian Jews worldwide will remember the unjust execution of their community leader Habib Elghanian 40 years ago by the current regime in Iran. While the name Elghanian may not resonate with most Americans today, he was the voice and symbol of Iran’s once vibrant 80,000 strong Jewish population. Elghanian was not only a successful industrialist helping to bring Iran into the modern age, but also a very patriotic Iranian citizen who tirelessly helped all of his countrymen regardless of their religion through countless philanthropic efforts. His execution by the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini on trumped up charges of spying for Israel and America, sent shock waves through Iran’s tight-knit Jewish community, which once lived in relative peace under the late Shah. It prompted scores of Iran’s Jews to immediately sell off or abandon their assets altogether in order to flee the country out fear for their safety. While the vast majority of Iran’s Jews have spent the last four decades trying to put their lives together after their forced exile, the Islamic Republic of Iran and its “leaders” such as Foreign Minister Mohamed Javad Zarif have never once apologized for their crime of wrongly killing Elghanian or for overturning the lives of thousands of Iran’s Jews. Likewise none of the Iranian regime’s leadership have been held accountable in a court of for their actions in killing Elghanian.

Today the vast majority of Iranian Jews agree that the Iranian regime’s campaign against the country’s Jews began on May 9, 1979 when the Iranian regime randomly executed Habib Elghanian, the Jewish community’s leader on false charges of spying for Israel and America. He was sentenced by the notorious Islamic cleric Mohammed Sadeq Khalkhali after a sham 20 minute trial that also confiscated all of his assets. Yet Elghanian was in fact no spy, but a successful patriotic Iranian citizen industrialist who had employed thousands of Iranian of various faiths and helped modernize Iran. I have spent the last decade interviewing Elghanian’s family members, business associates, friends and other Iranian Jewish community leaders who have all praised him for his good deeds and desire to help others. They all agreed that Elghanian was killed for primary reason which was to strike fear into the hearts of all Jews in Iran and send a clear message that they were no longer welcomed in the country of their birth.

When the Iranian regime executed Elghanian, the Jewish community he fought tirelessly to protect realized that the country and the new regime was no longer ruled by logic or fair laws. To the contrary, the new regime in Iran was a bloody-thirsty anti-Semitic mafia-like radical Islamic dictatorship which could very easily take away their lives and their livelihoods. The message was crystal clear, if the Jewish community’s leader could be falsely charged and executed for no reason, so could any other Jew in Iran. In essence the Iranian regime wanted to the scare the Jews of Iran to flee the country so they could take possession of their lucrative properties, businesses and wealth. By killing Elghanian they could get rid of their “Jewish problem” and make themselves wealthy at the same time. And indeed the plan worked. After Elghanian’s execution, thousands of Jews fled Iran and in subsequent years every time the Iranian regime executed a Jew in Iran, thousands of more Jews fled the country. These Jews either had their assets confiscated by the Khomeini regime or were forced to leave them behind in Iran and flee the country with very little or penniless in order to save their lives.

Iranian newspaper from May 9, 1979 announcing Elghanian’s execution.

For his part, Elghanian not only hired thousands of Iranians of all faiths in his numerous companies, but promoted Iran’s economic growth as an active member of the country’s Chamber of Commerce by encouraging international trade with Iran. His generosity to Jews and Muslims alike in Iran was well known and documented as well. Iranian Jewish leaders even recall that Elghanian was approached by the Islamic leaders in Tehran for financial help because while in the middle of building the “Hosseinieh Ershad” mosque, they had fallen short of the funds to complete the project. He not only gave them 250,000 Iranian currency at the time to complete construction of the mosque but also helped raise more funds for the mosque from other Jewish businessmen at the time.

Likewise Elghanian and his brothers were responsible in 1962 for the construction of Tehran’s Plasco Building, which was the first privately built “high rise” of the modern era created in Iran. It was also the first modern “mall” of that early era in Iran, with floors that were home to many new stores for various goods and services. At a time when Iran was beginning to modernize, the building was a powerful symbol of both the country’s positive transformation and the immense achievement of Iranian Jews. Sadly the building which was confiscated and run by the Iranian regime in 1979, then due the regime’s neglect of the building and mismanagement, it collapsed in a horrific 2017 fire that killed 75 people.

The interior of Elghanian’s first modern high rise in Iran, the now destroyed “Plasco Building”.

For the last six years, the smooth talking, English fluent Zarif has taken to social media and appeared on U.S. news outlets to send holiday greetings to Jews in America. He has also gone on countless American and European news programs proclaiming the Iranian regime’s “love for the Jews of Iran”, “respect for the Jewish religion in Iran” and supposedly “saving Jews in the past”. While some folks in the West may believe Zarif’s bold and ridiculous lies, in reality the Iranian regime has never had any love nor respect for the Jews of Iran or Jews living elsewhere in the world. Since taking power in Iran in 1979, aside from Elghanian execution, the current radical Islamic regime in Iran has randomly arrested thousands of Jews no reason, tortured and imprisoned thousands of Jews in Iran and formally executed nearly two dozen Jews in Iran. The regime has also confiscated billions of dollars of Jewish assets in Iran. Moreover the Iranian regime since day one has effectively turned the Jews and other religious minorities in Iran into third class citizens with their radical Sharia laws which convey inferior status to Jews and other religious minorities and inequality under the law. This reign of terror by the Iranian regime against the Jews has resulted in thousands of Jewish families to flee Iran after living there for nearly 2,700 years. One is left wondering why Zarif and others in the Iranian regime who claim to “love the Jews” have not formally apologized to the Iranian Jewish community for wrongly executing Elghanian? Why hasn’t the Iranian regime formally apologized for wrongly killing a man who spent his near entire life to help and modernize Iran as well as employ thousands of people in his country?

The Iranian regime’s leadership after 40 years since executing Elghanian believe the that world and Iranian Jews have forgotten their crime of killing an innocent man. To them we say, you are sadly mistaken! To forget or forgive this regime in Tehran for executing a man whose only crime was being a wealthy patriotic Jewish citizen of Iran is a crime in itself. One day Zarif and his cohorts in the Iranian regime must be held accountable in an international tribunal for their heinous crime of wrongly executing Habib Elghanian and other Jews. Until that day, we must continue to remind the world of their crime committed 40 years ago.

Habib Elghanian’s grave at Tehran’s Jewish cemetery today.





About the Author
Karmel Melamed is an award-winning internationally published Iranian American journalist based in Southern California; He is a member of the Speakers Bureau of JIMENA: Jews Indigenous to the Middle East and North Africa
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