Habib Elghanian

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Habib Elghanian
Habib Elghanian
Born 1909
Died 9 May 1979 (aged 69-70)
Nationality Iranian

Habib (Habibollah) Elghanian (Persian: حبیب (حبیب‌الله) القانیان‎‎, 1909 – 9 May 1979) was a prominent Iranian Jewish businessman and philanthropist who served as the president of the Tehran Jewish Society and acted as the symbolic head of the Iranian Jewish community in the 1970s.

He was arrested and sentenced to death by an Islamic revolutionary tribunal shortly after the Islamic revolution for charges including "corruption", "contacts with Israel and Zionism", and "friendship with the enemies of God", and was executed.[1] He was the first Jew and businessman to be executed by the Islamic government.[2] His execution caused fear amongst the Jewish community and caused many to leave Iran.


In 1959, Elghanian established Plasco, a plastics manufacturing factory in Tehran which later became the largest and most technologically advanced plastics manufacturer in Iran. He played a significant role in bringing Western technology to Iran in the 1960s and 1970s. A self made multi-millionaire, Elghanian was known for his entrepreneurial accomplishments in Iran and Israel.[3] In addition, he served as the leader of the society in the 1960s and 1970s.[2]

Arrest and execution

Shortly after the Islamic revolution, the new government of Iran arrested Elghanian and charged him with spying. The charges included "corruption", "contacts with Israel and Zionism", "friendship with the enemies of God", "warring with God and his emissaries", and "economic imperialism". He was tried by an Islamic revolutionary tribunal and sentenced to death.[1] A report by Time magazine states:

Elghanian, who was convicted of spying for Israel, was said to have made huge investments in Israel and to have solicited funds for the Israeli army, which the prosecution claimed made him an accomplice "in murderous air raids against innocent Palestinians."[4]

Elghanian stated that he was not a supporter of Zionism, though his Plasco building was built by Israeli engineers about fifteen years before his execution, and he had investments in Israel.[5]

On 9 May 1979, Elghanian was executed by a firing squad in Tehran. He was the first Jewish citizen and one of the first civilians of Iran to be executed by the new Islamic government.[6]


Elganian's execution sent shock waves through the closely knit Iranian Jewish community. Roughly 75% of Iranian Jews chose to leave Iran during or immediately after the revolution.[7] Out of between 80,000[7] and 100,000[8] the Jewish population of Iran in 2011 was 8,756 according to the most recent Iranian census [9]

Amid the post-revolution chaos, the government with its many rival factions initially refused to release Elghanian's body to his family for burial. With the intervention of Chief Rabbi Yedidia Shofet and other prominent members of the Tehran Jewish community, his body was finally released and initially buried in an unmarked grave in Tehran's Beheshtieh Jewish cemetery. Out of fear of further retaliation, only a handful of people attended Elghanian's burial. A modest tombstone was later placed on his grave making no reference to his execution.[10]

Shortly after Elghanian's execution, the United States Senate passed a resolution authored by senator Jacob Javits to condemn his execution as well as that of other civilians as a violation of human rights in Iran.

In the aftermath of the Stuxnet worm that attacked Iran's nuclear facilities, there was speculation by security researchers working for Symantec that a number found in the Stuxnet code - "19790509" - which was used as a marker to identify computers that should not be affected, was a reference to his execution date; however, researchers also warned against using this possible connection to draw any conclusions as to Stuxnet's origin.[11]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Law And Human Rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran" (Report). Amnesty International. 13 March 1980. Retrieved 3 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 Elghanayan, Shahrzad (27 June 2012). "How Iran killed its future". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 13 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Eminent Persians: The Men and Women Who Made Modern Iran, 1941-1979, Vol II, by Abbas Milani, pp. 616-621, 2008
  4. "A Nation Still in Torment". Time. 21 May 1979. Retrieved 4 May 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Eminent Persians: The Men and Women Who Made Modern Iran, 1941-1979, Vol II, Abbas Milani, pp. 616-621, 2008
  6. Sarshar, Houman (2002), Esther's Children, p. 423<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 Robert Tait (12 July 2007). "Iran's Jews reject cash offer to move to Israel". The Guardian. Retrieved 3 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. McElroy, Damien (3 October 2009). "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad: Jews in Iran". Telegraph. Retrieved 3 August 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. http://english.alarabiya.net/articles/2012/07/29/229078.html Iran young, urbanized and educated population: census
  10. Website of the Tehran Jewish Cemetery
  11. W32.Stuxnet Dossier, Version 1.4, (February 2011) Nicolas Falliere, Liam O Murchu, and Eric Chien