Iranian Jewish Leader Habib Elghanian is Executed

May 9, 1979

Born in Tehran in 1912, Habib Elghanian became a prominent Iranian businessman, importing a variety of consumer goods into Iran including watches, electronics, textiles and clothing.  By the conclusion of World War II, Elghanian and his partners had made over $1 million.

Following the war, Elghanian branched out into the production of plastic goods, beginning with a single molding machine in 1948.  His company Plasco would become the largest plastics manufacturer in the Middle East.  Elghanian brought the latest technologies to his business which he continued to expand into areas such as appliance manufacturing, mining, and textiles.

He was elected chairman of the Jewish community in 1959.  Together with his brother Davud and other Iranian Jewish businessmen, Elghanian organized a charitable association which provided needed funds for the health and welfare of Iran’s poor Jews, including medical services and a school meals program.  Elghanian’s charitable work was not limited to the Jewish community; he donated his first home to be turned into a hospital.

Elghanian was a frequent visitor to and investor in Israel.  In 1968 he and his brothers built the Shimshon Tower in Tel-Aviv and purchased the Tehran home that would become the Israeli Embassy in Iran.  When popular protests against the Shah intensified in the fall of 1978, Elghanian was in the United States on business.  Although he was urged by friends and family not to return to a now volatile Iran, Elghanian felt he had nothing to fear.  He returned to Tehran in early 1979, stopping in Israel on the way.  He was arrested on March 16.  After being held for nearly two months, Elghanian was put on trial on May 8.  The brief show trial lasted only twenty minutes and Elghanian was convicted of being a Zionist spy and a “corrupter on Earth.”  He was sentenced to death by firing squad.

On May 9,1979, Elghanian is executed.

His execution will heighten the anxiety of Iranian Jews and will expedite the Jewish exodus from Iran that started after the Islamic Revolution.