Iran's abuses of religious freedom condemned

22 March 2012

Iran remains one of the worst abusers of the right to religious freedom in the world, according to a new report.

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has described how the "government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused."

Conditions continued to deteriorate during the past year especially for Baha'is, as well as Christians and Sufi Muslims, the USCIRF wrote in its annual report published on 20 March.

"Even the recognized non-Muslim religious minorities protected under Iran's constitution – Jews, Armenian and Assyrian Christians, and Zoroastrians – faced increasing discrimination, arrests, and imprisonment," the report said.

A two-page section devoted to the situation of Iran's Baha'is highlighted "increasingly harsh treatment, including increasing numbers of arrests and detentions and violent attacks on private homes and personal property." The report also described attacks on Baha'i-owned businesses, the denial of the right to higher education, vandalism of Baha'i cemeteries, the vilification of Baha'is in state-controlled media, and efforts to collect information on members of the Baha'i community and monitor their activities.

The report recommended that the US "continue to speak out publicly and frequently at the highest levels about the severe religious freedom abuses in Iran, and draw attention to the need for the international community to hold Iranian authorities accountable in specific cases." In particular, it asked US officials to call for the release of jailed Baha'i leaders and educators, as well as other Baha'is in prison on account of their religion, and for all charges to be dropped against those Baha'is who have cases pending against them.

Officials are also urged to ask Iran to "rescind immediately laws that permit members of the Baha'i faith to be killed with impunity, permit the Baha'i community to practice their faith in Iran, and allow full access for Baha'is to study in public universities without discrimination." The report also called for the release of all Christians in prison on account of their religion or belief, and for all pending charges against Christian converts to be dropped.

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