International Religious Freedom Report Highlights Iranian Intolerance

Within the Iran, the regime has created an official state religion, which then informs many of the secular laws. All laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria, along with an official interpretation of Sharia law. As a result, although there are other religions in Iran, they must conform to the secular laws based on the Islamic faith.

Even the constitution of Iran limits human rights based on how they conform with Islamic criteria. The penal code even specifies the death penalty for proselytizing and any attempts by a non-Muslim to convert a Muslim to another faith.

According the penal code, the application of the death penalty depending on the religions of the parties involved. For instance, the penalty could be used if the victim is a Muslim, but the perpetrator is non-Muslim.

Additionally, Muslims are not allowed to change their faith or renounce their religious beliefs. For children born into the Muslim community, there is simply no option to explore other faiths or to make different religious choices as an adult if you live in Iran.

Part of this intense effort to mix the secular with this Islamic extremism is meant to keep the regime in a place of control and give them power over the lives of their citizens. At the same time, this mixing of religion and secularism curtails the human rights of the Iranians. The Iranian constitution also states that Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians are the only recognized religions in the country that are permitted to worship and form religious societies, but they still must face the limits of the law. It is also important to note that converts from Islam are not allowed to practice their religion.

One example of the impact of this strict interpretation means that trying to form another religion in the country can result in a sentence of death or other punishments from the regime. Mohammad Ali Taheri, who founded the spiritual movement Erfan-e Halgheh, was sentenced to death for a second time in August on the charge of “spreading corruption on earth”. He has been in solitary confinement since 2011. Human rights organizations have spoken out in his behalf and the Iranian Supreme ordered that he be retried again in December. Other organizations site examples of those from the Yarsani community who are facing ongoing discrimination from the government.

According to the Iran Prison Atlas, at least 102 members of minority religious groups remained imprisoned for their religious activities, 174 individuals for charges of moharebeh, 23 on charges of insulting Islam, and 21 for charges of corruption on earth. Shia leaders who did not support the regime’s policies reportedly continue to face intimidation and arrest.

Children who attend Iranian public schools also face being indoctrinated with the state religion, and the curriculum is determined by the Ministry of Education. Recognized religions may operate private schools, but Sunni Muslims are not allowed to do so. Their children must also pass a course in the Shia religion to advance in school or to attend university.

For those in Iran, religious freedom is not truly possible, as their religion is dictated by the regime. On June 30, the Iranian resistance, led by the coalition of National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), will hold their annual gathering in Paris. During this gathering, they will discuss the various ways that the regime is repressing the Iranian people, but also how the Iranian people are fighting back through protests. There will also be a discussion of the impact of the U.S. sanctions on the ability of the regime to maintain their powerbase in Iran.

About Siavosh Hosseini (275 Articles)
My background is in the visual arts, particularly in photojournalism. I have had the opportunity to cover scores of international artistic and news events in the US and across Europe since the mid-1980s. I was active in television newsrooms and production as a graphic designer and producer for more than 12 years in different television and news outfits in Europe.
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