y Staff Writer, Iran Probe
Thursday, 17 August 2017
The US State Department Iran 2016 International Religious Freedom Report
The following is excerpts from the US State Department annual report on International Religious Freedom Report (Iran section) released begging of this week:
The [Iran] penal code specifies the death sentence for proselytizing and attempts by non-Muslims to convert Muslims, as well as for Moharebeh (“enmity against God”) and Sabb al-nabi (“insulting the prophet”).
The law prohibits Muslim citizens from changing or renouncing their religious beliefs. The Constitution stipulates the five Sunni Islamic schools named therein shall be “accorded full respect” and official status in matters of religious education and certain personal affairs. “Within the limits of the law,” the constitution states Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians (excluding converts from Islam) are the only recognized religious minorities permitted to worship and to form religious societies.
The government executed individuals on charges of Moharebeh, including more than 20 Sunni Kurds.
The Iran Prison Atlas, compiled by the nongovernmental organization (NGO) United for Iran, stated at least 103 members of minority religious groups remained imprisoned for their religious activities, 198 individuals on charges of Moharebeh, and 31 on charges of “insulting Islam.”
Shia religious leaders who did not support government policies reportedly continued to face intimidation and arrest.
The government continued to harass, interrogate, and arrest Bahais, Christians, Sunni Muslims, and other religious minorities and regulated Christian religious practices closely to enforce the prohibition on proselytizing.
It reportedly denied building permits for places of worship and employment and higher educational opportunities for members of religious minorities and confiscated or restricted their religious materials. Security officials continued to raid Sunni prayer sites and prevent the construction of new ones.
The government continued to use anti-Semitic and anti-Bahai rhetoric in official statements, as well as promote Holocaust denial. There were reports of authorities discouraging employment of Bahais and placing restrictions on Bahai businesses or forcing them to shut down.
According to Sufi media and NGOs, Shia clerics and prayer leaders continued to denounce Sufism and the activities of Sufis in both sermons and public statements.
Yarsanis reported they continued to face discrimination and harassment. Bahais reported there were at least three incidents of destruction or vandalism of their cemeteries.
The United States has no diplomatic relations with Iran. The U.S. government used public statements, sanctions, and diplomatic initiatives in international forums to condemn the government’s abuses and restrictions on worship by religious minorities.
Senior U.S. government officials publicly reiterated calls for the release of prisoners held on religious grounds.