Shabtabnews – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) today condemned the Iranian government’s increased crackdown on religious minorities in the country.
In recent weeks, Iran has arrested scores of Baha’is and raided their homes and destroyed Baha’i houses in Mazandaran province. In addition, Iranian authorities have escalated their targeting of women who do not conform to the government’s endorsed version of Islam, arresting those who refuse to wear full religious head coverings and banning them from public facilities. The government has also arrested women who have peacefully protested these religious edicts.
“Iran’s government cannot create stability and security by targeting vulnerable religious minorities and peaceful dissenters, yet it continues these appalling violations of religious freedom,” said USCIRF Commissioner Sharon Kleinbaum. “We urge the U.S. government to forcefully and publicly call out Iranian authorities for persecuting Iran’s Baha’i community and for using religion as the basis to restrict women’s freedom of religion or belief by forcing a religious practice that is a matter of individual choice under international law.”
The Iranian government considers the Baha’i faith a “deviant sect of Islam” and has targeted the community for decades. Earlier this year, Iran’s courts sentenced Baha’is on spurious national security charges, forcing eight Baha’is to attend “counseling sessions” in prison to pressure them to convert. The Ministry of Intelligence has accused Baha’is of “infiltrating educational environments,” and Iran’s government engages in systematic misinformation campaigns against the Baha’i community.
In early July, Iran’s government announced a campaign against women not wearing what authorities deem proper religious head coverings. Iran has arrested several women who peacefully protested forced religious dress, and accused others of dancing in public. At the Behesht Zahra cemetery in Tehran, authorities removed 98 headstones depicting women without the religious head covering.
“The world cannot watch passively as Iran uses religion as a pretext to harm minorities and women,” said USCIRF Commissioner Eric Ueland. “We call on the Biden administration to work with the International Religious Freedom and Belief Alliance to coordinate multilateral pressure on Iran to end its decades-long persecution of Baha’is. Furthermore, Congress should pass H.Res.744 and S.Res.183, bipartisan bills condemning Iran’s persecution of the Baha’i community.”
In its 2022 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. State Department designate Iran as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations. USCIRF recently published a country update on religious freedom conditions in Iran so far in 2022, held a hearing on “State-Sanctioned Religious Freedom Violations and Coercion by Saudi Arabia and Iran,” highlighted the situation for religious prisoners of conscience in Iran on an episode of the USCIRF Spotlight Podcast, and published a report on Religious Propaganda in Iran.