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Iran Continues Harassing Minorities Says US Religious Freedom Report

An anti-Bahai graffiti on the wall of a building in the city of Abadeh says "Hezbollah is awake and despises the Baha'is". FILE PHOTO
An anti-Bahai graffiti on the wall of a building in the city of Abadeh says "Hezbollah is awake and despises the Baha'is". FILE PHOTO

In its annual report on religious freedoms, the United States has once again accused Iran of widespread violations of the rights of religious minorities, including Baha'i and Sunni citizens.

The report has focused on the Islamic Republic's Constitution which is based on Sharia and paves the way for the heavy punishment of those who have abandoned their Islamic faith for another. The punishment in some cases could be the death penalty.

The report has also highlighted the charge of so-called "waging war against God", which, for example, led to "the execution of two Sunni minority prisoners in Fajr prison, in Ahvaz, the capital city of the oil-rich province of Khuzestan Province, southwest Iran.

Meanwhile, the annual report raises concern that according to human rights organizations, executing members of the Sunnis, including Kurds and Baluchis is still underway in the Shiite clergy-dominated Iran.

In 2019, the report says, the Iranian regime continued harassment, interrogation, and detention of Baha'is, non-Armenian Christians, especially new converts, and other religious minorities, to the extent that it tried at least 65 Baha'is in a short period of six months across the country.

The report says since 1999, and based on the 1998 International Religious Freedom Act, Iran has been listed among the countries of "special concern" where freedom of religion is drastically repressed.

Speaking to reporters after presenting the annual report, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed that "in Iran, 109 members of minority religious groups remain in prison for simply being religious minority practitioners. And last year the government executed a number of individuals on charges of enmity against God."

Meanwhile, Pompeo praised President Donald Trump's administration in a tweet, asserting "This Administration has made religious freedom its top priority. We will not stand idly by while abusers of this first American freedom persecute, discriminate against, and revile people because of their beliefs."

The annual Report to Congress on International Religious Freedom – the International Religious Freedom Report – describes the status of religious freedom in every country. The report covers government policies violating religious belief and practices of groups, religious denominations and individuals, and U.S. policies to promote religious freedom around the world. The U.S. Department of State submits the reports in accordance with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.