U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson released the 2016 Annual Report on International Religious Freedom (IRF) on August 15.
Mandated by the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, the IRF describes the status of religious freedom in foreign countries and U.S. actions and policies in support of religious freedom worldwide.
“Religious freedom is both a core American value and a fundamental human right. Where religious freedom is not protected, we know that instability, human rights abuses, and violent extremism have a greater opportunity to take root," Tillerson said.
“In Iran, Baha'is, Christians, and other minorities are persecuted for their faith,” he continued. “Iran continues to send its [citizens] to death under vague apostasy laws. Twenty individuals were executed in 2016 on charges that include ‘waging war against God.’ Members of the Baha'i community are imprisoned today simply for abiding by their own beliefs.”
In an exclusive interview with Nader Sadighi, senior correspondent for Radio Farda in Washington, D.C., Clifford May, Commissioner of U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and the founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies a think tank based in Washington D.C., welcomed the findings of the latest IRF.
“In Iran, we see the persecution of religious minorities on a chronic basis,” he said.
The real source of this persistent behavior is the ideology ingrained in Iran, an ideology based on an extreme interpretation of Shi’a Islam embedded in the system by the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini, Clifford said.
Clifford says though he does not believe Rouhani can bring a measure of tolerance to the regime. “Those who saw Rouhani as bringing tolerance and hope were misguided,” he said, adding that he is “not convinced” that Rouhani is a moderate.
After eight years of U.S. President Barack Obama’s policy of rapprochement with Iran, there have been almost no positive results, Clifford said.
“I don’t think we’ve seen the required moderation in anyway”.