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The 2001 International Religious Freedom Report on Iran, from the U.S. Department of State

The 2001 International Religious Freedom Report on Iran, from the U.S. Department of State

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Published by onfaithwapo
The State Department's 2011 report on religion freedom on Iran. Information on Nadarkhani's case is on page 14.
The State Department's 2011 report on religion freedom on Iran. Information on Nadarkhani's case is on page 14.

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Published by: onfaithwapo on Sep 27, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The constitution states that Islam is the official state religion, and the doctrinefollowed is that of Ja'afari (Twelver) Shiism. The constitution provides that "otherIslamic denominations are to be accorded full respect," while the country's pre-Islamic religious groups -- Zoroastrians, Christians, and Jews -- are recognized as"protected" religious minorities. The fourth article of the constitution states that alllaws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria an official interpretation of Sharia (Islamic Law). Laws and policies severely restrict freedom of religion andpractice the government enforced restrictions severely restricting freedom of religion.The government's level of respect for religious freedom in law and in practicedeclined during the reporting period. Government rhetoric and actions created athreatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shia religious groups, most notably forBahais, as well as Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, Jews, and Shia groups thatdo not share the government's official religious views. Reports of governmentimprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based on religiousbeliefs continued during the reporting period. Bahai religious groups reportedarbitrary arrest and prolonged detention, expulsions from universities, andconfiscation of property. During the reporting period government-controlledbroadcast and print media intensified negative campaigns against religiousminorities, particularly the Bahais. All non-Shia religious minorities sufferedvarying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment, education, and housing.There were reports of societal abuses or discrimination based on religiousaffiliation, belief, or practice. Although the constitution gives Christians, Jews, andZoroastrians the status of "protected" religious minorities (as long as they do notproselytize), in practice non-Shia Muslims faced substantial societaldiscrimination, and government actions continued to support elements of societythat created a threatening atmosphere for some religious minorities.The U.S. government makes clear its strong objections to the government's harshand oppressive treatment of religious minorities through public statements, supportfor relevant United Nations (UN) and nongovernmental organization (NGO)efforts, as well as diplomatic initiatives. On January 16, 2009, the U.S. Secretary of State re-designated the country a "Country of Particular Concern" (CPC) under the
2International Religious Freedom Act, for its particularly egregious violations of religious freedom. The United States has designated Iran a CPC since 1999.Section I. Religious DemographyThe country has an area of 636,000 square miles and a population of 67 million.The population is 98 percent Muslim -- 89 percent Shia and 9 percent Sunni(mostly Turkmen and Arabs, Baluchs, and Kurds living in the southwest,southeast, and northwest respectively). There were no official statistics availableon the size of the Sufi Muslim population; however, some reports estimatedbetween two and five million persons practice Sufism in the country.Unofficial estimates from religious organizations claimed that Bahais, Jews,Christians, Sabean-Mandaeans, and Zoroastrians constitute 2 percent of thepopulation. The largest non-Muslim minority is the Bahais, who number 300,000to 350,000. Unofficial estimates of the Jewish community's size varied from20,000 to 30,000.According to UN figures, 300,000 Christians live in the country, the majority of whom are ethnic Armenians. Unofficial estimates for the Assyrian Christianpopulation ranged between 10,000 and 20,000. There are also Protestantdenominations, including evangelical religious groups. Christian groups outsidethe country estimated the size of the Protestant Christian community to be less than10,000, although many Protestant Christians reportedly practice in secret. Sabean-Mandaeans number 5,000 to 10,000 persons. The government regarded theSabean-Mandaeans as Christians, and they were included among the threerecognized religious minorities; however, Sabean-Mandaeans do not considerthemselves Christians. The government estimated there are 30,000 to 35,000Zoroastrians, a primarily ethnic Persian minority; however, Zoroastrian groupsclaimed to have 60,000 adherents.Section II. Status of Government Respect for Religious FreedomLegal/Policy Framework Please refer to Appendix C in the
 Reports on Human Rights Practices
forthe status of the government's acceptance of international legal standards
3The constitution and policies severely restricted freedom of religion. Theconstitution declares the "official religion of Iran is Islam and the doctrinefollowed is that of Ja'afari (Twelver) Shiism." All laws and regulations must beconsistent with the official interpretation of Sharia (Islamic law). The constitutionprovides Sunni Muslims a degree of religious freedom; however, the governmentseverely restricted overall religious freedom. The constitution states that "withinthe limits of the law," Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians are the only recognizedreligious minorities guaranteed freedom to practice their religious beliefs;however, members of these recognized minority religious groups reportedgovernment imprisonment, harassment, intimidation, and discrimination based ontheir religious beliefs.The supreme leader of the Islamic revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamene'i, heads athree-branch structure of government (legislative, executive, and judicialbranches). The supreme leader is not directly elected, but chosen by a group of 86Islamic scholars (the Assembly of Experts), who are directly elected. All acts of the majles (parliament) must be reviewed for strict conformity with Islamic lawand the constitution, and all candidates for any elected office must be vetted by theunelected Council of Guardians. The council is composed of six clerics appointedby the supreme leader and six Muslim jurists (legal scholars) nominated by thehead of the judiciary and approved by the majles.The government did not respect the right of Muslim citizens to change or renouncetheir religious faith. The government automatically considers a child born to aMuslim father to be a Muslim.Non-Muslims may not engage in public religious expression, persuasion, andconversion among Muslims, and there were restrictions on published religiousmaterial. Apostasy, specifically conversion from Islam, is punishable by death. Atleast two death sentences for apostasy or evangelism were issued under judicialinterpretations of Sharia during the reporting period.Proselytizing of Muslims by non-Muslims is illegal. Evangelical church leaderswere subjected to pressure from authorities to sign pledges that they would notevangelize Muslims or allow Muslims to attend church services. Members of religious minorities, excluding Sunni Muslims, were prevented from serving in the judiciary and security services and from becoming public school principals.Applicants for public sector employment were screened for their adherence to andknowledge of Islam, although members of religious minorities, with the exception

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