The most recent State Department report on the condition of religious freedom in Iran says that during the reporting year, an already egregious situation has deteriorated.
Members of Iran’s minority religious communities suffered imprisonment, harassment, intimidation and discrimination based on their religious beliefs.
Shi’a adherents who did not share the government’s official religious views were also persecuted.
In introducing the State Department’s latest International Religious Freedom report, Suzan Johnson Cook, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, singled out two examples of persecution in Iran based on religious belief:
[Christian] Pastor Nadarkhani faces a death sentence just for his faith. The government continues to detain over 100 Baha’i[s], including the seven Baha’i leaders whose sentences for espionage for Israel, insulting religious sanctities, and propaganda against the system have been re-extended to the original 20 year penalty.”
The State department report says over 300 Christians were reportedly arrested during the year. Some individuals were released quickly, while others were held in secret locations without access to attorneys.
Sixty Baha’is were also arrested; Baha’i property was confiscated; and Baha’is continued to be barred from universities.
Sufi Muslim homes, businesses, and religious sites were damaged or destroyed by government officials. The Jewish community experienced official discrimination, and government officials continued to make anti-Semitic statements and sanctioned anti-Semitic propaganda.
Two dissident Shia religious leaders, Hojatoleslam Abdollah Shahani and Hasanali Mostafaei, were arrested in December; in November, ailing Shia cleric Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi, who is serving an 11-year sentence on an unspecified charge, was brutally attacked in Evin prison; authorities denied him proper medical care.
Ambassador-at-Large Johnson Cook noted that freedom of religion is a universal right that goes hand in hand with freedom of expression, speech and assembly, and that when religious freedom is restricted, all rights are at risk. For this reason, Ambassador Johnson Cook said, “Religious freedom is often the bellwether for other human rights. It’s the canary in the coalmine.”