The U.S. Department of State again highlighted the Government of Iran’s serious, ongoing and egregious abuse of religious freedom.
The U.S. Department of State again highlighted the Government of Iran’s serious, ongoing and egregious abuse of religious freedom at the recent release of the Department’s annual International Religous Freedom Report. Since 1999, the United States has listed Iran as a “Country of Particular Concern.”
U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Suzan Johnson Cook said the report “seeks to advance religious freedom by shining a spotlight on abuses and violations,” and she spoke of some of the abuses taking place in Iran:
“In Iran more than 116 Baha’is are in prison for teaching and expressing their faith, and many Christians, Sufis and Sunnis are facing similar treatment. Additionally, a Christian pastor named Saeed Abedini who is an American and Iranian citizen, was sentenced to eight years in prison just for his beliefs. . .We seek the release of all individuals detained or imprisoned because of their beliefs.”
The State Department report noted that during 2012, there were “increased reports of the [Iranian] government charging religious and ethnic minorities with moharebeh (enmity against God), ‘anti-Islamic propaganda,’ or vague national security crimes for their religious activities. Those reportedly arrested on religious grounds faced worsening prison conditions and treatment, as with most prisoners
The report also noted that the Iranian government “regularly vilified Judaism,” with officials making anti-Semitic remarks and organizing events designed to deny the Holocaust. Rhetorical attacks “also blurred the lines between Zionism, Judaism, and
Israel and contributed to increased concerns about the future security of the Jewish
community in the country.”
Speaking to reporters at the release of the report, Secretary of State John Kerry said that freedom of religion is “a universal value…engrained in every human heart”:
“The freedom to profess and practice one’s faith, to believe or not believe, or to change one’s beliefs, that is a birthright of every human being.”
The United States will continue to shine a spotlight on violations of religious freedom in Iran and around the world, and will continue, as Secretary Kerry says, to promote this universal right as a moral and strategic imperative.