In its annual report on religious freedom world-wide, the U.S. State Department has once again designated Iran a country of particular concern because of the government’s severe violations of religious liberty.
The State Department noted that nearly all non-Shia religious groups in Iran, most notably the Baha’is, but also Sunni Muslims, Sufis; Christians, especially evangelicals; Jews; and Shia groups that do not share the government’s religious views, are subject to persecution -- from government-sanctioned discrimination in employment, education and housing, to arrest, imprisonment, and torture. There were also convictions and executions on the charge of moharebeh, or enmity against God.
The report cites, among many, the cases of the seven Baha’i leaders serving sentences of 20 years; the seven members of a Sufi order sentenced to prison terms ranging from seven and a half to ten and a half years; the due process violations in the trial of Sunni imam Molavi Fathi Mohammad Naghshbandi and 11 others; the arrest and sentencing to 80 lashes each of four Christians for drinking wine during a communion service at a house church; the continued physical abuse in prison of prominent dissident Shia cleric Ayatollah Hossein Kazemeini Boroujerdi.
At the July 28 release of the report, Secretary of State John Kerry included Iran as he spoke of governments that have silenced members of religious groups with oppressive laws, harsh punishments and brutal tactics.
He also emphasized the bravery of those around the globe who, despite these threats, persist in following their consciences at great personal cost:
“They may not ever receive recognition. Their courage goes unremarked, but that makes it all the more remarkable, because they put their lives on the line in face of beatings and imprisonment and even death, in the near certainty that their sacrifice will be anonymous. Believe me, that’s the definition of courage.”
Secretary Kerry emphasized that the United States will continue to support religious freedom for all people everywhere and to stand up for religious communities under assault and in danger around the world.