19th May 2018
Persecution against ethnic minorities in Iran has had roots since 1925, but religious minorities had some rights in Iran during the Pahlavi era. However, the current persecution in Iran has been practiced against religious minorities as well as ethnic groups since the current regime took power in 1979. A large number of minorities such as Jewish, Christian and Baha’s have been executed or arrested or tortured because of their legitimate demands. This means that the situation of religious minorities in Iran is very worrying because of the constitution and the political ideology of the Iranian regime.
The persecution against Jews and Baha’is has doubled as religious minorities in Iran since the Islamic Republic took power in 1979. In addition, the Iranian authorities consider the Baha’i Faith and Judaism to be a threat for the regime security. The authorities have launched large-scale repressive campaigns against religious minority activists, including Muslims who converted to Christianity, Jews and Baha’is as apostates, and thus activists face unfair trials.
Death penalty in Iran: religious minorities
Iran is one of the countries that use the death penalty against dissidents (opponent), including religious minorities such as Jews, Baha’is and Christians, to promote terror and fear in Iranian society in general, and religious minorities, in particular. Thus, many prominent figures from religious minorities in Iran faced execution. This situation has led the international organisations to issue reports on the human rights situation in Iran, and the international community has been called upon to impose sanctions on some Iranian officials involved in human rights violations.
According to Iranian and international human rights groups, tens of thousands of Iranians have been executed since the regime took power in 1979, many of them Iranian minorities, such as Jews, Christians, Sunni Muslims and Baha’is. For example, more than 2,000 Iranian were executed in the beginning of the revolution, more than 20,000 were executed between 1980 to 1986, around 20-30,000 were executed in the mass criminals in 1988, more than 5,300 were executed in the 1990s, and around 6,000 were executed in 2000s, in which a large number were Christian and Bahia’s (Source: Track Persia). Thus, in recent years, the death penalty and persecution against minorities in Iran, such as Christians and Sunnis, have increased, with activists being tortured and imprisoned in solitary confinement.
In the Iranian Constitution, there are legal provisions that emphasize recognition of the rights of ethnic and religious minorities in Iran. However, the Iranian authorities violate these articles in the Constitution by discriminating against these minorities.
Article 13 of the Iranian Constitution recognised Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians are the only religious minorities in Iran. This means that “Baha’is is not recognised as a religious minority in Iran, which makes them, suffer from persecution and discrimination”. At the same time, Christians and Jews are suffering from political and economic pressures in Iran because of the radical ideology of the Iranian authorities.
Religious minorities in Iran, such as Baha’is, Jews and Christians, suffer from marginalisation, injustice and lack of equal civil rights because Iranian law does not protect and support minorities, although the law recognises the minority of Judaism and Christianity. This means that minorities in Iran face discrimination and political and economic pressures in the country, especially pressure on those who convert from Islam to Christianity. A large number of Christians and Baha’is were prevented from traveling outside Iran or displaced and forced to live outside their cities because of their religious activity.
Muslims, who converted to Christianity, according to the Iranian constitution, are subject to the law of apostasy. The apostate faces harsh charges in Iranian courts, such as execution or imprisonment on the pretext of threatening national security.
Dr. Ahmad Shahid, the former Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, said that the arrest and persecution of minorities in Iran has never been reduced. Many Iranian from minorities faced arrest because of their conversion to different religions. For example, two converted Christians, Ibrahim Firouzi and Amin Afshar Naderi, were arrested in 2016 for converting from Islam.
Amin Afshar Nadri was arrested along with several Christians on Friday (August 26th, 2016) in the city of Ferozkouh, east of Tehran, on charges of “apostasy”. All of these detainees were transferred to Section 209 of Evin Prison. After three months of questioning, the newly converted Christians were transferred to the fourth circle in Evin Prison, where they have since been detained.
Therefore, the Iranian Revolutionary Court sentenced Mr. Amin Afshar to 15 years imprisonment on charges of enmity and a threat to national security to establish a church on 8 April 2017. The court’s decision made Amin Afshar continue his hunger strike for 10 days.
The situation of the Baha’is in Iran is so unstable, in which more than 200 members of the Baha’is’ minority have been executed since 1980, around thousands of the Baha’is have been arrested and detained, many of whom are denied “access to jobs opportunities, pensions and educational opportunities”. Many places belonging to Bahia’s have been confiscated, vandalized or destroyed by the authorities such as holy places, cemeteries, and property.
Political pressure and racist slogans against Baha’is have reached such a high level, in which over 400 documents’ were published against Baha’is in Iran in 2010-2011. Abuse against the Bahia’s has showed that the Iranian policies towards religious minorities have not improved.
Just a few months after the current regime in Iran took power; more than 9000 Jews left Iran because of the anti-Israel and the Jews slogans. According to unofficial statistics, the number of followers of the religion of Jews in Iran is about 18,000 and 20,000. However, the number of Jews in Iran before 1979 was about 80,000 to 100,000. This shows that Jews were subjected to the most heinous crimes by the Iranian regime. In the early days of the revolution, the Iranian regime executed Habib Qanian, one of the leaders of the Jews, on trivial charges.