U.S. Human Rights Report 2008: Iran

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The U.S. State Department has released their annual human rights report on Iran. Iran Press Watch is pleased to share relevant extracts about the Baha’i situation. You may download the entire report at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2008/nea/119115.htm.

“Adherents of the Baha’i faith continued to face arbitrary arrest and detention. In March and May intelligence agents arrested all seven members of the Baha’i national leadership body and held them in incommunicado detention. On November 26, authorities extended the detention orders for all seven prisoners by an additional two months. At year’s end charges had not been filed against the group.
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The constitution allows the government to confiscate property acquired either illicitly or in a manner not in conformance with Islamic law. The UNSR on adequate housing noted religious minorities, including members of the Baha’i faith, were particularly targeted. The UNSR’s 2006 report noted the “abusive use of (the law) is seen as an instrument for confiscating property of individuals as a form of retribution for their political and/or religious beliefs.” The report noted documentation of approximately 640 Baha’i properties confiscated since 1980, instances of numerous undocumented cases, and court verdicts declaring confiscation of property from the “evil sect of the Baha’i” legally and religiously justifiable. Rights of members of the Baha’i faith were not recognized under the constitution, and they had no avenue to seek restitution of or compensation for confiscated property.
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The constitution states that Shia Islam is the state religion and that all laws and regulations must be based on Islamic criteria. The constitution also nominally protects other Islamic denominations, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Judaism; however, the government severely restricted freedom of religion in practice, particularly the Baha’i faith.
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The government continued to repress Baha’is and prevent them from practicing their religion by closing their places of worship. It banned them from government and military leadership posts, the social pension system, and public schools and universities, unless they concealed their faith. The courts also denied Baha’is the right to inherit property and refused to recognize Baha’i marriages or divorces. According to the law, Baha’i blood is considered “mobah,” meaning Baha’is may be killed with impunity. The government repeatedly pressured Baha’is to recant their religious beliefs in exchange for relief from mistreatment.
According to human rights groups, all seven members of the Baha’i national leadership body and a total of at least 40 Baha’is were imprisoned at year’s end.
On December 28, authorities on Kish Island arrested and interrogated Faegheh Rafeie and eight of her relatives, including several minors, for discussing their Baha’i faith with a local shopkeeper. Authorities released some members of the group the following day but held others for two to three more days.
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With the exception of Baha’is, the government allowed recognized religious minorities to conduct religious education of their adherents, although it restricted this right considerably in some cases. The law required all Muslim students to take Islamic studies courses.
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Although a male can marry at age 15 without parental consent, the law states that a virgin female needs the consent of her father or grandfather to wed, or the court’s permission, even if she is older than 18. The country’s Islamic law permits a man to have as many as four wives and an unlimited number of sigheh, based on a Shia custom in which a woman may become the wife of a Muslim male after a simple religious ceremony and a civil contract outlining the union’s conditions. Such wives were not granted rights associated with traditional marriage. The government does not recognize marriages between Muslim women and non-Muslim men or Baha’i marriages.”

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