Translation by Iran Press Watch
According to the reports received by Iranwire, Iran’s Records Registry has deleted the option for “other religions” from the new application forms for the Smart National ID cards. As a result, for the past several months Baha’i citizens have been prevented obtaining Smart National ID cards. This exclusion affects Baha’is who apply for a new National ID card due to the loss, destruction or expiration of their ID card, as well as barring them from certain business transactions.
A Baha’i citizen from Shiraz shared his experience with Iranwire, “I went to one of the offices of government services to register. The clerk asked for my personal information, such as first name, last name, date of birth, father’s and mother’s name, etc. and filled the application form himself on his desktop computer. He then printed and gave me the form to sign. In the space for religion, he had selected “Islam”. When I told him, I was not Muslim and asked him to select “other religions” options instead, he replied that only Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism are listed, and I am only allowed to choose one of those four options.”
The religious criteria of the new National ID Card application appear to be based on Articles 12 and 13 of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Article 12 states that Islam is Iran’s official religion. Article 13 states “Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian Iranians are the only recognized religious minorities…” However, according to articles 19, 20 and 23 of the Constitution, all people regardless of color, race, language, etc. have equal rights and are protected by the law, and no one can be deprived of their human and social rights, or be subjected to interrogation or harassment solely for their belief. Accordingly, the Records Registry organization has declared all Iranian citizens over the age of 15 eligible to receive a National ID card.
Contrary to Articles 19, 20, & 23, for the past several months the Records Registry, under the auspices of the Department of the Interior, has illegally rejected applications for the National ID submitted by the Baha’is as well as constituents of other faiths other than the four mentioned in Articles 12 and 13 of Constitution of the Islamic Republic.
Among the repercussions not having a Smart National ID is financial access. A Baha’i citizen from Kerman shared his experience with Iranwire, “The old National IDs are still valid, but many of the banking activities and transactions are handled only by the Smart National ID. For example, one can only open a bank account using a Smart National ID, and the old IDs are not accepted by the banks.” Two weeks ago, he lost his credit card, he was informed by his bank that a new credit card can only be issued with a Smart National ID. “Since as a Baha’i, I had not been able to obtain a Smart National ID, I had to cancel my request. I went to another town where the bank’s branch manager was a friend. There, I was, again, told that my identity could not be verified by the Records Registry using my National ID number, and my request for a credit card was denied. The bank manager told me that, for the past few months, the Records Registry office only accepts and verifies the Smart National ID numbers.”
According to the branch manager, in the new system of the Records Registry, people’s identities are defined by the new codes in the Smart National IDs. In the new system, since the Baha’is are not one of the four religions mentioned in the Constitution, they are excluded from registering and obtaining a Smart National ID, and practically denied an identity as Iranian citizens. Baha’is are the largest religious minority in Iran.
A Baha’i citizen from Tehran, related his efforts to obtain the National ID, “Once I realized the “other” option has been deleted from the religion section, I went to the central office of the Records Registry in Tehran, where I was told that the option for other religions had been deleted by the order of the Records Registry, and in order to add the option again, a new version needs to be installed, which will take at least several months.”
Continuing, he shared, “I then went to National Record Registry office, where I was told that according to the Constitution, the Baha’i Faith is not an official religion, and the option for “other” religions has been deleted and will not be added back. The only way to obtain a Smart National ID card is to choose one of the four religions listed on the form.”
It is unclear why and when the removal of “other religions” option from the application form for the Smart National ID was implemented. The only report related to this action, were comments last January by Muhammad Javad Abtahi, the representative from Khomeini Shahr to the Islamic Parliament. As reported by the Islamic Parliament’s news agency, Muhammad Javad Abtahi is quoted as saying that “in the registration process for obtaining the Smart National ID, in the section for religion, in addition to the official religions mentioned in the Constitution, there is an “other” option, tantamount to recognizing the misguided sects, such as Baha’ism.” The representative from Khomeini Shahr further stated that in a reminder to the Minister of the Interior, Abdul Reza Rahmani Fazli, he demanded a review of the process for the Smart National ID card and deletion of the “other” option in the religion section, which legitimizes the misguided sects.
In this Baha’is view, denying the Baha’is the Smart National ID card, is a new form of economic oppression. In the coming year, Baha’i citizens will face difficulty in any kind of economic and social activity. Without a Smart ID, Baha’is cannot even apply for a driver’s license. Also, based on the statistics of the ID cards issued to Iranians, the Islamic Republic can underreport the number of Baha’i citizens to the international community.