Washington, D.C. – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the alarming escalation of government measures targeting Baha’is in Iran on the basis of their faith.
On December 24, 2020, Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court of Hormozgan Province issued a verdict against eight Baha’is in Bandar Abbas banning them from participating in religious gatherings and requiring them to attend five “sectarian counseling” sessions with professors at the Andisheh Sajjadieh Institute. The ruling comes in the wake of court decisions declaring it illegal for Baha’is to own land in the town of Ivel and excusing 11 perpetrators who destroyed 50 Baha’i houses in the town in June 2010 and seized the land on which they were built.
“The United States must work with like-minded governments to confront Iran’s severe persecution of the Baha’i community,” said USCIRF Chair Gayle Manchin. “We urge the incoming administration to raise these egregious religious freedom violations as part of any engagement with the government of Iran.”
Iran’s government labels the Baha’i faith as a “deviant sect” of Islam, and has systematically persecuted the community for decades. Baha’is are restricted from pursuing education in Iran, and security forces regularly close down Baha’i businesses, raid Baha’i homes, and conduct mass arrests of Baha’is. Iran recently removed the “other” option from the religion category of its national ID cards, forcing Baha’is to either lie about their faith or be denied this critical form of identification. In December 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.Res. 823, a bipartisan bill that cited USCIRF’s reporting and condemned religious freedom violations against Baha’is in Iran.
“Iran’s restrictions on holiday observance and attempts to effectively ‘reeducate’ Baha’is place the country among the world’s most notorious religious freedom violators,” said USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer. “The United States must hold accountable Iranian government officials who view the vicious persecution of a peaceful religious minority as admirable rather than abhorrent.”
In its 2020 Annual report, USCIRF recommended Iran for designation as a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) for engaging in or tolerating systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, as it has recommended every year since 2002. In August 2020, USCIRF released a factsheet on sanctioned religious freedom violators in Iran. In December 2020, the State Department announced it had redesignated Iran as a CPC.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze, and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief. To interview a Commissioner, please contact USCIRF at [email protected].