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U.S. commission issues report condemning Iran’s religious freedom violations

Baha'is connected to the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education in Iran and representatives of the American Baha'i community meet with the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom on Feb. 16, 2012.

Iran continues to systematically violate the right to religious freedom, according to a report released this week by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The commission condemned the Iranian government for discriminating against its citizens on the basis of their beliefs, using imprisonment, torture and executions. The annual report, published Tuesday, describes how conditions have worsened for the country’s religious minorities, such as the Baha’is, Christians and Sufi Muslims. But even those protected under Iran’s constitution — including Jews, Armenian and Assyrian Christians and Zoroastrians — have come under attack.

The report recommended the U.S. government continue to identify Iranian officials who are responsible for the religious freedom violations and sanction them with asset freezes and travel bans. The commission also urged the U.S. to continue to speak out about the abuses and work with allies in Europe and elsewhere to also sanction the officials.

Regarding the Baha’is, the commission noted almost 100 Baha’is are in jail because of their beliefs — the first time so many have been in prison since the period following the 1979 Islamic revolution. In the past year, several cases of arson were reported at businesses and properties owned by Baha’is, but the police made no arrests. The report also documented the desecration of Baha’i cemeteries, a de facto ban preventing Baha’is from attending universities and propaganda vilifying the Baha’is in the government-controlled media.

Last month, representatives of the Baha’i community met with members of the commission to discuss the persecution of Baha’is associated with the Baha’i Institute for Higher Education.

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