23.06.2017
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Iran: Freedom of Religion or Belief Prisoners in Iran

In Iran non-Muslims may not engage in public religious expression, persuasion or try to convert Muslims. Proselytizing of Muslims by non-Muslims is illegal and can be punishable by death.The government enforces this prohibition by closely monitoring the activities of Evangelical Christians and discouraging Muslims from entering Church premises.

Taken with kind permission from the Newsletter "Intolerance and Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief“ edited by Willy Fautré on behalf of Human Rights Without Frontiers Int'l - www.hrwf.net  

HRWF (19.04.2014) - In Iran non-Muslims may not engage in public religious expression, persuasion or try to convert Muslims. Proselytizing of Muslims by non-Muslims is illegal and can be punishable by death.The government enforces this prohibition by closely monitoring the activities of Evangelical Christians and discouraging Muslims from entering Church premises. Christians of all denominations report the presence of security cameras outside their churches, allegedly to confirm that non-Christians do not participate in services. Worshippers are also subject to identity checks by authorities posted outside places of worship. 
 
Last year, Human Rights Without Frontiers (HRWF) published its first Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) Prisoners List for the year 2012. The 2013 report, comprises hundreds of prisoners that were behind bars on the ground of laws forbidding or restricting their basic rights to freedom of religion or belief: (1) freedom to change religion or belief, (2) freedom to share one's religion or beliefs, (3) freedom of association, (4) freedom of worship and assembly, or (5) conscientious objection to military service.
 
This Prisoners List has been expanded over the previous year to document FoRB prisoners in 24 countries.
 
As far as Iran is concerned, we have documented about 120 individual cases of believers who were in prison last year on the purely religious grounds I have mentioned before. 34 members of Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches are on our list. They were prosecuted for the following activities: personal conversion from Islam to Christianity - missionary activities aiming at converting Muslims to Christianity - attending a house church meeting - Christmas celebrations in private with Muslim guests - distributing Bibles 
 
The official charges were however very different and somewhat frightening: propaganda against the regime - threatening the national security - affiliation to an anti-security organization - gathering with intent to commit crimes against the Iranian national security - being in contact with foreign organisations - carrying out anti-Islamic propaganda.
 
12 members of the Church of Iran are also in prison on the official ground of apostasy, propaganda against the regime, action against the national security or missionary activities.
 
35 Baha'i prisoners are listed in our report but the US Commission on International Religious Freedom has identified more than 100. Prison sentences range from one to twenty years and can include a year or more of forced resettlement once the prisoner is released. They serve prison terms for a wide range of official charges such as : espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order, the establishment of an illegal administration, cooperation with Israel and acting against the security of the country, membership of a perverse sect, plotting the overthrow of the government. These frightening accusations usually mask quite a normal activity such as carrying out community activities or teaching the Baha'i faith.
 
A number of Baha'is are just lecturers or work for the Bahá'í Institute for Higher Education, an organisation that aims to provide higher education to Baha'is, as they are often barred from attending Iran's other universities. Baha'is are de facto considered apostates from Islam. The right to believe in the Baha'i faith and to profess it individually or in community is denied to them.
 
Our report also documents the cases of 14 Dervishes for allegedly insulting the Supreme Leader, disturbing the public mind, enmity against God, membership in a deviant religious group or affiliation to a sect endangering national security.
 
A number of Sunni and Shia Muslims are also in prison because of their voicing of dissenting opinions. 
 
In August 2013, an Iranian court sentenced 17 Sunni Muslim, including religious scholars, to death because of their religious beliefs.

The condemned have been in Gohardasht Prison, west of Tehran since early June last year, awaiting execution. They were convicted of "acting against national security," and "enmity against God". 
 
A Shi'a Muslim, Ayatollah Mohammad Kazemeni Boroujerdi, was first sentenced to death and then to 11 years in prison for advocating the separation of religion and state and speaking out in favor of the rights of religious minorities. The official charges were: enmity against God and spreading propaganda against the regime.
 
4 Zoroastrians are also in prison for being members of the Iran Zoroastrian Committee. 
 
Mojtaba AHMADI , he was sentenced to 6 years in prison: blasphemy (3 years), conspiracy and anti-regime propaganda (3 years).
 
Mohsen SADEGHIPOUR wassentenced to four and a half years in prison, 74 lashes and a fine. The official charges were: anti-regime propaganda favoring the Zoroastrian faith; insulting Islamic practices, insulting the Supreme Leader and promoting activities against the Islamic Republic through the propagation of Zoroastrianism.
 
Abolfazl (Pouria) SHAHPARI was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and 74 lashes.
 
Mohammad Javad (Dariush) SHAHPARI was sentenced to 2 years and 4 months in prison and 74 lashes.
 
Capital punishment or sentences to multiple lashes are not uncommon in Iran as it can be seen with these examples.

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