05/05/2023, 12.01
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Iran: 'sharp regression' of religious freedom, Christians targeted

This is the finding of the U.S. Commission on Religious Freedom in the World Report 2023. Experts speak of "systematic and egregious violations," in line with the crackdown on demonstrations for rights and freedoms after the death of Mahsa Amini. The Islamic Republic is a "nation of particular concern." 

Tehran (AsiaNews) - A "sharp regression" in the situation regarding religious freedom is taking place in Iran, in line with the authorities' growing crackdown linked to the protests that erupted following the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of the morality police for not wearing the hijab properly.

The complaint is contained in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Report 2023, released in recent days and calling for the Islamic Republic to be reclassified as a "nation of particular concern (Cpc)" for its "systematic and egregious violations."

The cover of the document is dedicated to the 22-year-old Kurdish woman who was killed while in custody after being arrested for breaking Islamic headscarf regulations while in Tehran for vacation last September.

A death that sparked a months-long popular uprising for freedom and rights, the largest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, and bloodily suppressed by security forces with hundreds of casualties, thousands of arrests and executions by hanging.

The demonstrators "risked severe punishment, permanent injury and even death."

In addition to Amini, the authors listed the names of many citizens in jail because of their faith, including a dozen Christians. The cover, the report's authors explain in a note, is meant to "honor the many Iranians, known and unknown, held in prison in 2022 because of their religious beliefs, activities or personal identity."

A long list, the authors of the Uscirf report add, of people "victimized" by the lack of "freedom of religion or belief."

In addition to listing the names of victims of persecution, the study recalls cases of Christian converts from Islam who "suffered heavy threats to abandon their faith" and "pressure" toward leaders of the Armenian and Chaldean Churches "to publish statements of support for the government."

 "Iranian authorities' repression of freedom of religion or belief," the study charges, "is part of a decades-long campaign targeting both religious minorities and members of the Shiite Muslim community," which is "majority" in the Islamic Republic. 

"In 2022 along with the crackdown on protesters, the Iranian leadership," the authors point out, "has continued to target members of the Baha'i, Christian, Gonabadi Sufi, Zoroastrian, Yarsani, Sunni, Shiite, and atheist communities with arrests, jail sentences, and bans from political life.

Hence the Uscirf's appeal to the State Department to reconsider Iran's position by listing it among those of particular concern for "systematic, egregious and ongoing violations of religious freedom."

It calls for "targeted sanctions" against government agencies and officials responsible for abuses and greater "international coordination" to "lift the veil" on the climate of impunity enjoyed by the leadership in Tehran, as well as the relocation of "victims of persecution."

Finally, the report denounces cases of persecution and civil rights violations endorsed by the Islamic Republic's Islam-inspired laws, such as cases of impunity toward men who killed women for an alleged violation of so-called "family honor."

In January last year, two homosexual men were hanged in a prison on charges of "sodomy," and two more in July.

A month later, in August, an Urmia court handed down death sentences to two LGBTQI+ rights activists on charges of "corruption on land." 

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