Religious persecution and issues – Monthly Digest November 01-30



UN resolution notes ‘increasing’ religious-freedom restrictions in Iran

Article 18 (22.11.2023) – The United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution last week highlighting violations of human rights in Iran, including “ongoing severe limitations and increasing restrictions on the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief”.

The resolution, which was passed on 15 November by 80 votes to 29, with 65 abstentions, names Christians and “particularly converts from Islam” among the recognised and unrecognised religious minorities affected by violations “including but not limited to increased harassment, intimidation, persecution, arbitrary arrest and detention, and incitement to hatred that leads to violence”.

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Our daughter was terrified, running around the room, shaking and crying’

Article 18 (13.11.2023) – Touraj and Elaheh’s youngest daughter, Elina, had just turned 10 years old and was still asleep when intelligence agents came to raid her home.

In fact, it was the sound of one of the agents’ voices that awoke Elina that day, and the scene that followed was a painful one not only for the little girl, but also for her mother and older sister, Arghavan.

“She was terrified,” Elina’s mother recalls, “running around the room, shaking, crying and asking in a panic: ‘What happened? What has happened?’”

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Converts released from prison but must report back daily for work

Article 18 (09.11.2023) – Three “Church of Iran” members sentenced to five years in prison for their participation in house-churches have been permitted to serve the remainder of their sentences outside prison, but must report back daily to work at an adjacent factory.

Ahmad Sarparast, Morteza Mashoodkari, and Ayoob Poor-Rezazadeh were convicted of “spreading deviant beliefs contrary to Islam” under the controversially amended Article 500 of Iran’s penal code, which the UN Human Rights Committee has said should be “repealed or amended”.

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UN experts reiterate concerns over Iran’s religious freedom violations

Article 18 (08.11.2023) – The UN Human Rights Committee has reminded Iran of its obligations, as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to provide religious freedom to its citizens, including to adopt a religion of their choosing and to change religions.

In its concluding remarks following last month’s public assessment of Iran’s compliance with the ICCPR, the Committee said Iranians of all faiths should be able to “manifest [their] religion or belief without being penalised” and that members of non-recognised religious minorities must be “protected against harassment, discrimination and any other human rights violation”.

Iran must “immediately release those imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief”, and ensure they are provided with “adequate compensation”, it said.

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Baha’i citizen Rouya Malakooti receives six-year, eight-month sentence

Iran Press Watch (29.11.2023) – The Mashhad Revolutionary Court, presided over by Judge Hadi Mansouri, has handed down a six-year, eight-month prison sentence to Baha’i Citizen Rouya Malakooti.

The verdict includes a six-year term for “forming groups to act against national security” and an additional eight months for “spreading propaganda against the regime.”

In the event the verdict is upheld on appeal, Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code mandates the enforcement of the initial six-year prison term.

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Jailed Baha’i woman denied phone calls from Evin Prison

Iran Press Watch (27.11.2023) – Iranian prison authorities have denied the Baha’i prisoner Mahvash Shahriari Sabet access to phone calls after she published an open letter from inside Evin prison.

“It is the ultimate injustice that my mother is being punished and fined for writing a diary about her 40 years of life, even in prison” her daughter Negar Sabet told IranWire.

In a letter published last week, Mahvash Sabet described the oppression and deprivation she and her family have endured under the Islamic Republic.

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Baha’i woman sentenced to almost four years in prison

Iran Press Watch (27.11.2023) – An Iranian Revolutionary Court has sentenced Shohreh Salekian, a Baha’i citizen living in Mashhad, to three years and eight months in prison.

Salekian was charged with “membership in a group with the aim of disrupting national security” and “propaganda against the system.”

She was sentenced to three years in prison for the first charge and eight months in prison for the second charge.

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Request for retrial of Homayoun Khanlari, Baha’i citizen, rejected by the Supreme Court

Iran Press Watch (23.11.2023 ) – The request for retrial of Homayoun Khanlari, a Baha’i citizen imprisoned in Lakan prison in Rasht, was rejected by the Supreme Court.

An informed source close to the family of this Baha’i citizen told HRANA: “Mr. Khanlari’s request for a retrial was rejected by the 39th branch of the Supreme Court.” It has also been opposed to his request to serve his sentence under electronic monitoring.

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Bi-monthly statistical report: Increased pressure on the Baha’i Community with dozens of arrests and convictions

Iran Press Watch (22.11.2023) – Over the last 60 days, at least 40 Baha’i citizens have been arrested by security forces, and the homes of at least 66 individuals have been searched by security forces. Additionally, during the mentioned period, 38 Baha’i citizens have been collectively sentenced to more than 133 years in prison by judicial authorities.

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Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe: What Iran jail hell taught me about freedom of speech

Iran Press Watch (16.11.2023) – Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe shared a bunk with one of Evin prison’s pillars of resilience. She tells the Standard of what she learned about Iran’s state-sponsored cancel culture and repression

On October 6, the Nobel prize committee awarded Narges Mohammadi, the human rights activist imprisoned in Iran, the 2023 Nobel Peace Prize. That seems long ago given all we have witnessed since. This was the second time an Iranian woman has been awarded such an honourable prize within the course of 20 years. The first, Shirin Ebadi, is in exile, and Narges as the second sits in prison.

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USCIRF condemns Iran’s religious persecution of Baha’is (15.11.2023) – Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) condemns the Iranian government’s recent spate of arrests of Baha’is across the country. Since the beginning of November, Iranian security forces have arrested scores of Baha’is in cities including Hamadan, MehrshahrYazd, KarajAlborz, and Tehran. Additionally, the Mashhad Revolutionary Court sentenced a Baha’i man, Zabihi Moghadam, to eight years in prison. These actions are the latest in a series of arrests and sentencings targeting Iran’s Baha’i community.

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Baha’i Citizen Zabihi Moghadam receIves eight years in Prison

Iran Press Watch (13.11.2023) – The Mashhad Revolutionary Court has handed down an eight-year prison sentence to Sirus Zabihi Moghadam, a Baha’i resident of Mashhad.

Zabihi Moghadam was convicted of seven years for “membership in anti-regime groups” and an additional year for “spreading propaganda against the regime.” Should the verdict be upheld on appeal, Article 134 of the Islamic Penal Code mandates the enforcement of the harshest punishment in cases involving multiple charges, resulting in a seven-year prison term for Moghadam.

Arrested in September 2022, Zabihi Moghadam was released on bail after two months.

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Seventeen Baha’is arrested in Iran and two elderly women harassed by agents

Iran Press Watch (08.11.2023) – Security agents in Iran conducted a wave of raids on the homes of Baha’is in the cities of Hamadan and Mehrshahr, arresting at least 17 individuals and seizing personal belongings, including electronic devices, religious texts, photographs, and cash.

Eyewitnesses described the raids as “armed” and “violent,” with security forces entering homes without warrants and ransacking them.

Also on Tuesday, security agents conducted raids on the homes of three Baha’i families in Hamadan. They were subsequently summoned for questioning.

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