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Religious minorities face “dire” situation in Iran

Religious minorities continue to face a “dire” situation in Iran under the mullahs’ rule, The Washington Times reported on Tuesday.

“Two years have passed since President [Hassan] Rouhani assumed office, and for two years he has failed on his promise to improve the climate for religious freedom, particularly for religious minority communities,” said Robert P. George, chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

“In fact, the situation for religious minority groups — including Baha’is, Christians, and Sufi Muslims — remains dire, as it does for dissenting Shi’a and Sunni Muslims,” Mr. George, a nationally known law professor at Princeton University, told The Washington Times.

Baha’is, in particular, are being mistreated, he said, with authorities closing their businesses and wreaking financial havoc on the persecuted minority.

However, “Christian church services continue to be raided and worshippers arrested, and dissenting Muslims continue to be imprisoned and tortured,” Mr. George said.

Imprisonments have continued apace during Rouhani’s two-year tenure, and USCIRF Monday called for the immediate release of hundreds of prisoners of conscience. These include Pastor Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American Christian from Idaho; Behnam Irani, an evangelical Christian leader; Ayatollah Mohammed Kazemeini Boroujerdi, a dissident Shi’a Muslim cleric; and members of the Baha’i community, including the Baha’i Seven (Afif Naemimi, Behrouz Tavakkoli, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Vahid Tizfahm, Fariba Kamalabadi, Mahvash Sabet, and Saeid Rezaie).

The State Department has designated Iran as a “country of particular concern” since 1999 over its systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom.

People imprisoned for breaking the Iranian regime’s law are often deemed “security prisoners” instead of “prisoners of conscience.”

Pastor Abedini, 35, has been “viciously beaten” many times for not recanting Christianity, according to a June article in the Christian Post. He is serving an eight-year prison sentence for threatening national security.

In May, the USCIRF said in its annual report for 2015 that the government of Iran “continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused.”

“Since his June 2013 election, President Hassan Rouhani has not delivered on his campaign promises to strengthen civil liberties for religious minorities,” the report added.

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