Religious Freedom – Iran

Jump to news clippings on religious freedom in Iran


Twelver (Shi’a) Islam is Iran’s official religion. Constitutionally, Muslims of different schools are guaranteed equal rights, and three other religious minorities have legal protection: Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. These recognized religions have five reserved seats in Parliament: two for Armenian Christians and one each for Assyrian Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians.[1]

In November 2013, within one hundred days of being in office, President Rouhani’s government published a draft Citizens’ Rights Charter. In 2014, President Rouhani affirmed that discrimination against religious minorities does not occur in Iran.[2] However, there continues to be social as well as systemic persecution of religious minorities.

There is no Sunni mosque in Tehran, and Sunni teachings have been banned from public schools. Sunni mosques and Sufi gathering places have been destroyed by authorities. Clerics, leaders and activists have been subject to fines, floggings, and arrests. Sufi Muslims as well as Jews are often demonized in the state-controlled media.[3]

Iran’s penal code is based on Sharia law, prescribing the death penalty for those convicted of moharebeh (“enmity against God”).[4] Converting from Islam to a non-Muslim religion is also punishable by death.[5]

Since 2010, there 500 Christians have been arbitrary detained.[6] Christians can be sentenced for apostasy, another offense punishable by death. This occurs occasionally but is used more frequently as a tool to threaten Christians.[7] Christians have faced arrests and tortures for participation in Christian activities, such as prayers, which are classified as threats to national security.[8] Authorities conduct church raids and closures.[9]

Iran is home to at least 300,000 Baha’is, who have been routinely harassed and attacked by security forces and paramilitary groups. Since 1979, 200 Baha’i leaders have been killed, and more than 10,000 have been dismissed from government and academic jobs.[10]

For further reading:


[1] USCIRF 2014 Report, p. 59.
[2] Report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (A/69/306),
[3] USCIRF 2014 Report, p. 60.
[6] USCIRF 2015 Report, p. 47.
[7] Report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (A/69/306),
[8] Report of the Secretary-General on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran (A/69/306),
[9] USCIRF 2014 Report, p. 60. See also:
[10] USCIRF 2015 Report, p. 46


Hamid Nasseri, a Baha’i in Tehran, arrested

By HRANA News Agency HRANA news agency – Today, Hamid Naseri, a Baha’i living in Tehran, was arrested by security forces and transferred to an unknown location. It is said that the agents showed up at his business and arrested him. According ... Full Article

Iran: Crackdown on Dervish Minority

By Human Rights Watch (Beirut) – Iranian authorities arrested over 300 members of the minority Dervish Muslim community in late February 2018 after police forcibly tried to break up a protest. The events in February stemmed from what appears ... Full Article

The oppression of Baha’is continues in Iran

By Elliott Abrams, The Washington Post Elliott Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was a deputy national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. Public rites will be visible ... Full Article