Iranian Religious Minorities Face a New Discriminatory Policy

  • Iranian religious minority groups are no longer acknowledged in the new ID registration process.
  • The Baha'I community have been discriminated against for centuries.
  • The Human Rights Watch has spoken against Iran’s discrimination of such groups.

A new ID card regulation in Iran makes life even more difficult for unofficial religious minorities. For the Baha’i community, the largest minority religious group in the country, the latest development is just one in a long list of discriminatory policies. There are four officially recognized religions in Iran, namely Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism.

The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran mandates that the official religion of Iran is Shia Islam and the Twelver Ja’fari school, and also mandates that other Islamic schools are to be accorded full respect, and their followers are free to act in accordance with their own jurisprudence in performing their religious rites. The Constitution of Iran stipulates that Zoroastrians, Jews, and Christians are the only recognized religious minorities.

That said, however, the new ID issuance requirements acknowledge only citizens of these four groups. Previously, members of other religious denominations were allowed to tick the “other” option during registration. This field has now been deleted. Members of all other religious communities must now either indicate a different religion than their actual one or waive their ID. However, this is not practical. In Iran, an ID is required for state benefits, banking, a driver’s license, and foreign passport applications.

Apart from the Baha’i community, other religious groups such as the Mandaeans now lack official recognition and legislative protection. They are regularly discriminated against and brutally persecuted. A recent court ruling, for example, declared that all property owned by Baha’is in the village of Ivel be confiscated. It proclaimed that they have no right of ownership since their ideology is perverse.

Minority Groups Lack Influence

Iran can afford to deal with religious minorities in this way because their number of followers is small. Overall, they make up a maximum of three percent of the total population. The Baha’i group, for example, has only about 300,000 members in Iran, and the Mandaeans around 100,000. The largest group, the Yarsanis, is estimated to have around two million, but there are no official figures.

Officially, the Islamic Republic of Iran has no discrimination against its citizens. Article 19 of the Constitution stresses that all Iranians enjoy the same rights. This is regardless of their tribe, ethnic group, race, or language. This statute is, however, never upheld.

Human Rights Watch says there’s No Religious Freedom in Iran

The Baháʼí Faith is a religion teaching the essential worth of all religions, and the unity and equality of all people. It is estimated to have between 5 and 8 million adherents, known as Baháʼís, spread throughout most of the world’s countries and territories.

The human rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW), has spoken out against the harsh government policies against minorities, especially the Baha’i.

“The Islamic Republic has routinely harassed, prosecuted, and imprisoned Baha’is solely for practicing their faith. Among other things, the government severely restricts Baha’is right to education, including prohibiting Baha’i students from registering at universities and expelling them if their identities are discovered.”

The group has also raised alarm about the Iranian government’s discriminatory stance against other religious minority religious communities, such as Sunni Muslims. The Iranian government is additionally accused of suppressing the cultural and political activities of the Kurdish, Azerbaijani, Baluchi, and Arab ethnic groups.

Former Secretary of the Iranian Judiciary’s High Council for Human Rights, Mohammad Javad Larijani, has in the past indicated that the Iranian Constitution fails to recognize Baha’i as a religion. Instead, it is categorized as a sect, with Larijani stating, “according to our constitution, there is no Baha’i religion. It is a sect. [Nevertheless] they are entitled to government benefits and to all the services it provides its citizens, as long as they abide by the constitution.”

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Samuel Gush

Samuel Gush is a Technology, Entertainment, and Political News writer at Communal News.

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