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September 4, 2012
Marina Nemat

Since the success of the Islamic revolution of Iran in 1979, Iran’s religious minorities, who are about one percent of a population of about 70 million, have lived in fear even though Iranian law, which is based on sharia law, seemingly protects their rights. The Iranian regime boasts that Christians, Zoroastrians, and Jews in Iran have representatives in the parliament and can worship freely. Needless to say, the Iranian parliament is a masquerade altogether; the Supreme Leader in Iran has unlimited powers and can veto the decisions of the parliament.  Yes, some religious minorities do have places of worship in Iran but their members are strictly prohibited from advertising their religion in public or trying to convert Muslims to their religion. There is no real religious freedom in Iran. If a Muslim converts to another religion, he/she could be easily condemned to death. One of the ongoing cases of “apostasy” in Iran is that of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani (pictured below), who was arrested in October 2009 and was condemned to death.

 

He was from a Muslim family and had converted to Christianity. Another court date has now been assigned for him and he has to face another trial on September 8, 2012, the outcome of which is entirely unpredictable but can easily lead to another death sentence

Bahaism is illegal in Iran, and members of that community have been harassed and persecuted only because of their beliefs. Right now, 7 leaders and many members of the Bahai community remain in Iranian prisons.

It is terribly disappointing that the international community has not paid enough attention to the persecution of religious minorities in Iran, and the support of countries like China and Russia has made it possible for the Iranian regime to maintain its violent reign of fear. I strongly encourage world leaders and individuals to write to Iranian authorities and demand the release of Nadarkhani and all the members and leaders of the Bahai community.

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Marina Nemat is author of "Prisoner of Tehran" and "After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed", a public speaker, and an advocate for religious freedom. 



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