Iran, the second largest nation in the Middle East, has a population of more than 80 million, of which (on paper at least) 99% are identified as Muslim. The Muslim majority includes a Shia majority (90%) and 9% Sunni Muslims (Turkmen, Arabs, Baluchis and Kurds). The remaining 1% of non-Muslim population are identified as Baha’is, Christians, Jews, Sabean-Mandaeans, Zoroastrians, and Yarsanis. A considerable part of the Muslim population practice Sufism. Iran experienced a far-reaching Islamization of law and society after the Islamic revolution in 1979. Hassan Rouhani is the state’s president since 2013.
|Constitution and government||Education and children’s rights||Family, community, society, religious courts and tribunals||Freedom of expression advocacy of humanist values|
Expression of non-religious views is severely persecuted, or is rendered almost impossible by severe social stigma, or is highly likely to be met with hatred or violence
Government figures or state agencies openly marginalize, harass, or incite hatred or violence against the non-religious
Government authorities push a socially conservative, religiously or ideologically inspired agenda, without regard to the rights of those with progressive views
Countries: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Belgium, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Congo, Republic of the, Djibouti, Ethiopia, France, Iceland, India, Japan, Korea, Republic of, Mali, Mexico, Mozambique, Nauru, Netherlands, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, United States of America, Uruguay
Countries: Andorra, Angola, Azerbaijan, Barbados, Bhutan, Bolivia, Congo, Democratic Republic of, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Mauritius, Montenegro, Namibia, Seychelles, Slovakia, South Sudan, Tonga, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Viet Nam
Countries: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Canada, Chile, Congo, Republic of the, Dominica, Ecuador, Estonia, France, Ghana, Guatemala, Iceland, Japan, Korea, Republic of, Kosovo, Latvia, Mexico, Micronesia, Monaco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nauru, Netherlands, Norway, Palau, Poland, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Serbia, Sweden, Taiwan, Uruguay, Venezuela
Countries: Angola, Austria, Barbados, Bhutan, Botswana, Congo, Democratic Republic of, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Gabon, Greece, Grenada, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lesotho, Lithuania, Mauritius, Mongolia, Montenegro, Nicaragua, Panama, Saint Lucia, Seychelles, Slovakia, South Africa, South Sudan, Suriname, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkmenistan, Vanuatu, Viet Nam
Countries: no countries relate to this boundary condition
Countries: no countries relate to this boundary condition
Countries: no countries relate to this boundary condition
This condition is unusual in that it is applied in cases where there is some social discrimination, but it is not pervasive or nationwide. This condition is applied when there is sufficient background evidence to warrant the assertion that discrimination is not anomalous but widespread, and this condition may be applied for example even where if there is no legislative discrimination or where the non-religious may have legal recourse against such discrimination. However, societal discrimination (i.e. discrimination by peers, as opposed to state or legal discrimination) is not easily measured, and for this reason the Report does not currently have similar more severe boundary conditions to capture higher levels of social discrimination per se. In principle these may be introduced in future. However, we consider that countries with actual higher levels of social discrimination against the non-religious will generally already meet other higher level (more severe) boundary conditions under this thematic strand.
Countries: United States of America
Countries: North Korea
Countries: Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Bahrain, Belize, Botswana, Cambodia, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Finland, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Latvia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Moldova, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Countries: Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Belize, Brunei Darussalam, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Comoros, Costa Rica, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, Eritrea, Fiji, Finland, Gambia, Germany, Guinea, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kosovo, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, Senegal, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Spain, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Switzerland, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe
Countries: Austria, Bahamas, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Central African Republic, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Fiji, Finland, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Italy, Kenya, Kiribati, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, New Zealand, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Serbia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, Spain, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Venezuela
Countries: Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Burundi, Central African Republic, Congo, Democratic Republic of, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Guinea, Honduras, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Libya, Madagascar, Malaysia, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Russia, Samoa, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Zambia
Countries: Armenia, Benin, Bhutan, Cambodia, Cameroon, Chad, Congo, Republic of the, Côte d'Ivoire, Cuba, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, India, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Singapore, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Venezuela, Zimbabwe
Countries: Albania, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Fiji, Georgia, Ghana, Guyana, Haiti, Hungary, India, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Kiribati, Korea, Republic of, Kosovo, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Liberia, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritania, Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Mongolia, Mozambique, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Turkey, United Kingdom, Vanuatu
This condition is applied where there are miscellaneous indicators that organs of the state offer various forms of support for a religion, or to religion in general over non-religious worldviews, suggesting a preference for those beliefs, or that the organs of that religion are privileged.
Countries: Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Bahamas, Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burundi, Canada, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Mauritius, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nepal, Nigeria, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Romania, Rwanda, San Marino, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Zimbabwe
Countries: Albania, Andorra, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Colombia, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Dominica, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Finland, Germany, Guatemala, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Kiribati, Korea, Republic of, Latvia, Liberia, Luxembourg, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Palau, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Singapore, Swaziland, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States of America, Vanuatu
This condition highlights countries where schools subject children to fundamentalist religious instruction with no real opportunity to question fundamentalist tenets, or where lessons routinely encourage hatred (for example religious or ethnic hatred). The wording “significant number of schools” is not given a rigid quantification (sometimes the worst-offending schools are unregistered, illegal, or otherwise uncounted); however the condition is not applied in cases where only a small number of schools meet the description and may be anomalous, as opposed to being indicative of a widespread problem.
Countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gambia, Hungary, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Madagascar, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria, Oman, Palestine, Paraguay, Qatar, Russia, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Zimbabwe
Countries: Angola, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Congo, Republic of the, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Ethiopia, Germany, Ghana, Haiti, Hungary, Italy, Jamaica, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritania, Mexico, Nepal, North Korea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Serbia, Singapore, Tajikistan, Tonga, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Zambia
Countries: Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Costa Rica, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Finland, Georgia, Haiti, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Liechtenstein, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritania, Monaco, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Oman, Pakistan, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Tunisia, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, Yemen, Zambia
Countries: Argentina, Armenia, Belize, Botswana, Cambodia, Chad, China, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Guinea, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Oman, Palestine, Peru, Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Countries: Algeria, Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Benin, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Kiribati, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Mauritania, Moldova, Morocco, Myanmar (Burma), Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, Oman, Philippines, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Samoa, Sierra Leone, Slovenia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Tonga, Tunisia, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Countries: Algeria, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Comoros, Cyprus, Egypt, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Germany, Greece, Grenada, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Morocco, New Zealand, Oman, Palestine, Poland, Qatar, Russia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Countries: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Central African Republic, Chad, Denmark, Eritrea, Germany, Haiti, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Romania, Rwanda, Solomon Islands, Switzerland, Tanzania, Tunisia, United Kingdom
Countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Gambia, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Macedonia, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, Tanzania, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen
This condition may apply if specifically religious education, religious materials, or specific religious denominations are so tightly controlled that children are in fact over-protected from exposure to religion and are likely unable to explore or construct their own worldview in accordance with their evolving capacities. This condition helps us to classify states (perhaps with secular constitutions) which have criminalized specifically religious beliefs or practices. This condition is not applied if the restricted beliefs or practices are found to be outlawed due to their being of an extremist variety. While this condition does not directly reflect discrimination against non-religious persons or non-religious ideas, it does represent an overall threat to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief; such restrictions could spill over to affect non-religious beliefs later; and they pose a risk of backlash against over-zealous secular authorities or even against non-religious individuals by association.
Countries: Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Bhutan, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Chad, Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, El Salvador, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iran, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica, Jordan, Korea, Republic of, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Maldives, Malta, Mauritius, Montenegro, Myanmar (Burma), Namibia, Nepal, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Timor-Leste (East Timor), Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Yemen, Zimbabwe
- Constitution and government
- Education and children’s rights
- Family, community and society
- Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values
- Highlighted cases
Constitution and government
There is no freedom of religion or belief in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the freedoms of expression, association and assembly are severely restricted by the theocratic regime. Iranian law bars any criticism of Islam or deviation from the ruling Islamic standards. Government leaders use these laws to persecute religious minorities and dissidents.
The constitution declares that Islam (Ja’afari Shiism) is the state religion. Articles 12 and 13 divide citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran into four religious categories: Muslims, Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians. Nonbelievers are effectively left out and aren’t afforded any rights or protections. They must declare their faith in one of the four officially recognized religions in order to be able to claim a number of legal rights, such as the possibility to apply for the general examination to enter any university in Iran. The authorities classify Yarsanis as Shia Muslims practicing Sufism, although Yarsanis identify Yarsan as a distinct faith. Similarly, Sabean-Mandaeans do not consider themselves as Christians, but the government classifies them among the Christian groups.
According to the constitution, the main Sunni schools of Islam have to be “accorded full respect”. However, all religious minority groups, including Sunni Muslims, face harassment, restrictions and discrimination in employment, education and housing.
The Baha’i faith is not recognized and its members face immense discrimination. The members of the Baha’i community are generally prevented from burying their dead according to their traditions and many cemeteries have been destroyed. Their community is prohibited from officially assembling. Authorities often prevent Baha’is from leaving the country and generally disregards their property rights. According to the law, Baha’i blood can be spilled with impunity and there is no restitution to their families. Some religious leaders state publicly that Baha’is are “unclean” and that conducting business with them is forbidden. Several Baha’i leaders remain in detention. The members of the Baha’i minority face substantial societal discrimination.
Sufism is similarly denounced by Shia clerics in public statements. Security services harass and intimidate prominent Sufi leaders and the government restricts Sufi activities.
Article 110 of the Constitution lists all the powers granted to the Spiritual Leader (a Muslim religious and political leader), appointed by his peers for an unlimited duration. Among others, the Spiritual Leader exercises his control over the judiciary, the army, the police, the radio, the television, but also over the President and the Parliament, institutions elected by the people. Article 91 of the Constitution establishes a body known as the “Guardian Council” whose function is to examine the compatibility of all legislation enacted by the Islamic Consultative Assembly with “the criteria of Islam and the Constitution” and who can therefore veto any and all legislation. Half of the members of the Guardian Council are appointed by the Spiritual Leader and the other half are elected by the Islamic Consultative Assembly from among the Muslim jurists nominated by the Head of the Judicial Power (who is, himself, appointed by the Spiritual Leader).
The Guardian Council exercise a double control of any draft legislation, with two different procedures: conformity with the Constitution (all 12 elected members vote, a simple majority recognizes the constitutionality) and conformity with Islam (only the six religious leaders elected personally by the Spiritual leader vote, and a simple majority is required to declare the compatibility of a draft legislation with Islam). Consequently, four religious leaders may block all draft legislation enacted by the Parliament. The Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader thus centralize all powers in Iran.
Only Muslims are able to take part in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and to conduct public affairs at a high level. According to the Constitution, non-Muslims cannot hold the following key decision-making positions: President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who must be a Shi’a Muslim (Article 1156); Commanders in the Islamic Army (Article 1447); Judges, at any level (Article 163 and law of 1983 on the selection of judges 8).
Non-Muslims are not eligible to become members of the Parliament (the Islamic Consultative Assembly) through the general elections and non-Muslims cannot become members of the Guardian Council—the most powerful governing body in Iran.
Iran operates harsh form of Sharia—Islamic law—that punishes a wide range of political, social and moral offenses with flogging, amputation, and execution. Amendments to Iran’s penal code in 2013 eliminated execution by stoning. However, Iran still carries out hundreds of executions by hanging every year. Many executions are for the crime of “enmity against God”(moharebeh).
Discrimination in application of the law
A study of the Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran reveals that, for a number of offences, the punishment differs in function of the religion of the victim and/or the religion of the offender. The fate of Muslim victims and offenders is systematically more favourable than that of non-Muslims, showing that the life and physical integrity of Muslims is given a much higher value than that of non-Muslims. This institutionalized discrimination is particularly blatant for the following crimes:
- Adultery: The sanctions for adultery vary widely according to the religion of both members of the couple. A Muslim man who commits adultery with a Muslim woman is punished by 100 lashes (Article 88). However, a non-Muslim man who commits adultery with a Muslim woman is subject to the death penalty (Article 82-c). If a Muslim man commits adultery with a non-Muslim woman, the Penal Code does not specify any penalty.
- Homosexuality: Likewise, homosexuality “without consummation” between two Muslim men is punished by 100 lashes (Article 121) but if the “active party” is non-Muslim and the other Muslim, the non-Muslim is subject to the death penalty…
- Crimes against the Deceased: Article 494 stipulates penalties for crimes against a deceased Muslim but the Penal Code does not edict any penalties for the violation of the corpse of a non-Muslim.
Education and children’s rights
Religious instruction is mandatory in public schools. All recognized religious minority groups are allowed to open private schools. However, the directors of the schools must be, with a few exceptions, Muslims, and the content of school books and curricula must be approved by the government. Christians and Jews are allowed to teach in Hebrew, but the distribution of Hebrew books is limited, what makes it difficult to teach the language. All languages have to be translated into Persian, in order to be approved by the authorities and impose significant translation fees on the religious minority groups. The government eliminated in the recent years almost all Persian-language church services, restricting them to Assyrian and Armenian languages. The teaching of languages has thereby become important for religious minority groups.
Sunni Muslims are not allowed to build new schools and report bans on teachings in public schools and on religious literature, even in predominantly Sunni Muslim areas. Jewish students are not required to attend school on Saturdays. However, Jewish schools have to remain open on Saturdays, violating the Jewish religious law.
Baha’is are actively prevented from attending universities. They have to identify with a recognized religious minority group in order to inscribe at a university. A government order requires that Baha’is must be expelled from universities if their religious affiliation becomes known and Baha’is are sometimes required to sign a statement at university, which states that they will not attend any Baha’i religious activity. Further, the order states that “Baha’i children should be enrolled in Shia Islamic schools with a strong and imposing religious ideology”. The Baha’i community reports that their children in public schools face attempts by their teachers and administrators to convert them to Islam. Teachers generally ask Baha’i and other non-Shia children about their families’ religious practices, as for instance if their parents fulfill their duties of the religious prayers at home, etc.
Family, community and society
No civil or secular family law
The legal interpretation of Islam forces all citizens, with no regard to their faith, to follow strict rules based on religion.
Family law derives exclusively from religious law, for Shia Muslims it is the Sharia based on Shia interpretation and for other recognized religious groups, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians, they can relate to their own norms. Sunni Muslims can apply their laws in marriage, divorce and inheritance matters. Baha’i marriages and divorces are officially not recognised, but the government allows a civil attestation of marriage to serve as a marriage certificate. The legal age of marriage is 13 years for girls and 15 for boys and is the same for all sectarian groups. Generally both spouses have to agree to a marriage. However women are discriminated in law and practice.
Same-sex relationships are illegal in Iran for women and men.
Discrimination against women
Women are considered to be under male guardianship. Article 1105 of the civil code states that men are the exclusive head of the family and women do not have the same rights as men regarding child custody. Further, women are discriminated in inheritance law and inherit less than their male relatives. Women can hardly obtain a divorce, even with the Islamic principle of “khula”, where a woman obtains a divorce and forfeits all future financial support from her husband, she still needs the consent of her husband. There is no specific law criminalizing domestic violence. Rape is not recognised as a distinct offence, but rather as adultery and a rape victim must present four male eyewitnesses in order to prove the crime. Female witnesses count only the half of male witnesses. Spousal rape is not recognised. Men have the right to sign a temporary marriage contract (sigheh) according to Shia interpretation of religious law. Adultery is considered a crime and be punished with the death sentence. Polygyny is allowed, meaning that Muslim men can marry up to four wives. Women need the permission of their male guardian in order to obtain a passport and to travel abroad. Married women need their husband’s permission to work outside the home.
Gender segregation is enforced throughout the country. Women are required to cover their hair and fully covering their body in loose clothing. “Un-Islamic” dress is periodically punished by the authorities. In 2014 women in Isfahan protested against at least acid attacks against women. The women were targeted because their clothing was considred not to conform to Islamic norms.
Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values
The law does not provide religious freedom to Muslims and conversion from Islam is considered apostasy, which is punishable by death. A child born to a Muslim father is automatically considered to be Muslim. Proselytizing to Muslims can be punished with the capital sentence as well.
“Enmity against God” and blasphemy
The government jails and executes periodically dozens of individuals on charges of “enmity against God” (moharebeh). Although this crime is framed as a religious offense, and may be used against atheists and other religious dissenters, it is most often used as a punishment for political acts that challenge the regime (on the basis that to oppose the theocratic regime is to oppose Allah).
According to Iran’s Islamic penal code, insulting the prophet is punishable by death, although a clause states if the accused states the insults were the result of a mistake or were made in anger, the sentence can be reduced to 74 lashes. The usual method of execution in Iran is hanging.
Media and “morals”
The Press Court has extensive power to prosecute journalists and control print media. It uses this power to prevent publication of anything that could be seen as critical of the regime or contrary to its strict interpretation of Shi’a Islam. Numerous periodicals are closed for morality or security offenses every year. In 2012, even the head of the state news agency, Ali Akbar Javanfek, was jailed for six months for publishing content “contrary to Islamic standards.”
Freedom of expression is severely restricted by the regime. The government directly controls all television and radio broadcasting, and outlaws the reception of independent media, for example by making it illegal to own a satellite dish. Cooperation with Persian-language satellite news channels based abroad is banned; for example, a leading economist, Fariborz Raisdana, was arrested in December 2010 for criticizing Iranian economic policies on the Persian service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Professor Raisdana began serving a one-year prison term in May 2012. In addition, Iranian journalists living abroad have been intimidated by the Iranian government, for example by the harassment of family members who still live in Iran. Iran ranks second in the world for the number of jailed journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. In July 2013, following the election of the new president of Iran, widely seen as more moderate than his predecessor, Iranian authorities jailed seven more journalists (see individual case below) and arrested several others in a renewed media crackdown.
Iranian filmmakers are subject to tight restrictions. In January 2012, the government ordered the closure of the House of Cinema, an independent association that supported around 5,000 Iranian filmmakers and artists.
On July 13, 2013, seven members of the Dervish religious minority were sentenced to a total of 56 years for running a news website.
Internet and protest
Access to the Internet has soared over the last five years in Iran. As with the “Arab Spring” uprisings, in 2009 many Iranians used mobile phones and social media to organize and publicize widespread protests—the “Green Movement” against the regime. In fact the use of social networking technology was so central to the popular protests that the democratic uprising became known as “The Twitter Revolution.” The government responded by creating draconian new laws to restrict access to communication tools, persecute dissidents for their online activity, and strengthen the government’s already powerful censorship system. The major social-media sites—such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube—were blocked after the 2009 election. In 2012, the authorities unveiled new regulations that require cybercafés to record the personal information and browsing histories of every customer. The first phase of a national intranet, aimed at disconnecting the population from the WorldWideWeb, was launched in September 2012.
Sattar Beheshti, an Iranian blogger and activist, died during torture and interrogation in Evin Prison in early November 2012, several days after being arrested by the Iranian Cyber Police unit for criticizing the government of the Islamic Republic. In 2016, a 16-year prison sentence was upheld against human rights defender Narges Mohammadi by Iran’s Appeals Court for her peaceful human rights work. Among other things, she had been calling for the prosecution and fair trial of Sattar Beheshti’s interrogator.
Freedom of association and assembly
Freedom of association and assembly are severely limited in Iran. The constitutional prohibition against public demonstrations that “are detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam” is used to ban any demonstration the authorities may not like. The government condones violent groups of vigilante, and extra-legal paramilitary groups—such as the Basij and Ansar-i Hezbollah—that are used to break up demonstrations by assaulting the protestors, often resulting in serious, permanent injuries and even death. Even peaceful, non-political protests are put down with brutal force.
In November 2014, the Supreme court upheld the death sentence of blogger Soheil Arabi for the charge of “insulting the Prophet Muhammad” on Facebook.
In February 2014, the Supreme court upheld the death sentence of Ruhollah Tavana for insulting the Prophet Muhammad.
In January 2012, the country’s Supreme Court confirmed the previously handed down death sentence for 35-year-old web designer and Canadian resident Saeed Malekpour. He had returned to Iran in 2008 to visit his dying father and was arrested for “insulting and desecrating Islam” for allegedly creating a computer program used by others to download pornography.
In January, 2017 21 year old, Sina Dehghan was sentenced to death for insulting Islam. Dehghan had been sentenced to death by Iranian authorities for ‘insulting Islam’ through messages he had sent on an instant messaging app. Reports claim that he was ‘tricked into signing his own death warrant’ after he was forced to confess to breach of Islamic law, with the promise of release if he did so. However, authorities dropped the agreement after his confession and sentenced him to death in January 2017. Human Rights groups in Iran have since been fighting to save Dehghan from his hanging. The Centre for Human Rights in Iran reports that prosecutors asked Dehghan be sentenced to death for “insulting the prophet” as well as to 16 months in prison for “insulting the supreme leader”. It was also reported that co-defendants Sahar Eliasi and Mohammad Nouri were also convicted of posting anti-Islamic material on social media. Nouri was issued a death sentence, and Eliasi had his seven-year prison sentence reduced to three on appeal. However it is unknown if the supreme court has given its final ruling.
“I only came out as an atheist with my closest friends. Being an atheist and saying this in public is considered as big crime and is being sentenced to death. Nobody says that he or she is an atheist so easily in Iran, although the majority of the population is in fact. That’s the reason I never had to fear bad consequences in my family and with my friends. They all think like me. It would even be more disturbing to them if I say I am a believer.”