Washington, DC –The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) deplores Iran’s pursuit of death sentences on religiously-grounded charges against protesters asserting their freedom of religion or belief. Iran has indicted over 2,000 protesters since the killing of Mahsa (Zhina) Amini on September 16 for wearing “improper hijab,” a legal standard based on an interpretation of religion and imposed on Iranian women without their consent. On November 14, the Tehran Revolutionary Court sentenced a protester to death on charges including “enmity against God” and “corruption on Earth,” both of which are grounded in religious interpretations. Scores of protesters face similar sentences, raising credible concerns of large-scale executions of protesters in Iran in the coming weeks.
“Iran’s desperate attempt to violently repress Iranians seeking fundamental guarantees of freedom of religion or belief is deplorable,” said USCIRF Commissioner Sharon Kleinbaum. “We applaud the United Nations Human Rights Council for scheduling a special session on Iran and urge the U.S. government to continue to advocate for a UN investigative mechanism to hold accountable Iranian government officials complicit in religious freedom and related human rights violations. Furthermore, the Biden administration must pursue every available measure to support Iranians asserting their internationally-guaranteed human rights and sanction officials responsible for these ongoing and violent crackdowns.”
Since the outbreak of protests, Iran’s government has escalated its use of violent force against protesters calling for greater religious freedom and other rights. Security forces have used live fire, including against children. Detained protesters have reported incidents of sexual harassment in Ward 209 of Evin Prison as well as threats of sexual assault and rape by interrogators.
“Despite government violence, arrests, mass trials, and death sentences, the Iranian people’s continuing struggle for religious freedom is inspiring,” said USCIRF Commissioner Eric Ueland. “The United States should lead the international community in uplifting and amplifying the voices of Iranians calling for greater freedom of religion or belief.”
In its 2022 Annual Report, USCIRF recommended that the U.S. State Department designate Iran as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its systematic, ongoing, and egregious religious freedom violations. USCIRF recently published a country update on religious freedom conditions in Iran so far in 2022, held a hearing on “State-Sanctioned Religious Freedom Violations and Coercion by Saudi Arabia and Iran,” highlighted the situation for religious prisoners of conscience in Iran on a USCIRF Spotlight Podcast, and published a report with an accompanying event on Religious Propaganda in Iran.