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Help Us Keep Covering Religious Minorities in Iran

August 9, 2021
5 min read
Help Us Keep Covering Religious Minorities in Iran

Every year, a group of eminent economists compile the World Happiness Report: a global study taking in such diverse factors as GDP per capita, healthy life expectancy, civil liberties and the local corruption perceptions index. Taking all these indicators together, this year scholars named Finland the “happiest country in the world” while Norway, New Zealand, Canada, Israel and Costa Rica also featured in the top 20.

The unifying factor between these countries was not topography, but high levels of perceived equality and freedom. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or creed is a core principle enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 of the same emphasizes people’s freedom of religion or belief.

On paper Iran remains a signatory to this declaration. But its non-application in the country today is well-known; no small wonder, perhaps, that it ranked 118th our of 153 countries examined for the latest World Happiness Report. This includes a general disregard by the Islamic Republic of the provisions regarding freedom of worship.

IranWire has worked for years to cover the day-to-day problems faced by religious minorities in the country. In our news reports, videos, cartoons and guest submissions, and with the help of our colleagues in other disciplines, we have examined the status of religious minorities in Iran, both on paper within the framework of Iranian law and in practice.

These efforts continue now with our partners at the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center. If you have been exposed to religious discrimination in Iran, you can report it to us via this form

News on Religious Minorities

IranWire strives to provide comprehensive coverage of violations of religious minorities’ rights in Iran. Pressure on non-Shia Muslim citizens across the country, particularly the Baha’i community, began in the immediate aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and continues today. Every year, dozens of people are summoned, arrested, and sent to prison for peacefully practicing their faith.

The coronavirus outbreak has put some of these arbitrary detainees at grave risk. In June 2021, IranWire covered reports of Covid-19 among Baha'i women in Birjand Prison, who had lost their senses of smell and taste and had symptoms such as fever, chills, and sore throats. In English, we reported on an elderly Christian couple jailed in the middle of a pandemic for the “crime” of belonging to a house church.

Our citizen journalists have strived to foreground the voices of some of Iran’s hardest-to-reach communities, from undercut Mandaean goldsmiths being harassed by police to Tehran-based Armenian Christians packing their bags after generations spent in the country. You can read all our coverage of news events affecting Iran’s religious minority communities here or to speak to one of our reporters about a story idea, email [email protected].  

Legal Expertise and Official Documents

When cases involving apparent violations of religious minorities’ rights arise, we regularly try to scrutinize them with the help of jurists and lawyers. This has helped us examine wide-ranging issues like property and inheritance law in Iran, and documented breaches of domestic and international law in individual cases like that of Behnam Mahjoubi, a jailed Gonabadi dervish who died in February.

Wherever possible, we also keep our readers informed on what different components of the Iranian regime have to say on issues of religious minority rights. In March we shared a leaked document containing plans drafted by intelligence and security officials to control the Baha’i and dervish populations in Sari. We also highlighted a National Defense University-backed study that called the country’s Yarsani community a “security threat”, and separately, the proliferation of antisemitic content in secondary school textbooks.

Profiling Key Figures in Iran’s Contemporary History

Countless non-Shia Muslim citizens have played an important role in shaping the physical landscape, knowledge and culture of modern-day Iran. Our Persian service is compiling a series of long-form features profiling prominent members of religious minorities who had an impact on the course of the country in recent decades.

The team has also taken a deep-dive into the lives and times of some key Sunni Muslim figures in Kurdistan province, western Iran. They include Mohammad Rabieh, who was killed in the chain murders of the 1990s, Ahmad Muftizadeh, a Sunni scholar, Osman Naqshbandi, leader of the Naqshbandi dynasty, and Sheikh Ezedin Hosseini. If you know of a person whose life and biography ought to be featured in either of these collections, don’t hesitate to contact us.

In late 2020, at a time when health workers the world over were rightly being recognized for their dedication and bravery, IranWire also initiated a series of features on Baha'i physicians and medical practitioners who lost their lives prematurely under the Islamic Republic. Many of the subjects were fired, detained, harassed, tortured, or executed after the Islamic Revolution, robbing the country of expertise that might have been shared for decades to come. In tandem with this, we have profiled numerous Jewish Iranians and Iranian Baha’is who died defending their homeland in the Iran-Iraq War.

Webinars and Gatherings

IranWire is bringing together thinkers and followers of different global religions to discuss an array of topics and how they apply in the Iranian context in a special webinar series. Three events have been held so far, covering the death penalty and the right to life, gender equality, and attitudes to politics ahead of the June 2021 election. Anyone who would like to participate in or suggest a topic for future discussions is welcome to get in touch.

Readers are also invited to take part in our "We Are Iran" contest. IranWire’s Persian team has issued a callout for exclusive photographs, videos and text submissions that capture the coexistence of different religions in Iran, or bring to light previously-unreported information pertaining to religious minorities in the country. Click the link for more information.

The Atlas of Religious Minorities

Knowing a little about the attitudes and beliefs of people around us, and being familiar with their historic customs and traditions, can help in the collective transition from xenophobia and closed-mindedness to altruism and mutual respect. With this in mind, we wanted to create an easy-to-access resource for Persian speakers to learn more about their compatriots of different faiths.

IranWire’s Atlas of Religious Minorities began publishing on March 10 this year. It contains a wealth of information related to Iran’s various religions (both official and unofficial) and sects, as well as rolling news about Mandaeans, Jews, Yarsanis, Christians, Zoroastrians, Baha'is, Gonabadi dervishes, and other religious minorities.

To contribute to any of these projects, or to share your ideas on how we might improve our coverage of religious minorities in Iran, please email [email protected].

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