‘Stop persecuting peaceful religious gatherings in private homes’, UN rapporteur tells Iran

‘Stop persecuting peaceful religious gatherings in private homes’, UN rapporteur tells Iran

Javaid Rehman alongside Article18’s Mansour Borji at the UN Human Rights Council presentation of our 2023 annual report.

UN Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman has told the Islamic Republic of Iran to “end the criminalisation of the peaceful expression of faith” and “refrain from persecuting peaceful religious gatherings in private homes and other premises”.

“In many cases, members of ethnic and religious minorities have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in connection with a range of peaceful activities,” including “simply participating in religious or cultural activities”, Mr Rehman says in his final report to the UN Human Rights Council.

Iran must “end the targeting, harassment and persecution of recognised and non-recognised religious minorities,” “monitoring citizens on account of their religious identity”, and “convicting religious leaders … [on] national security-related charges”, he says.

Mr Rehman’s comments echo those he made in one of his earliest reports, which contained a special focus on Iran’s mistreatment of ethnic and religious minorities.

The rapporteur notes how Christian converts are among the unrecognised religious groups who are “the targets of discriminatory legislation and persistent persecution” and whose lack of constitutional and legal recognition denies them “their fundamental human and minority rights”. 

The “systematic, state-initiated persecution of Christian converts, including forcible denials of their right to freedom of religion or belief, constitutes substantial violations of their rights”, he says.

“Christian converts are targeted and harassed, and many who are arrested are charged with ‘propaganda against the system’, ‘propagation of Zionist evangelical Christianity’ or ‘administering and managing home churches… Since conversions from Islam are not permitted, Christian converts face the risk of apostasy and blasphemy [charges], which carry the death penalty.”

Mr Rehman calls for Article 13 of the Constitution – which recognises only Jews, Zoroastrians and [Armenian and Assyrian] Christians as religious minorities – to be amended so everyone can “fully enjoy the right to freedom of religion or belief”.

Every Iranian must “be guaranteed the right to freedom of religion or belief, as provided in article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”, and treated equally before the law, “without distinction of any kind, such as race, sex, language, religion, sexual orientation and political or other opinion”, he says.

What else does the report say?

The report ends with a list of all the recommendations Mr Rehman has made during his six-year tenure as Special Rapporteur, and the final report itself includes all his key themes, such as:

  • Calling for the abolition of the death penalty, especially for those whose crime was committed while under the age of 18.
  • Ensuring everyone has the right to a fair trial and due process, by abolishing revolutionary courts, instituting an independent judiciary, and allowing defendants access to a lawyer of their own choosing.
  • Ending arbitrary arrest and physical and psychological torture, including prolonged solitary confinement and forced confessions. 
  • Releasing those detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of opinion, expression, assembly, association, or freedom of religion or belief, and ceasing the use of lethal force against protesters.
  • Ceasing the arbitrary arrest of foreign and dual nationals.
  • Ending the repression and targeting of human rights defenders.
  • Ending discrimination and other violations against women and girls, including child marriages, honour killings and compulsory hijab.
  • Improving prison conditions, including by reducing overcrowding and ensuring detainees have access to medical care.

Quoting the contents of this article in part is permitted. However, no part of it may be used for any fundraising appeal, or for any publication where donations are requested.