laws protecting the rights of unrecognised religious minorities to ensure the religious moral
education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.
The Ministry of Education determines the religious curricula of public schools, which must all
include a course on Shia Islamic teachings. All curricula must include a course on Shia Islamic
teaching although Sunnis and members from recognised religious minorities may take separate
courses on their religious beliefs. While pupils from recognised minority faiths have access to
religious instruction designed by members of their religious communities (but approved by the
Ministry of Education), those from unrecognised faiths are obliged to study only Shia Islam.6 7
In 2017, children of parents and guardians from the Christian minority have reportedly been
threatened to be expelled from their school if they refused to study Shia Islam.8 Teaching of
Sunni religion has reportedly been banned in some public schools, even those located in
predominantly Sunni areas.9 Reports of Baha’i schoolchildren experiencing exclusion,
harassment and abuse are regular.10 In July 2020, a secondary school student was reportedly
expelled from their school after mentioning that they were a member of the Baha’i faith.11
Yet the Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
have noted that public education that includes instruction in a particular religion or belief is
inconsistent with Articles 18.412 of the ICCPR and 13 of the CESCR,13 “unless provision is
made for non-discriminatory exemptions or alternatives that would accommodate the wishes of
parents and guardians”. The imposition of Shia Islam-centred education as exemplified above is
therefore inconsistent with the ICCPR.
Article 8 of the Charter of the Citizen’s Rights stipulates that “The Government shall refrain
from adopting any decision and taking any action that leads to the widening of the class divide,
undue discrimination or deprivation of citizen’s rights” including in the context of educational
opportunities. Additionally, during its last Universal Periodic Review session in 2019 the
Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran affirmed that minorities were free to choose their
schools.14 Yet, following a new ministry initiative entitled Project Mehr, the Minister of
6

Faith and Future, 2018, https://faithandafuture.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Faith_and_a_Future_HR.pdf
2019 Report on International Religious Freedom: Iran, U.S. Department of State, https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-reporton-international-religious-freedom/iran/
8
Christian Solidarity Worldwide, http://www.csw.org.uk/2017/09/07/news/3694/article.html
9
2019 Report on International Religious Freedom: Iran, U.S. Department of State, https://www.state.gov/reports/2019-reporton-international-religious-freedom/iran/
10
Faith and Future, 2018, https://faithandafuture.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Faith_and_a_Future_HR.pdf
11
Center for Human Rights in Iran, 2020, https://www.iranhumanrights.org/2020/07/bahai-youth-expelled-from-secondaryschool-for-gifted-students-solely-due-to-his-faith/ For more information also see Baha'is
International Community’s (BIC) page on Bahais in Iran, https://www.bic.org/focus-areas/situation-iranian-bahais)
12
CCPR General Comment No.22: Article 18 (Freedom of Thought, Conscience or Religion)
https://www.refworld.org/docid/453883fb22.html
13
CESCR General Comment No. 13: The Right to Education (Art. 13) https://www.refworld.org/pdfid/4538838c22.pdf
14
Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review Islamic Republic of Iran, 27 December 2019,
https://undocs.org/A/HRC/43/12
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