safeguarding the right of religious minorities to worship, maintain places of worship or
assembly, the structural exclusion of other religious minorities leaves them without legal
protection to manifest and practice their religion or belief. Further, regulations may actively
discriminate against members belonging to unrecognized religious minorities. For instance, a
new rule proclaimed in January 2020, will only allow citizens to register as one of the country’s
recognised religions to the state-issued National Identity Card—which is required for almost all
administrative and other procedures. 6 A bill currently under the review of the Iranian Parliament
would criminalise “any deviant educational or proselytizing activity that contradicts or interferes
with the sacred law of Islam” when it is, among others, part of a “sect,” or through the use of
“mind control methods and psychological indoctrination.” As stipulated by the Human Rights
Committee, the mere ‘contradiction’ or ‘interference’ with the State’s official religion is not a
permissible ground for the restriction of the right to religion or belief.7 Additionally, such bill
may well disproportionately affect individuals belonging to unrecognised religious minorities,
such as the Baha’is, numbering 350,000 in Iran, 8 who are often arrested and detained on the
basis of their religious beliefs, notably on the charge of proselytising the Baha’i faith.9
Many elements of Iran’s domestic legal framework discriminate between Shia Muslims, Muslim
and non-Muslim minorities, including also recognised minorities. According to the Constitution
of the Islamic Republic of Iran, candidates for the presidency must follow the official religion of
the State, as well as for members of the Assembly of Experts, the Guardian Council or the
Expediency Council, excluding Muslim and non-Muslim minorities from holding high
governmental positions. 10 Further, Article 881 of the Civil Code bars non-Muslims from
inheriting property from Muslims. The Islamic Penal Code (IPC) also prescribes different
penalties depending on the religion of the perpetrator and/or the victim of some crimes.
The lack of legal safeguards enables the Iranian authorities to restrict the rights of members
belonging to religious minorities and even to criminalize a wide range of their peaceful activities.
Reports have shown that religious minorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran face human rights
violations such as arbitrary deprivation of life and extrajudicial executions, a disproportionate
number of executions on national security-related charges; arbitrary arrests and detention in
connection with range of peaceful activities, incitement to hatred, forced closure of businesses


Center for Human Rights in Iran,
UN Human Rights Committee (HRC), CCPR General Comment No. 22: Article 18 (Freedom of Thought, Conscience or
Religion), 30 July 1993, CCPR/C/21/Rev.1/Add.4, available at:
Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, 18 July
The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran, English translation,


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