In the USCIRF annual report, published on Monday, Iran was listed as one of 16 countries that warranted particular concern based on conditions in 2018.
Iran’s designation has been made by the State Department since 1999, which allows the US to impose travel restrictions and other sanctions on Iranians responsible for abuses of religious freedom.
USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer said: “Sadly, this year [our report] shows no progress in Iran at all between last year and this year. [Iran] continues to persecute various religious minorities including Muslim minorities that don’t agree with its Shiite regime.”
Iran is an overwhelmingly Muslim nation led by Shiite clerics since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Roughly 99% of Iranians are Muslims, with 90-95% being Shi’ites and 5–10% being Sunnis.
While Iran does technically allow some religious minorities to practice their religion, the mullahs often put huge restrictions on this, such as not allowing Shiite Muslims to convert to Christianity and refusing repeated requests to build an official Sunni mosque in Tehran.
Followers of other faiths, like Sufis and Bahai’s, are subjected to more repression including denial of education and employment or mass arrest for peaceful protests, simply because the Iranian Regime does not recognise their religion.
Even recognised religious minorities, like Christians and Jews, face mass arrests for merely practising their faith or are forced to hear Regime leaders calling for their annihilation.
Bauer said: “The Iranian government regularly calls for a second Holocaust when they call for the destruction of the only Jewish state in the world.”
USCIRF called on the US government to speak out about “severe religious freedom abuses” in Iran and urged them to punish Iranian officials responsible for such abuses by freezing their assets and barring their entry into the US. USCIRF said the US should press for the release of all prisoners of conscience in the country.
Bauer said: “We have asked both the [Trump] administration and Congress to keep religious liberty and human rights as a central part of our dealings and negotiations with Iran.”
The Trump administration wants to negotiate a new deal with Iran to end the Regime’s malign behaviours. The US pulled out of the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and six world powers last May.