Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom
Bahais, and those who advocated for their rights, reported that Bahais continued to be major targets of social stigma and violence, and that perpetrators continued to act with impunity or, even when arrested faced, diminished punishment following admissions that their acts were based on the religious identity of the victim.
There continued to be reports of non-Bahais dismissing or refusing employment to Bahais, sometimes in response to government pressure, according to BIC and other organizations monitoring the situation of Bahais in Iran.
BIC reported that since August 2016, more than 220 influential figures, including clerics, religious figures, academics, editors, and government representatives, publicly issued speeches, articles, or written declarations against the Bahais. According to BIC, anti-Bahai rhetoric had increased markedly in recent years.
Yarsanis outside the country reported that widespread discrimination against Yarsanis continued. They stated Yarsani children were socially ostracized in school and shared community facilities. Yarsani men, recognizable by their particular mustaches, often faced employment discrimination. According to reports, Shia preachers often encouraged such social discrimination against Yarsanis.
According to CSW and others, converts from Islam to Christianity faced ongoing societal pressure and rejection by family or community members. Christian World Watch Monitor and CSW reported in September that Christian children in Rasht and Shiraz, all members of the Church of Iran, were told to either study Shia Islam or leave school. As part of a minority faith community recognized by the constitution, the law permitted the students to have access to the religious teaching of their own community, as approved by the Ministry of Education. Furthermore, until recently, according to the report, the children had been exempted from studying Islam provided they could present a signed letter from their denomination. Authorities, however, began to reject these letters on the grounds the church was an “illegal organization.” The report said the message to the Christian community was clear, “convert or leave.”
According to reports from CHRI, HRANA and Iranwire, unidentified assailants vandalized two synagogues in Shiraz on December 24-25. Prayer books were reportedly thrown into toilets and Torah scrolls ripped up. Valuable religious items such as silver candleholders were reportedly stolen.
Shia clerics and prayer leaders reportedly continued to denounce Sufism and the activities of Sufis in both sermons and public statements.
Sunni students reported professors routinely continued to insult Sunni religious figures in class.