4 shocking findings from State Department's religious freedom report

People take part in a rally in support of Iranian women in Istanbul, on November 26, 2022. | AFP via Getty Images/Yasin Akgul

Iran killed 500 protesters, arrested 19,000

The State Department’s report on Iran highlights the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman arrested by the Islamic Republic's "morality police" for wearing her hijab improperly, violating Iran’s strict Islamic dress code. 

Amini’s death on Sept. 16, 2022, sparked nationwide protests that resulted in security forces killing several protestors. The U.S. State Department report cited the Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), which reported that by the year’s end, 512 protestors, including 69 children, had been killed by security forces. In addition, over 19,000 individuals were arrested or detained since the protests started in September 2022. 

The country's constitution defines Twelver Ja’afari Shia Islam as the official state religion, promising citizens certain rights “in conformity with Islamic criteria.”

In 2021, parliament amended Iran’s penal code to criminalize insulting “divine religions or Islamic schools of thought” and committing “any deviant educational or proselytizing activity that contradicts or interferes with the sacred law of Islam.”

The U.S. government estimates that Christians constitute less than 1% of Iran’s population, and Iran forbids non-Muslims from engaging in public persuasion or attempting to convert Muslims to their faith. 

“The penal code specifies the death sentence for moharebeh ('enmity against God,' which, according to the Oxford Dictionary of Islam, means in Quranic usage 'corrupt conditions caused by unbelievers or unjust people that threaten social and political wellbeing'), fisad fil-arz ('corruption on earth,' which includes apostasy or heresy), and sabb al-nabi,” the report reads. 

Last month, Iran hanged two men arrested in 2020 for allegedly disrespecting the Islamic religion. Yousef Mehrad and Sadrollah Fazeli-Zare reportedly ran a Telegram channel called "Criticism of Superstition and Religion” and operated dozens of social media accounts "dedicated to atheism and desecration of the sanctities.”

According to the BBC, the men were executed at the Arak Prison in central Iran. Mehrad and Fazeli-Zare were held in solitary confinement for the first two months following their arrests and were initially denied access to a lawyer. 

A 2022 report drafted by Iran Human Rights with the support of ECPM (Together Against the Death Penalty) found that Iran carried out 582 executions in 2022, a 75% increase from the previous year.

Samantha Kamman is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: Follow her on Twitter: @Samantha_Kamman

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