Iran’s media campaign against religious minorities continues, U.S. commission says

Iran’s government is continuing its misinformation campaign against minority religions, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a new report Monday.

The commission, a nonpartisan body tasked by Congress with reporting on freedom of religion or belief issues abroad, says Iran’s rulers seek to paint religious minorities as threats to national security rather than engage in theological debates.

Baha’is are apparently the chief target of Iranian media attacks, the USCIRF document indicates.

Report author Shahin Milani, executive director of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, said Iran’s “campaign against the Baha’is continued its long-running accusations of political influence and intrigue.”

Iranian media has published or aired numerous videos attacking the Baha’is, a relatively new religion that originated in Iran in the 19th century.

Adherents of the faith, which advocates for tolerance of all religions, are accused in Iranian media of planning to overthrow the government.

Along with the media campaign against the Baha’is, Christian converts in Iran are also a target of the media, Mr. Milani said, despite an Iranian Supreme Court Branch 28 ruling that neither promoting Christianity nor establishing home churches are crimes.

Unlike Armenian and Assyrian Christians, cleric Hojjat al-Islam Kashani, secretary of the Islam-Christianity Dialog Association said in an interview, “What is being promoted today as Christianity is not traditional Christianity, but rather it is evangelical and colonial Christianity. In reality, evangelical Christianity is not a religion. It is a policy-oriented towards colonialism.”

The report noted that other groups targeted for media misinformation were the Gonabadi Dervishes, who are claimed to be “political pawns” used by overseas powers, and Sunni Muslims, whose faith is regularly disparaged by the majority Shi’a community.

According to the USCIRF, the report “demonstrates Iran’s systematic campaign to deny freedom of religion or belief to groups that do not conform to the government’s singular interpretation of Ja’afri Shi’a Islam.”

The commission said it has recommended that the State Department designate Iran as a “Country of Particular Concern” due to “its ongoing, systematic and egregious religious freedom violations.”

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