Friday, September 26, 2008

US State Department Slams Iran & Egypt for Violating Religious Freedom

In its 2008 annual report on international religious freedom, released a few days ago, the United States Department of State was very critical of Iran and Egypt for their violations of religious freedom of minorities in their respective countries.

Iran carried the full brunt of this forceful report, mostly because of the extreme nature of its violations, particularly since the minorities involved represent a significant percentage of the country's population, as stated in the following quotation from the report:
Recent unofficial estimates from religious organizations claim that Baha'is, Jews, Christians, Sabean-Mandaeans, and Zoroastrians constitute two percent of the total population. The largest non-Muslim minority is the Baha'i religious group, which numbers 300,000 to 350,000. Unofficial estimates of the Jewish community's size vary from 25,000 to 30,000.

The report is quite comprehensive and accurately reflects the current desperate condition of the Baha'is as well as--to a lesser extent--other religious minorities in that country. Because of its highly urgent and alarming nature, readers are encouraged to read the full report linked here.

As to Egypt, the report was also detailed and comprehensive, accurately and clearly describing the case of the Baha'is of Egypt, their legal battles and their inability to obtain identification documents, even though court verdicts have ruled in their favor regarding this specific identity right.

The State Department's report elaborated on a very critical point related to the Baha'i Case in Egypt, that is the applicability of constitutional guarantees to the Baha'is. It reports, as quoted below, that, according to the Egyptian courts, Baha'is are not protected by these guarantees simply because they are not considered to be the followers of a recognized religion in Egypt:
A lower court ruling interpreted the Constitution's guarantee of religious freedom as inapplicable to Muslim citizens who wish to convert to another religion. This ruling is under appeal. Separate court rulings provided for 13 Christian born converts to Islam to obtain identity documents indicating their conversion back to Christianity and allowed some Baha'is to obtain civil documents. However, the courts included requirements effectively identifying the Christian converts and Baha'is as apostates, potentially exposing them, if implemented, to risk of significant discrimination by both governmental and societal agents. In addition, a lower court held that the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of religion does not apply to Baha'is.

This "spin" alone is quite ominous, and appears to represent a devious misrepresentation of the constitution aimed at legalizing discrimination against the Baha'is and other "non-recognized" religious minorities in Egypt. It must be emphasized, however, that this interpretation, or spin, does not make it right--it must be seen as only an interpretation rather than a legitimate or justifiable conclusion. It can be easily debated and refuted using the text of the Egyptian constitution itself.

Furthermore, Egypt is a co-signatory and a "Party" to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and is under the obligation to conform to its articles. Accordingly, in attempting to justify its treatment of the Baha'is, Egypt has violated several articles of this Covenant, among which is Article-2 of Part-III stating: "1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status."

Again, in order to appreciate the full impact and nature of the report, readers are encouraged to view it at this link to the State Department's website.


  1. It is unfortunate that the United States State Department can be manipulated capriciously by the political structure within the United States...

    Furthermore, the United States is involved in an internal Presidential Election and it has been my unfortunate experience that the internal Politics of the United States has blinded the moral compass of the United States Government to such a degree that the United States Government has been a very unreliable ally...

    Bottom line the Bahá’ís are on their own and prayer is recommended….

  2. One must recognize though the very hard work involved in such detailed and comprehensive report. It brings to the world's attention egregious violations that could have remained hidden if not revealed in such a clear and succinct way.

  3. It is unfortunate, Terry, that you would take a report that, as Bilo pointed out, brings out details of a mounting pogrom against Bahá’ís and other religious minorities.

    The specific report cited on this blog should not be evaluated upon what you have brought into the discussion because those are separate subjects and Bahá’ís have nothing to do with that. Nor do the other religious minorities.

    Would you have condemned such a U.S. government report in the 1930s that would have pointed out Hitler's pogroms that culminated in The Final Solution and The Holocaust, simply because the U.S. government at that time also made mistakes?

    That just doesn't seem consistent in view of the goal of establishing human rights for all human beings.

    Sadly, you have shifted subjects and politicized an issue when that was not necessary in this forum, in my opinion.

    Bahá’ís are not on their own. God is fully aware of all that is going on. Nothing takes place without His knowledge.

    As for prayers, I will agree with you there. They are always helpful.

  4. Thank you Glenn for your contribution to this discussion.

  5. Look Glenn I hate to sound cynical but have you ever served in the Military???

    Have you ever been to places where grinding poverty is so bad that death seems to be the only viable alternative???

    Until you've walked a mile in my shoes YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO CRITICIZE ME!!!!

    I've been there and done that.... It seems to me that the only thing that will get the world's attention is a Global Nuclear war where 2 billion will die!

    And maybe some common sense will pierce the thick skulls of some of these politicians...

  6. Thank you, Bilo.


    I didn't mean for my comments to be offensive, to hurt your, embarrass you or doubt your genuine feelings based upon your individual experiences.

    This discussion is about the persecution of Bahá’ís and other religious minorities in Iran.

    I am not saying you are wrong about your views nor am I agreeing with you, as I will not be drawn into a political discussion.

    In this specific case, the report on religious persecution, the state department is succinct and correct.

    If you don't agree with the report, I accept that. But, in my humble opinion, in a public forum, I sincerely believe it is off-base to connect a persecution of a religious minority to the ills that you allege the state department commits.

    By doing so, you cast doubt on the report's legitimacy. It is a report that can help alert the world to a religious pogrom in Iran.

    Furthermore, since this report is factual, I don't see how you can stereotype all state department employees as being responsible for the alleged ills you say the organization commits.

    Based on this report, there must be some good people in the state department, no matter how you feel about it.

    Therefore, to lambaste all of its employees is stereotyping and scapegoatiing, both of which are repugnant.

    I don't mean for my words to be harsh and apologize if you take them as such. However, again, in a public forum, I believe it is important to stay focused on the important subject being discussed: the persecution primarily of Bahá’ís in Iran.




Your opinion is valuable. Please share your thoughts.