Discriminatory Laws:

There is no freedom of religion or belief in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iranian law bars any criticism of Islam or deviation from the ruling Islamic standards. Government leaders use these laws to persecute religious minorities and dissidents.

Article 110 of the Constitution lists all the powers granted to the Spiritual Leader (a Muslim religious and political leader), appointed by his peers for an unlimited duration. Among others, the Spiritual Leader exercises his control over the judiciary, the army, the police, the radio, the television, but also over the President and the Parliament, institutions elected by the people. Article 91 of the Constitution establishes a body known as the “Guardian Council” whose function is to examine the compatibility of all legislation enacted by the Islamic Consultative Assembly with “the criteria of Islam and the Constitution”3 and who can therefore veto any and all legislation. Half of the members of the Guardian Council are appointed by the Spiritual Leader and the other half are elected by the Islamic Consultative Assembly from among the Muslim jurists nominated by the Head of the Judicial Power (who is, himself, appointed by the Spiritual Leader).

The Guardian council exercises a double control of any draft legislation, with two different procedures:

• conformity with the Constitution (all 12 elected members vote, a simple majority recognizes the constitutionality)

• conformity with Islam (only the six religious leaders elected personally by the Spiritual leader vote, and a simple majority is required to declare the compatibility of a draft legislation with Islam).

Consequently, four religious leaders may block all draft legislation enacted by the Parliament. The Guardian Council and the Supreme Leader therefore and in practice centralize all powers in Iran .

Articles 12 and 13 of the Constitution divides citizens of the Islamic Republic of Iran into four categories: Muslims, Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians. Nonbelievers are effectively left out and aren’t afforded any rights or protections. They must declare their faith in one of the four officially recognized religions in order to be able to claim a number of legal rights, such as the possibility to apply for the general examination to enter any university in Iran . Other belief groups outside of the four recognized religions, such as Bahá'ís, also suffer from this discrimination and are actively prevented from attending university.

Only Muslims are able to take part in the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran and to conduct public affairs at a high level. According to the Constitution, non-Muslims cannot hold the following key decision-making positions:

• President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who must be a Shi’a Muslim (Article 1156)

• Commanders in the Islamic Army (Article 1447)

• Judges, at any level (Article 163 and law of 1983 on the selection of judges 8)

Moreover, non-Muslims are not eligible to become members of the Parliament (the Islamic Consultative Assembly) through the general elections. Finally, non-Muslims cannot become members of the very influential Guardian Council.

A study of the Penal Code of the Islamic Republic of Iran reveals that, for a number of offences, the punishment differs in function of the religion of the victim and/or the religion of the offender. The fate of Muslim victims and offenders is systematically more favorable than that of non-Muslims, showing that the life and physical integrity of Muslims is given a much higher value than that of non-Muslims.

This institutionalized discrimination is particularly blatant for the following crimes:

1. Adultery: The sanctions for adultery vary widely according to the religion of both members of the couple. A Muslim man who commits adultery with a Muslim woman is punished by 100 lashes (Article 8811). However, a non-Muslim man who commits adultery with a Muslim woman is subject to the death penalty (Article 82-c12). If a Muslim man commits adultery with a non- Muslim woman, the Penal Code does not specify any penalty.

2. Homosexuality: Likewise, homosexuality “without consummation” between two Muslim men is punished by 100 lashes (Article 12113) but if the “active party” is non-Muslim and the other Muslim, the non-Muslim is subject to the death penalty.

3. Crimes against the Deceased: Article 49418 stipulates penalties for crimes against a deceased Muslim but the Penal Code does not edict any penalties for the violation of the corpse of a non- Muslim.

Cases of discrimination:

On Jan. 17, 2012, the country’s Supreme Court confirmed the previously handed down death sentence for 35-year-old web designer and Canadian resident Saeed Malekpour. Malekpour had returned to Iran in 2008 to visit his dying father and was arrested for “insulting and desecrating Islam” for creating a computer program used by others to download pornography.


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