August 13th, 2010
11:30 AM ET

U.S. 'deeply concerned' about religious persecution in Iran, Clinton says

Hillary Clinton at the State Department on Wednesday.

The U.S. is "deeply concerned," about religious persecution in Iran following reports that the country has sentenced seven Baha'i leaders to 20 years in prison, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Thursday.

In a statement, Clinton criticized what she called "the Iranian government's continued persecution of Baha'is and other religious minority communities in Iran."

"The United States is committed to defending religious freedom around the world, and we have not forgotten the Baha'i community in Iran," Clinton said.

It was the second time this week that Clinton condemned Iran on human rights grounds.

On Tuesday, she said the U.S. is troubled by the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who has been sentenced to death by stoning in Iran, and by reports that an 18-year-old male there has been charged with homosexuality and faces imminent execution, among other cases.

"The United States is deeply concerned that Iran continues to deny its citizens their civil rights and intimidate and detain those Iranians who seek to hold their government accountable and stand up for the rights of their fellow citizens," Clinton said in a statement Tuesday.

On Sunday, the Baha'i International Community said it has received reports of sentences for its leaders in Iran. "The United States strongly condemns this sentencing as a violation of Iran's obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights," Clinton said Thursday.

"We will continue to speak out against injustice and call on the Iranian government to respect the fundamental rights of all its citizens in accordance with its international obligations," she said.

The Baha'i leaders - two women and five men - have been held in Tehran's Evin prison since they were arrested in 2008. They are considered the nation's top-ranking Baha'is

The leaders were accused of espionage, propaganda activities against the Islamic order and the establishment of an illegal administration, among other allegations, according to the Baha'i International Community. The group denies all charges.

The leaders' trial comprised six brief court appearances, beginning in January, after they had been held without charges for up to 20 months, the Baha'i International Community said.

The group said the trial, during which the accused had roughly one hour's access to legal counsel, ended June 14. The verdict is believed to have been handed down Sunday, according to Diane Ala'i, a Baha'i U.N representative. She had no details on the nature of the convictions.

Iran's 300,000-strong Baha'i community constitutes the country's largest non-Muslim religious minority.

The Baha'i faith originated in 19th-century Persia, but the constitution of today's Islamic Republic does not recognize it as a religion and considers the followers as apostates.

A State Department report released earlier this year blasted the Iranian government for its treatment of Baha'is.

The report said Iran's government prevents Baha'is from gathering in homes to worship and bans Baha'is from public schools, universities, the social pension system and government leadership posts unless they conceal their religion.

"The government repeatedly pressured Baha'is to recant their religious beliefs in exchange for relief from mistreatment," the report said.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Iran • Middle East • Persecution • Politics • Religious liberty

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. M. Varn Chandola

    Which one of the countless human rights violations in Iran can one concentrate upon? Stoning executions in general and the Ashtiani case in particular struck such a nerve in me that I wrote the following article: http://rightlegalhelp.net/blog/modern-day-human-sacrifice-iran Unfortunately, even though she may not be stoned, she is still scheduled for execution. I hope that sufficient international exposure concerning her case will compel the Iranian government to release her.

    M. Varn Chandola

    September 3, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
  2. Adam Enoch

    Mrs Clinton's concern is about another Muslim sect, not about the persectued Christian Copts of Egypt, Assyrian Christians in the Middle East, Nigerian Christians, Indonesian and Malaysian Christians, or even Muslim converts in her own USA.

    August 20, 2010 at 11:09 am |
    • Amy

      The Baha'i Faith is not a Muslim Sect. Educate yourself. http://www.bahai.org

      August 20, 2010 at 6:29 pm |
  3. Peanut

    I know a lot of people don't like Ms. Clinton- but shes a powerful lady- like it or not. I wish she'd go into the Iran offices and kick out those idiots- show them how a real woman does it.

    August 18, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  4. Amy

    I love how everyone is more concerned bout who is saying something as opposed to what she's trying to convey...great going people.

    August 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  5. lipservice45


    August 14, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • Amy

      what exactly are you referring to?

      August 14, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  6. wol

    As a citizen in a country that observes religious freedom, I would very much like for our country to provide a solution to the religious / political situation in Iran by offering to take those Baha'i followers off Iran's hands.
    I believe it could work if not tied to other issues we have with Iran's internal policies. Have Iran "expel" these people they don't like instead of treating them like criminals.
    We've got some room in the USA for the "oppressed" of other nations. Refugee status is not impossible for the Baha'i followers here, as Iran is on our short list these days.
    Secretary Clinton is doing a pretty good job in a difficult world with very complicated diplomatic and political issues.
    She has my support as an American. I already know she has the President's support. That's how she got the job.

    August 13, 2010 at 6:45 pm |
    • eswanson

      Having many friends who are Baha'is, I applaud your sentiments...however I don't believe that this is what the Baha'is in Iran are after. Although thousands have emigrated since the Islamic Revolution of '79, most of those who remain just want the same civil liberties that we enjoy here in the West. They want to remain in the country of their birth but want to be able to practice their incredibly peaceful faith, just like everyone else. I believe they had much greater freedom under the Shah's regime.

      The current loonies that are running that country now need to be plowed into the ground. I believe this will kill a whole lot of birds with one stone...

      August 14, 2010 at 12:05 am |
    • wol

      I did not think of what the Baha'i's might want. I apologize for this. It just seemed rather unworkable for them to remain in-country. I was only thinking of their safety and possible happiness. It would be better to discuss this with them rather than a post in a blog, but I am a prideful and foolish man and thought it might be fun to post something for the sake of argument.
      Whatever the diplomats are working on, they know more about it than I do. I leave it to them. But I love to read my posts the same way I love to hear myself talk, only I write better than I talk. I like hearing about real, workable solutions to real-world problems. And when I see no suggestions, I like to try a few of my own.
      If no one comments on 'em, I never know why.
      Oh, well, that's life, eh?
      So thanks for being one of the ones to comment. As a "noob", I appreciate any help you can give me.

      August 14, 2010 at 2:02 am |
  7. Reality

    Hillary is concerned about the religious persecution in Iran? What about all the other areas of Islamic persecution? Did she ever read Ayaan Hirsi Ali's best-seller, Infidel?

    August 13, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
    • wol

      Your post is totally clueless about the USA, the Const1tution, the duties of a Secretary of State, and of the State Department.
      It is also clueless about modern diplomatic methods. When a country is "deeply concerned" diplomatically, it is not the department head that is "deeply concerned", but our diplomatic stance. You obviously have absolutely NO idea what the heck you are talking about and I resent having to educate you in this area.

      August 13, 2010 at 8:19 pm |
  8. Reality

    Hillary is concerned about the religious per-secution in Iran? What about all the other areas of Islamic per-secution? Did she ever read Aya-an Hi-rsi A-li's best-seller, In-fidel? Some excerpts

    Thus begins the extraordinary story of a woman born into a family of desert nomads, cir-cum-cised as a child, educated by rad-ical imams in Kenya and Saudi Arabia, taught to believe that if she un-covered her hair, terrible tragedies would ensue. It's a story that, with a few different twists, really could have led to a wretched life and a lonely death, as her grandmother warned. But instead, Hirsi Ali escaped - and transformed herself into an internationally renowned spokeswoman for the rights of Muslim women."

    Some of the Saudi women in our neighborhood were regularly bea–ten by their husbands. You could hear them at night. Their scre–ams resounded across the courtyards. "No! Please! By All-ah!

    The Pakistanis were Muslims but they too had castes. The Un-touchable girls, both Indian and Pakistani were da-rker skin. The others would not play with them because they were untouchable. We thought that was funny because of course they were touchable: we touched them see? but also horrifying to think of yourself as un-touchable, desp–icable to the human race.

    Between October 2004 and May 2005, eleven Muslim girls were kill-ed by their families in just two regions (there are 20 regions in Holland). After that, people stopped telling me I was exag-gerating.

    The kind on thinking I saw in Saudi Arabia and among the Brother-hood of Kenya and Somalia, is incom-patible with human rights and liberal values. It preserves the fe-udal mind-set based on tribal concepts of honor and shame. It rests on self-deception, hyprocricy, and double standards. It relies on the technologial advances of the West while pretending to ignore their origin in Western thinking. This mind-set makes the transition to modernity very painful for all who practice Islam.

    August 13, 2010 at 3:46 pm |
  9. Jon

    Dang Hillary, you look like you've been on an 8 day bender. Why don't you take a little time off and see if you can fix yourself up a bit. You're embarrassing all of us.

    August 13, 2010 at 2:51 pm |
  10. Gary

    Hillary ,Ahdemajad is going to throw you under the bus just like the African American vote did this past election

    August 13, 2010 at 2:24 pm |
  11. Bob

    Hilary Clinton: So it is for these reasons that we condemn the human rights violations in Iran. To counteract this, we will be sending a strongly worded letter showing them we're very cross with their actions. We expect the letter to be recieved as well as our "don't have nuclear plants" message. Your tax dollars at work.

    August 13, 2010 at 1:50 pm |
    • Doug

      What about the religious persecution in Palestine? Are the Evil States of America deeply concerned about that too??

      August 14, 2010 at 3:56 pm |
  12. acmed Shams

    we should be. religious extremism is scary they hate women jews, gays, minorities
    !Please, friends, as for afghanistan, learn about how brutal the Taliban really are. This video is not lie:
    Please, you MUST see this:

    August 13, 2010 at 12:06 pm |
  13. Mar

    How about defending religious freedom at home first? Case in point, the Cordoba Initiative in Manhattan.

    August 13, 2010 at 11:34 am |
    • JJ

      (*yawn*). The usual Christians-as-persecuted-minority-in-the-US meme.

      August 14, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.