The Iranian Threat
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|Alan Elsner||August 4th 2012|
The State Department issued two reports this week, one on patterns on global terrorism and the other on religious freedom and oppression around the world. In both reports, one country took a preeminent and shameful place – Iran. I would urge readers to take a look at these reports in detail. They are both available in full on the State Department’s website and they provide a graphic warning about the nature of this regime which is trying to acquire nuclear weapons.
The report on religious freedom made sobering reading. Iran’s population is 89 percent Shia Muslim and 9 percent Sunni. An estimated two to five million persons practice Sufism. The largest non-Muslim minority is the Baha’is, who number 300,000 to 350,000. Unofficial estimates of the Jewish community’s size varied from 20,000 to 30,000.
The report cataloged persecution by the regime of Baha’is, Christians, Zoroastrians, Sufis, Sunni clerics, Muslim converts to Christianity and even Shia religious leaders who did not fully support government policies or the supreme leader’s views.The regime also fosters open antisemitism.
Discrimination begins with the Iranian constitution and other laws and policies which severely restrict freedom of religion and a legal system which fosters religious abuse and discrimination. The constitution does not provide for the rights of Muslim citizens to choose, change, or renounce their religious beliefs. The government automatically considers a child born to a Muslim father to be a Muslim and conversion from Islam is deemed apostasy, which is punishable by death.
The report states: “Government rhetoric and actions, particularly since the June 2009 elections, created an increasingly threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shia religious groups, most notably for Baha’is, as well as for Sufi Muslims, evangelical Christians, Jews, and Shia groups that did not share the government’s sanctioned religious views.”
The government continued to imprison and detain Baha’is based on their religious beliefs. “In addition to killings, executions, and arrests, Baha’is suffered frequent government harassment and persecution, and their property rights generally were disregarded. The government raided Baha’i homes and businesses and confiscated large amounts of private and commercial property, as well as religious materials belonging to Baha’is. The government reportedly seized numerous Baha’i homes and transferred them to an agency of Supreme Leader Khamenei,” the report said.
Harassment and arrests of Sufis also continued during the year including some15 Sufi webmasters and journalists who reportedly still were being held at year’s end. At least 300 arrests of Christians were reported during the year. Some were held in secret locations without access to attorneys. There were numerous incidents during the year of Muslim converts to Christianity facing harassment, arrest, and sentencing. Many arrests took place during police raids on religious gatherings, during which religious property also was confiscated.
The report on terrorism was equally illuminating. It found that Iran “increased its terrorist-related activity, likely in an effort to exploit the uncertain political conditions resulting from the Arab Spring, as well as in response to perceived increasing external pressure on Tehran.” Daniel Benjamin, coordinator for counterterrorism, said in a briefing: “We are increasingly concerned about Iran’s support for terrorism and Hezbollah’s activities as they’ve both stepped up their level of terrorist plotting over the past year and engaging in their most active and aggressive campaigns since the 1990s.”
Benjamin added: “Iran is and remains the preeminent state sponsor of terrorism in the world … Together with Hezbollah, as they pursue destabilizing activities around the globe, we are firmly committed to working with partners and allies to counter and disrupt Iranian activities and to prevent Iran from sponsoring new acts of terrors. And we think that the international community is increasingly alert to this threat and will resist it.”
The report, which covers 2011, said Iran provided weapons and training to assist the Assad regime in Syria in its brutal crackdown that has resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. Iran also continued to provide weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including the Palestine Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Iran has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Hezbollah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of Hezbollah fighters at camps in Iran.
The facts are there for all to see. This is the truth about this regime.
Alan Elsner writes for the Algemeiner, from where this article is adapted.