Baha'i News -- U.S. slams Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia over religious freedom i Wednesday, October 09, 2002 Cheshvan 3, 5763 Israel Time: 12:52 (GMT+3)

U.S. slams Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia over religious freedom

U.S. slams Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia over religious freedom
By The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Sudan are hostile to certain minority religions, a State Department report on religious freedom said Monday.

In Iran, the report said, the government sanctioned discrimination particularly in the areas of unemployment "Baha'is, Jews, Christians, Mandaeans and Sufi Muslims reported imprisonment, harassment or intimidation based on their religious beliefs," the report said.

It said laws based on religion were used to stifle freedom of expression.

"Independent newspapers and magazines were closed and leading publishers and journalists imprisoned on vague charges of 'insulting Islam' or 'calling into question the Islamic foundation of the Republic,"' the report said.

Iraq continued "systematic and vicious policies" against Shiite Muslims, the report said including " murder, summary execution, arbitrary arrest and protracted detention against its religious leaders and adherents."

The regime also has desecrated Shiite mosques and holy sites, disrupted religious ceremonies and interfered with religious education, the report said.

There were also reports that the government engaged in various abuses against the country's Assyrian and Chaldean Christians "especially in terms of forced movements from northern areas," the report said.

In Saudi Arabia, the department said freedom of religion does not exist and all citizens are required to be Muslims.

"The government has stated publicly that it recognizes the right of non-Muslims to worship in private," the report said. "However, the distinction between public and private is not defined clearly, in effect forcing most non-Muslims" to worship in secret.

The government refused to permit clergy members to enter the country to conduct non-Muslim services, the report said, placing groups such as Catholics and Orthodox Christians who must have a priest on a regular basis at a particular disadvantage.

Sudan's civil war was responsible for abuses by government soldiers such as burning and looting of villages, starving of thousands of southerners and the killings, rapes and arbitrary arrests and detentions of civilians, the report said.

Most of the victims in the southern part of the country, where the war has raged for 19 years, were Christians or practitioners of traditional religions.

The report said the government continued intentional bombing of villages and the forced abduction of women and children.

©Copyright 2002, Ha`aretz (Israel)

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