National Laws on Blasphemy: Iran

As a Shi’a Islamic theocracy, Iran equally holds expressions of unsanctioned religious views and expressions of political dissent to be acts of blasphemy. Those arrested for blasphemy are generally charged with mofsed-e-filarz (“spreading corruption on earth”), a broadly defined crime capable of encompassing anything deemed undesirable by the state. There is no set penalty for such a wide-ranging crime, and punishments can run the gamut from a few months in jail to execution, with any prison sentence often supplemented by torture. In addition to suppressing political dissent and calls for reform within the established tradition of Shi’a Islam, blasphemy charges are also used to persecute religious minorities, including Bahá’ís, Sunnis, Sufis, and Christians. Recent blasphemy sentences include five years imprisonment for a singer who ridiculed the Qur’an in a song, three years for a Shi’a history professor and Iran-Iraq War veteran who called for political reforms, and a death sentence—later commuted to 11 years imprisonment—for a senior Shi’a cleric who advocates greater separation of religion and the state.
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