Iranian citizens belonging to an ethnic or religious minority group are subject to discrimination and serious infringements on their civil and human rights. [Updated 15 Dec 2010]

Iranian citizens who belong to ethnic or religious minority groups – such as Azeris, Kurds, Baluchis, Baha’is, Sufis, Sunnis, Ahwazis – face discrimination and persecution, as in the examples below. They are subject to suspension from universities, job dismissal, unlawful arrest, illegal search and confiscation, torture, and even the death penalty, for the crime of belonging to a particular ethnic or non-[Shiite] Muslim religious group. For those who are arrested, the conditions in prison are inhuman, and they are often kept in isolation and not allowed to have contact with anyone outside the prison.

(Note: most of the links refer to Persian sites. English website of interest: )

Nov. 14
The regime continues to harass Gonabad Dervishes – Tehran has turned up pressure on a minority group called Gonabad Dervishes in recent weeks. Dozens have been arrested, and some have been sentenced to imprisonment, flogging and exile. The minority has been subjected to increasing pressure from the regime in recent years. Its members have been removed from places of work, and temples and cemeteries destroyed.

Non-Islamic parties in kindergartens forbidden – Kindergartens in Iran received an order saying that non-Islamic parties, such as Christmas parties, are strictly prohibited. The general manager of the Iranian Health Organization, who is also in charge of this issue, announced that the license of several kindergarten had been revoked since they did not follow the rule of Islam appropriately. He added that kindergartens must make the young children acquainted with the Islamic values and tradition (April 25, 2010).


Dec. 15
Christians arrested during prayer service – Internal security forces attacked a group of Christians who had gathered for a prayer service in a home church in the city of Varamin and arrested everyone present. The church belongs to a couple named Mohammadi who converted to Christianity. According to reports, ten people were present at the service, including the hosts and their son.

Sept 15
Nine Christians arrested in Hamedan – The Iranian television announced the arrest of nine people in Hamedan, allegedly engaged in Christian missionary activities, whom it dubbed “Zionist Christians”. The Iranian authorities claimed that two of them were in close contact with foreign bodies and organizations supported by the US and the UK.

Aug. 23
Pressure exerted on Christian converts in Tabriz – The Iranian regime launched a campaign of threats and pressure on Iranian citizens who converted to Christianity in East Azerbaijan Province. Many of the converts were summoned for interrogation to the Intelligence Ministry’s HQ in Tabriz , and had their houses thoroughly searched. Couple of converts was arrested after being accused of operating a domestic chapel. The two are awaiting their trial.

Three Christian detainees to be released on bail – Three Christian Iranian citizens were released from prison on the eve of the new Persian year, after being held 80 days in Evin Prison. The three, Maryam Jalali, Mirta Zahmati and Farzan Matini, had been arrested with 12 other Christians while they were having a Christmas party in Tehran (April 7, 2010).


Nov. 22
Two Kurdish activists arrested – Behrooz Lajevard and Firooz Maleki, two activists working for Kurdish minority rights in Salmas, were arrested three weeks ago by security forces but their families still have no information as to their condition or whereabouts.

Nov. 8
Clamp-down on Kurdish activists
1. Hussein Khezri, detained in July 2008 and sentenced to death on charges of being a mohareb (wager of war against God) in July 2009, has written an open letter to international human rights organizations detailing his interrogation. Khezri states, "I was subjected to torture and physical and mental pressure during the interrogation, so why is the evidence obtained under such conditions not only considered admissible in court, but also the same evidence used to sentence me to death?"

2. Kurdish activist Ahmad Baab has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Oct. 3
Nephew of executed Kurdish teacher placed in solitary confinement – Azad Kamngar, the nephew of the Kurdish teacher Farazad who was executed a few months ago, was transferred from the Intelligence Ministry’s detention center in Sanandaj to an isolation cell at the Sanandaj Prison. Kamngar was arrested a month ago and is accused of taking part in a protest against the execution of political prisoners, his uncle among them. Five other students who took part in this protest received a deferred sentence of two years.

Aug. 31
Political prisoner denied medical treatment after torture – Prison authorities in Kermanshah refuse to allow medical treatment for Hamzeh Sobhani, a political prisoner from the Kurdish minority, as reported by human rights activists. Sobhani was arrested two months ago for alleged collaboration with anti-regime Kurdish political parties. He was subject to interrogation and torture at the local Intelligence Ministry HQ, during which two of his nails were pulled out and several of his fingers broken. He was transferred to the prison of Kermanshah, but has been denied medical treatment

Aug. 25
Two Kurdish student activists arrested – After 20 days of absence, Dalir Roozgard and Qiac Naderzade, two student activists from the Kurdish minority, contacted their families and informed them that they had been arrested in Kurdistan Province by Intelligence Ministry agents.

Aug. 12
Growing concern over the fate of two Kurdish youths – Menat Rahmani and Hassan Rahmani, two youths from the Kurdish minority, were summoned to the Intelligence Department in the city of Kamran three weeks ago. No information has been released regarding their condition or whereabouts ever since their arrival at the place. The families of the two expressed their concern over their lives.

June 7
Families of executed Kurds ask for their bodies – The families of Farzad Kamangar, Farhad Vakili and Ali Heydarian, three of five Iranian Kurds executed on May 9, met with the governor of Kurdistan Province to ask for help in receiving their bodies for proper burial.

May 31
Kurdish activist sentenced to death: I will be on hunger strike until I die – Habibollah Golpari-Pour, a political prisoner of the Kurdish minority who has been sentenced to death on the charge of belonging to an opposition party, has been on hunger strike for more than two weeks in protest of the conditions of his imprisonment and the restrictions imposed on him. He said that he knows he will be executed soon, so he means to continue his hunger strike "to the end".

May 16
Harassment of families of executed prisoners: Reports indicate that security forces in the city of Mako have surrounded the house of Shirin Alam-Holi and prevented protesters from approaching it. In addition, officers from the Ministry of Intelligence have warned Shirin’s grandfather against holding mourning ceremonies at his house.

Farzad Kamangar’s family members were put under house arrest upon their return to their home in the town of Kamyaran, and are under constant surveillance by intelligence and security forces. Their phone line has been cut off.

May 11
Following the execution of five Kurdish political prisoners, including the teacher Farzad Kamangar, social and human rights activists declared a day of public mourning and protest against the regime. At the same time, Iranian security forces intensified their presence in Kurdish-populated cities to prevent protest demonstration. The regime is withholding the handing over of the bodies to the families in order to prevent massive funerals.

Education International has issued a statement that it is “deeply troubled to hear reports that Iranian teacher trade unionist Farzad Kamangar was among five people who were summarily executed in secret on 9 May”. The International Trade Union Confederation has also condemned the hanging.

May 9
1. Iran hangs 5 Kurdish activists – Iranian Kurdish teacher Farzad Kamangar, human rights activist Ali Heydarian, Farhad Vakili, Shirin Alam Holi (see below and read her last letter) and Mehdi Eslamian, who had been convicted in 2008 of being “mohareb” (wagers of war against God), were executed today. The Iranian regime claimed that the five were responsible for bombings and were members of the Kurdish separatist group PEJAK. Human rights activists reported that the authorities disconnected all telephone lines at Evin Prison, and executed the five prisoners without informing their families or attorneys.
2. Female political prisoner tells her grim story – Shirin Alam Holi, a female political prisoner from the Kurdish minority, was arrested two years ago by IRGC agents, and sentenced to death for allegedly maintaining contact with the Kurdish “Pejak’ opposition movement. In a letter sent from prison she tells about the torture she has been going through every single day, the fact that she did not receive proper legal defense during her trial, which she terms “faked”. She writes that her interrogators demand that she deny her Kurdish identity in a televised interview. She signs the letter with the word “Victory” written in Kurdish.

April 25
Kurdish political activist sentenced to death – Habibollah Golpari Puraz, a political activist from the Kurdish minority, was sentenced to death by a Revolutionary Court. The charges against him were propagating against the regime and being member of an anti-regime party.

April 13
Three Kurdish prisoners go on hunger strike – Three prisoners from the Kurdish minority, Ebadollah Qasemzade, Bakhshali Mohammadi and Sahand Ali Mohammadi, held at a prison in Yazd, went on indefinite hunger strike to protest their imprisonment conditions and humiliating treatment by wards. The three had been sentenced to 13 years for their religious faith. The Intelligence Ministry ordered to prevent them from meeting their families. Qasemzade’s brother, who had been arrested with the three, was recently executed.

April 12
Political prisoner condemned to death taken to unknown place – Human rights activists reported that the Kurdish political prisoner, Hossein Khazari, who had been condemned to death on charges of collaboration with the Kurdish opposition party, was unexpectedly taken from the general warden of Orumye Prison to an unknown place. The human rights activists expressed concern over his fate.

April 7
Sunni-Kurdish student tortured to force him into confession – Human rights activists reported that Jahangir Abdollahi, an MA student of Political Science at Tehran University and member of the Sunni-Kurdish minority, was subject to heavy physical and mental torment at Evin Prison, including threats of execution, in order to force him into confessing the allegations against him. Abdollahi had been arrested during the post-election protests.

Activist for Kurdish rights sentenced to one year – A Revolutionary Court imposed one-year sentence on Sama Bahmani, an activist for Kurdish minority rights. He was convicted of propagating against the regime and collaborating with other human rights activists. He was arrested following his attempt to prepare a document summarizing information about human rights violations in the Azeri-populated regions of Iran.

March 25
Iranian Kurds are subject to intense repressive measures – A report on behalf of Kurdish minority rights activists in Iran reveals that, during the past three months, human rights violations in the Kurdish-populated areas continued and intensified. The report lists various oppressive measures, such as interrogations, arrests and severe sentences. Several Kurdish political prisoners were executed, and one died in suspicious circumstances. According to the report, in the past three months, at least 25 citizens from the Kurdish minority were killed due to human rights violations by the Iranian regime. During that period, 110 student activists were summoned to disciplinary committees, with at least 22 of them being suspended from studies and 27 others sent to prison on charges of political or security-compromising activity. Seventeen Kurdish political prisoners are currently in line for execution.

• Farhad Haji Mirzaei, a Kurdish political activist, was sentenced by a Revolutionary Court in the city of Sanandaj to thirty years of imprisonment (March 17).

•  Sousan Mohammadkhani Qiasvand, a writer and filmmaker from the Kurdish minority was arrested by security forces at her apartment in Karaj. In a short phone call with her family, she informed them that she had been transferred to the Rajaei Shahr Prison, which is often used for political prisoners. Qiasvard is a social activist for the Kurdish minority’s rights. The reason for her arrest remains unknown (March 14).

• Six-year sentence imposed on five Kurdish political prisoners – A Revolutionary Court in Sanandaj imposed six years of imprisonment on each of five political prisoners from the Kurdish minority brought before it. The five are Hoosyar Ahmad, Bahman Saeidi, Jahanbakhsh Ahmadi, Sirvan Mahmoudi and Sirvan Rahimi. They had been accused of acting against national security. Security forces arrested another Kurdish political prisoner, Ahim Jong. He is accused of cooperating with the opposition party (March 7).

• Hehsmat Mataei, a Kurdish MA student, was arrested, after being suspended from the university for two semesters by the disciplinary committee several weeks ago (Oct. 15, 2009).

• Kurdish student tortured in prison – Habib Litfi, under death sentence, is in grave physical condition, suffering from serious bleeding in his kidneys, broken teeth and other torture-induced injuries. The prison’s authorities have denied him medical treatment. He, as well as several other students sentenced to death in Sanandaj, could face sudden execution before the exhaustion of legal procedures in their case (Oct. 20, 2009).

• Anvar Hossein Panahi: a Kurdish political activist who was sentenced to death, but eventually sent to six years in prison following heavy pressure exerted by international organizations. Forces of the Intelligence Ministry in the town of Qarve broke into his father’s house, searched it without a warrant, and arrested his younger brother Afshin Hossein Panahi (Oct. 25, 2009).

• Kurdish political prisoner in serious physical condition – Yaser Majidi, imprisoned in exile since 5 years ago, is in very serious physical condition. He was sentenced to 28 years in prison, and his current condition is reportedly the result of his being subject to torture and long periods of isolation (Oct. 28, 2009).

• Kurdish teacher, journalist and human rights activist Masoud Kordpour was dismissed from work for criticizing the Iranian government policy towards the Kurdish minority (Nov. 2, 2009).

• Ehsan Fattahian, Kurdish political prisoner accused of “enmity against G-d” and membership in a Kurdish opposition group, and tried behind closed doors without benefit of a lawyer or a jury, was executed on November 11, 2009. Amnesty International and other international human rights bodies condemned the execution.

• Kurdish students arrested for protesting against the execution of a Kurdish political activist – Five Kurdish students were arrested during a demonstration in protest of the execution of the Kurdish political activist Ehsan Fatahyan (Nov. 19, 2009).

• Tension and unofficial martial law in Kurdistan Province following the execution of Ehsan Fatahyan– The execution of Ehsan Fatahyan, a Kurdish political activist, brought about intense tension in Kurdistan Province and particularly in the city of Sanandaj. There are reports about many clashes between citizens and the regime’s forces. Last reports talk about hundreds of armored vehicles making their way to Sanandaj since Friday, and a state of high alert declared among security forces in the province. Sanandaj is in fact under unofficial martial law (Nov. 22).

• Female Kurdish political prisoner faces death sentence – Zeynab Jalalian, a 27-year-old woman from the Kurdish minority, currently detained in the prison of Sanandaj, was recently sentenced to death, having been accused of terror activities and contacts with the Kurdish oppositionist group Pejak. Zeynab has been a Pejak activist since she was ten years old, but was mainly involved in public relation activities (Nov. 26, 2009).

• Kurd sentenced to six months for propagating in favor of a Kurdish political party – Aliallah Visi, an Iranian citizen from the Kurdish minority, was sentenced to six months in prison for propagating in favor of the Kurdish Komela party. Visi had been arrested a year ago, and spent two months in isolation (Nov. 29, 2009).


Members of the Baha’i faith, constituting Iran’s largest non-Muslim religious group, are not recognized in the constitution.
Iranian Baha’is have suffered from government persecution since the 1979 Revolution. Members of the Bahai faith are not allowed to practice their religion, and are subject to severe persecution and the denial of almost all their civil rights (such as the right to own land or have access to higher education), and their religious sites have been vandalized. Hundreds of Baha’is have been executed since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

For details, see separate article: Iran harasses Baha’i members


  • Aug. 22, 2010 – Forces of the Iranian Internal Security and intelligence reportedly arrested members of the Sunni minority in Saqez in order to prevent them from holding a Sunni religious ceremony. No information was made available regarding their current whereabouts.
  • The Special Court for Clerics ordered the arrest of Abdolqani She Bakhsh, a Sunni cleric in Zahedan. In the past few weeks, several reports were published about arrests of Sunni clerics (Nov. 15, 2009).
  • Sunni clerics were arrested –three clerics from the Iranian Sunni minority were summoned to the special court for clerics in Mashhad, where they were immediately arrested. The three were taken to an unknown place; the reason for their arrest remained unknown (Sunni-Online, Nov. 2, 2009).

Azeris – The largest ethnic minority in Iran (24% or more), with its own language. Subject to cultural and linguistic discrimination.

Oct. 3
Azeri lecturer lost his job – The committee for appointing lecturers announced the layoff of Alireza Farshi, an Azeri rights activist and lecturer of Computer Science at the Jolfa campus of Islamic Azad University. Farshi was also removed from the university’s scientific committee. Farshi is accused of propagating against the regime through his activities for Azeri rights.

Sept 14
Three Azeris punished for protest activities – Three activists for the Azeri minority’s rights, all members of the same family, were sentenced to 91 days of imprisonment, monetary penalty and flogging. The three are Zahra Jedi, Marzie Jedi and Ali Amini. They were indicted with insulting a government worker and Internal Security agents. The Internal Security forces attacked the three family members with batons and tear gas while they were distributing invitations to join a protest rally on the occasion of the Azeri Language Day.

Aug. 8
Attack on Azeri protesters demanding right to education in their mother tongue – In the northern Iranian city of Tabriz, three thousand people demonstrated for the right to education in the Azeri-Turkish language and against what they called “discrimination against Azeri-Turks in Iran”. The demonstrators chanted, “Everybody has the right of education in their mother tongue” and "long live Azerbaijan, to hell with whomever dislikes us”. According to one participant in the protest, Basij militiamen, many of them plainclothes, attacked protesters, beating dozens and arresting at least twelve.

April 7
Political prisoners go on hunger strike in Ardebil Prison – Three political prisoners from the Azeri minority, held in Ardebil Prison, went on hunger strike with a Kurdish political prisoner imprisoned with them, in order to protest the conditions of their imprisonment and the violation of their basic rights in prison. The three Azeri prisoners are: Behrooz Alizade, Vodoud Sadati and Rahim Qolami. The Kurdish prisoner is Omar Chaparaz.

Imprisonment sentences imposed on 11 Azeri activists – Eleven activists from the Azeri minority, who had been arrested following their activities to protect the Azeri minority’s rights, were sentenced to long imprisonment periods for various accusations, including compromising national security and disrupting public order. The sentences range between one to three years in prison (Nov. 29, 2009).

  • Two Azeri activists sentenced to a year in prison – The Revolutionary Court in Tabriz sentenced Eng. Alireza Farshi and his wife, two prominent activists from the Azeri minority, to one year in prison each. The two were accused of propagating against the regime for chanting slogans in support of Azeri national rights (Nov. 17, 2009).
  • Azeri-language books banned from the Oroumye book exhibition – Iran’s book exhibition will be hosted this year in the Azeri-populated city of Oroumye and display the works of 170 publishers from all across Iran. However, the Iranian Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance banned the participation of publishers of books in the Azeri language (Oct. 27, 2009).
  • An Azeri political activist arrested for the second time by the Intelligence Ministry – Ali Hossein-Nejad, a political prisoner recently released on bail and a member of the Azeri National Movement, was arrested again by agents of the local Intelligence Ministry HQ in his hometown of Mako. His associates believe that this arrest came in response to his political activities following the elections, which included distribution of disks containing political information. Hossein-Nejad was first arrested two years ago. He was accused of propagating against the regime by organizing a demonstration against a racist caricature published in an official newspaper (Oct. 19).


Amnesty International has produced a report on human rights abuses against the Baluchi minority.

Aug. 4
Leader of Baluchi Sunnis banned from leaving Iran – The Iranian Sunni cleric, Abdolhamid, who is considered the leader of the Sunni community in Sistan and Baluchestan Province, has been banned from leaving Iran upon his arrival from a visit to Turkey. His passport was confiscated at the Iranian aiport. 

  • Five executions in one day – This week saw the execution of two prisoners from the Baluchi Sunni community in the central prison of Kerman. In addition, three condemned were hung in public in the city of Babolsar (April 22).
  • Seven Baluchi citizens accused of membership in the Jundallah organization –  The prosecutor-general of Sistan an Baluchestan Province announced that the trial of seven Iranian youths from the Baluchi minority, accused of being members of the Sunni Jundallah organization, was due to begin soon. The seven citizens are expected to be sentenced to death if convicted (Nov. 30, 2009).