Humanists UK at the UN calls for repeal of Iran’s blasphemy and apostasy laws

10 March, 2021

In an intervention at the UN Human Rights Council, Humanists UK has called for more action to be taken to uphold freedom of religion or belief in Iran and for the immediate release of Liza Tebyanian and Professor Ahmadreza Djalali, who have both been wrongfully imprisoned for exercising this right.

In an intervention made by video during the ‘interactive dialogue’ with the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Iran, Javaid Rehman, Humanists UK Public Affairs Manager Karen Wright stated, 

‘By imposing the death penalty for the crimes of blasphemy and apostasy, Iran is arguably in violation of Article 23 of its own constitution, which states that ‘no one must be molested or taken to task for simply holding a religious belief’. It is also in breach of resolution 36/17 of this Council and Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which it is a party. It remains one of only 13 countries still to retain such draconian punishments for these crimes.’

‘Iran continues to use these laws to persecute minority belief groups, as demonstrated by the arrest and imprisonment of Liza Tebyanian in 2020 on the charges of teaching the Baha’i faith. After an earlier acquittal, the Supreme Court reinstated her conviction without notifying her of the proceedings. Similarly, Professor Ahmadreza Djalali was arrested in 2016 for ‘collaborating with scientists from hostile nations’ and ‘enmity against God’ after he travelled to Iran to take part in a series of workshops about disaster medicine. He has been held for over three years and was placed on death row in November 2020, after repeatedly being denied access to his lawyer.’

She went on to ask the Special Rapporteur what progress he has made on helping uphold freedom of religion or belief in Iran.


For further comment or information, please contact Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson at or phone 020 7324 3072 or 020 3675 0959.

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