A group of human rights activists is calling on the United States to highlight Iran's crackdown on religious minorities at next month's meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
Members of an organization calling itself the Association of Defense for the Rights of Iranian Minorities held a Capitol Hill news conference to discuss Iran's human rights record when it comes to religious minorities.
Mansour Lavaie, an Iranian-born American citizen who lives in Pasadena, California, is a member of the Zoroastrian faith. "Members of our community have been constantly harassed, ridiculed, and discriminated against by the Iranian regime," he said.
Mr. Lavaie says two decades ago there were 65,000 Zoroastrians living in Iran. He says many fled oppression, leaving fewer than 25,000 there today.
Christians in Iran also face persecution, according to the Reverend Guy Carey of Immanuel's Church in Silver Spring, Maryland.
"Christian leaders and their families are threatened, mistreated, forced to leave the country or killed," he said. "Most evangelical churches have closed, or have been restricted to only conducting services in Armenian or Assyrian. As a result, many churches have gone underground. The government is actively seeking those underground churches and punishes those involved."
Reverend Carey says all religious minorities in Iran are subject to threats, imprisonment, and detention without trial or torture.
Rabbi Pinchas Aloof spoke for the group when he appealed to Secretary of State Colin Powell to highlight the situation in Iran at next month's U.N. Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva.
"Introduce a resolution to ask for a close monitoring of human rights conditions in Iran," he said.
For the first time in seven years, a team from the U.N. Human Rights Commission visited Iran this month.
The team, which concluded its 12-day visit this week, criticized what it called Iran's extensive practice of solidarity confinement for prisoners and arbitrary detention of people expressing their views. But team members also praised Iran for what they said was unprecedented cooperation in allowing access to jails and prisoners.