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06/09/2019 Iran (International Christian Concern) –  A local councilor in Shiraz, a city in Southern Iran, was sentenced to one-year imprisonment after publicly expressing empathy for imprisoned religious minorities. The councilor, named Mahdi Hajjeti, was on bail following an arrest on a previous charge of the same nature. Another councilor in Asfahan was summoned to court and banned from council meetings for 6 months after he tried to defend Hajjeti’s actions.

Although this situation specifically relates to Baha’is, one of Iran’s many religious minorities, it’s implications are many. Hajjeti was calling for judicial reforms and was inspired because his Baha’i friends were in jail. It is an example of how many Iranians are willing to engage with religious minorities and are unhappy with the government’s human rights record.

It also shows how there can be a disconnect between the hard line regime and local authorities. For two local councilors to face significant state pressure for pursuing religious freedom shows how difficult it is to affect positive change in Iran. However, it does offer hope that change is possible.

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