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USCIRF Says No Improvement for Religious Minorities in Iran Under Khatami

Commission's Senior Policy Advisor tells VOA that improvements were too inconsistent to be effective

Washington, D.C., September 14, 2005 - Dr. Dwight Bashir of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) told Voice of America (VOA) today that improvements for religious minorities in Iran were inconsistent under former President Mohammad Khatami.

Bashir, Senior Policy Advisor for the Middle East at USCIRF, said, "During the Khatami regime during the initial couple of years there was not much improvement, there was a period of some improvement, then toward the end of his regime things got worse again so really there was no consistency during his period." The Commission publishes an annual report on international religious freedom.

Bashir was a guest on VOA's Persian television program Looking Ahead, along with Robert Blitt, an international law specialist of the USCIRF. Today's program focused on the role of human rights in the formation of U.S. foreign policy toward the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In explaining the role of the USCIRF, Blitt told VOA's audience that "the Commission's objective is to ensure that every individual has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief, and what that means is - yes - the possibility of allowing one person to change their religion, but also the freedom to practice whatever religion they choose, and that includes the freedom to believe or not believe."

VOA broadcasts several Persian language TV programs to Iran. News and Views is a daily one-hour television news show broadcast via satellite to audiences in Iran; Roundtable With You is a weekly 90-minute discussion show; and Next Chapter is a weekly 30-minute youth newsmagazine show. Looking Ahead airs live every month as a 90-minute show focusing on human rights and the democratic movement in Iran. VOA's television shows complement VOA Persian's daily radio broadcasts and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth-oriented radio program that is a joint project of VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. The VOA Persian Service Internet site is at

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 100 million people. Programs are produced in 44 languages, including English.