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Iran: Trial of Christian woman’s killer a reminder of the regime’s religious discrimination

This article provides a useful compendium of the legal restrictions Christians face in Iran.

The U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a “country of particular concern” for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“Trial of ‘Christian’ woman’s killer a reminder of Iran’s religious discrimination,” Article 18, August 17, 2022:

The resurfacing of a decade-old murder case involving an American “Christian” woman has again brought to light one of the ways in which Iran systematically discriminates against non-Muslims.

The South Asia Media Research Institute (SAMRI) tweeted on Monday that the killer’s trial had been “delayed for 5 years … due to [the victim’s] presumed Christian faith … As per Iran’s law, a Muslim can’t be executed for killing a non-Muslim”.

SAMRI cited a Persian-language website, Fartak News, as the source, which reported that the Iranian husband of a woman known as “Mary” had claimed she had converted to Islam before their marriage, and that as a result he and their children were entitled to “retribution in kind”.

Article 310 of Iran’s Penal Code provides for retribution in kind (qisas) for the murderer if the victim is a Muslim, but if the victim is a non-Muslim, they are not entitled to this.

SAMRI confirmed to Article18 that the report seemed to be referring to the 2012 murder of a woman named Teresa Virginia, which was reported by outlets including the Washington Times, even though Fartak News used a different name both for the woman and her killers….

But, whatever the details of the case, amidst a web of inconsistencies that Article18 has not been able to untangle, the story remains an example of one of ways in which Iran systematically discriminates against non-Muslims.

Here are some of the other primary examples, as described last year by Article18’s Kiaa Aalipour:


Religious minorities are not entitled to hold public offices such as judge, ambassador, minister, or president, while to become a teacher one must declare support for Islam and velayat-e faqih (the office of the Supreme Leader).


According to Article 1059 of Iran’s Civil Code, a Muslim man can marry a non-Muslim woman, but the opposite is not allowed. Meanwhile, marriage of Christian converts, Baha’is, and other unrecognised religious groups is not recognised unless performed in accordance with Islamic law.


Members of religious minorities are not allowed to adopt a child born to Muslim parents, as highlighted in the case of Lydia, when a judge ruled to take her away from her adoptive parents because they had converted to Christianity.

Military service

Non-Muslims cannot be recruited into the Iranian armed forces, but non-Muslim men must still complete military service.


Islamic hijab is mandatory for all Iranian women, regardless of their personal beliefs.


According to Article 881 of the Civil Code, “an ‘infidel’ [non-Muslim] cannot inherit from a Muslim, and if there is a Muslim among the heirs of a deceased ‘infidel’, the heirs of the ‘infidel’ will not inherit, even if they are superior to the Muslim in terms of class and rank”. 


According to Article 13 of Iran’s Constitution, Jews, Zoroastrians and Christians are the only recognised religious minorities in Iran. All other groups – including converts to Christianity – are not recognised and as a result face a wide range of discriminations and privations.

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