Religious minorities enjoy their rights in Iran
Seminary schools and students
During the Pahlavi era, only three seminary schools were exclusively teaching Sunnis in the Iranian southeastern province of Sistan and Baluchestan.
Now, the figure has almost multiplied by ten, thanks to the Islamic Republic. There are about 130 Sunni seminary schools for men, and 450 Sunni seminary schools for women in Iran.
The number of Sunni seminary students has been estimated to be around 14,000. These students receive monthly salaries just like Shia seminary students. But unlike Shia seminary students, who would later be drafted to serve in the military should they decide not to teach religious studies as their occupation, Sunni seminary students are entirely exempt from military service.
While 1,000 Sunni mosques were built before the Islamic Revolution, the number has now reached 12,000. Be they Sunni or Shia, mosques are almost exempt from paying water, electricity, and gas bills in Iran; they are required to pay only one percent of those bills.
Overall, there are 15 grand seminary schools and mosques in Iran, 10 of which date back to the ancient eras and are considered Iran’s historical heritage. Out of the remaining five buildings, three belong to Iranian Sunnis: the Jameh (Grand) Mosque of Shafei in the city of Kermanshah, Baharan’s Mosque in the province of Kurdestan, and the Makki Grand Mosque in the city of Zahedan.
The teaching style in Sunni seminary schools is based on the four major schools of Islamic jurisprudence within Sunni Islam.
In the legal realm as well, Iranian Sunnis have their exclusive courtrooms wherein the rulings are issued according to one of their four major schools and upheld by Iran’s Judiciary branch.
The right of Iranian citizens of the Sunni Muslim faith to publish books in Iran is preserved. Sunni publications such as Ehsan, Imam Rabbani, and Kurdistan annually participate in the Tehran International Book Fair (TIBF) and present their religious and non-religious books to the masses.
Sunnis in office
Apart from the Iranian Parliament, Sunnis are represented in the Assembly of Experts for Leadership. Faeq Rostami, Adel Qaderi, and Nazir Ahmad Salami are the Sunni members of the current assembly. Former Sunni member of the assembly, Mamosta Mohammad Sheikholeslam was assassinated by a Takfiri terrorist group in 2009.
Contrary to the claims of the smear campaign, Sunnis have even occupied higher ranks of Iran’s military. For instance, Rear Admiral Shahram Irani is the current Commander of the Iranian Navy. Some military commanders stationed in Sunni cities are adherents of Sunni Islam, too.
Iran’s top Sunni scholars also enjoy a unique position and are regularly invited to hold talks with the authorities in Tehran on behalf of their communities. Molavi Abdolhamid Ismaeelzahi and Mamosta Mollah Qader Qaderi are two Sunni Muslim clerics that fulfill such a role for the communities of Zahedan and Paveh, respectively. Moreover, more than 10,000 university professors throughout Iran are Sunnis.
What is more, two of Iran’s current ambassadors to other countries as well as Iran’s cultural attaché in Egypt are of Sunni faith.
Head of the Sunni fraction in the Iranian Parliament, Jalal Mahmoudzadeh, has stated that Iranian Sunnis have sacrificed more than 11,000 martyrs for their homeland during the Iraqi-imposed war (1980-1988).
What has been listed is but a fraction of the various areas wherein the presence of Iranian Sunni Muslims commingling with their countrymen of other religious faiths, including the Shia majority, is felt.