PRESS RELEASE - 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."
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