Since its 1979 revolution, Iran has suppressed its population in the name of enforcing the state's religious orthodoxy. Private attacks on those deemed religiously deviant are relatively scarce, but the regime itself targets Baha’is, Jews, converts, Sufis and Sunnis, and increasingly, anyone seen as a political threat. Those deemed possibly dangerous to the regime include human rights and women's activists and, especially, Shia intellectuals and clergy who criticize the regime. Since the government claims that Shia Islam is its source of authority, it is particularly susceptible to critiques based on alternative interpretations of Islam. For example, Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, a theological architects of Iran's ruling system, was detained for six years for his religious criticism of the structure he helped create. In giving rulings on blasphemy and apostasy, Iran's judges frequently reference their own interpretations of sharia. With little consistency, they may convict people on undefined charges such as “friendship with the enemies of God,” “dissension from religious dogma,” or “propagation of spiritual liberalism.” Punishments include amputation, burning, starvation, and execution. Under Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's presidency, conditions have deteriorated further.
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