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Last Updated: Monday, 21 July, 2003, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Iran's Sunni MPs speak out
By Sadeq Saba
BBC regional analyst

A group of Iranian members of parliament have criticised Iran's government for its treatment of the minority Sunni Muslims in the country.

The deputies, who are from the Sunni branch of Islam, wrote an open letter to Iran's highest religious authorities to call for an end to discrimination against their community.

Iran has deep religious and ethnic divisions. The majority of Iranians are Shia, but about 10% to 15% of the population adhere to Sunni Islam.

Shia Qum mosque in Iran
Sunni Muslims want their own mosque in Tehran
While the Iranian Shia government claims that it treats all Muslims equally, followers of Sunni Islam and other minorities in the country have long complained that they are treated as second class citizens.

In their letter, the Sunni MPs asked why no Sunni Muslims are appointed as ministers, provincial governors, ambassadors or to other high positions.

They also criticised the authorities for not allowing a mosque to be built in Tehran for the Sunni Muslim community. They said it was disgraceful for Iran's Islamic government that followers of Sunni Islam in the capital should go to foreign embassies for prayers.

The 18 MPs who represent Iran's Kurds, Baluchis and other Sunni Muslims, also said that the government should stop appointing Shia clerics to run religious institutions in Sunni areas.

Sunni Muslims in Iran complain that in some respect their situation is worse than that of the Jews and Christians in the country because Sunnis are not recognised as a minority.

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