Tehran, Iran – The Iranian parliament may mandate the death penalty for citizens who leave Islam, a human rights group announced this week. For the first time in Iranian history, a proposed penal code demands the death penalty for “apostates,” according to a February 5 statement by the Institute on Religion and Public Policy (IRPP). “Apostasy was always illegal, but the court could hand down a jail term, hard labor or the death penalty,” said IRPP President Joseph Grieboski. “Now apostasy [would only] get the death penalty.” Iran has used the “apostasy” law to target Muslim converts to Christianity, liberal thinkers and members of Iran’s Baha’i religious minority. “This is not something new, they just want to be more harsh towards those who are leaving Islam,” an Iranian pastor told Compass. Though sections of the draft appear to indicate that both men and women can be executed for apostasy, others limit execution to males who leave Islam. The proposed law stipulates that “hardship” will be exercised on a female “apostate,” who will be immediately released if she recants.