IRAN

Christian persecution continues under the nose of Government

Shekinahtoday 20th May 2013:  Christians in Iran make around 300,000 (0,4%) of the total population which is estimated around 74.8 million. There are around 600 Churches in Iran which are home to Armenian, Assyrian as well as Muslim convert Christians who add to the overall number of Christians in Iran.

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Christians in Iran are facing restriction as well as systematic persecution. They are subject to arrests, detention, state execution as well as extra judicial killings.

Reports from Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) stipulate evidence of “systematic persecution and prosecution”.

The growing violation of human rights as well as on going persecution of religious minorities in Iran is a cause of concern for International community. Christians are living under extreme danger and intimidation.

United Nations Rapporteur in Iran, Dr Ahmed Shaheed noted  in September 2012 that more than 300 Christians have been arrested and detained since 2010 more than 41 were detained for periods ranging from one month to over a year, sometimes without official charges.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in February that Iran “refuted” the UN’s claim of an increase in discrimination towards religious minorities, claiming “all people of Iran regardless of their religion or ethnicity enjoy equal citizenship rights”.

However, ICHRI’s January 2013 report, The Cost of Faith, states based on interviews with 31 Iranian Christians between April 2011 and July 2012 that communities of Christian Protestants and Converts in Iran face systematic state persecution and discrimination despite the Iranian government’s assertions that it respects the rights of its recognised religious minorities.

“In a nutshell, there is a systematic attempt to deprive churches of membership, literature, leadership training and development, communion with other Christians around the world, and the right to freedom of religion guaranteed by the international covenants that Iran is a signatory of.”

As national elections draw near (voters go to the polls on June 14), Iran is under increasing international pressure to improve its human rights record or face continued sanctions – sanctions of which ICHRI says they are impacting the welfare of the Iranian people.

In its April report, A Growing Crisis: The Impact of Sanctions and Regime Policies on Iranians’ Economic and Social Rights, ICHRI says that, rather than damaging the Iranian regime, sanctions resulting from Iran’s nuclear program have “brought about a severe deterioration in the ability of the Iranian people to pursue their economic and social rights”.

According to ICHRI, including Article 18, which obligates all countries to safeguard freedom of religion.

A number of Christians in Iran like Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Pastor Behnam Irani, Farshid Fathi and Saeed Abedini have been or are being persecuted and detained because of their Christian faith.

Apostasty remains acime in Iran sentenced with death – a threat to religious minorities in which gives room for Iranian Authority to prosecute Christians as well as other religious minorities

The ICHRI further reports:  “The Iranian constitution explicitly instructs judges to utilize Islamic legal sources where crimes and punishments are not covered by the code, leaving the door open for the continued practice of relying on jurisprudence that holds apostasy to be a capital crime,”

In the face of upcoming general elections Iranian Government should make immediate steps to safeguard rights of minorities in Iran to grant their right to exercise their faith according to the injunction of their religions rather than under the deep fears of persecution.

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