Iran’s Persecution of Christians Nearly Doubled in Last Year

Barbara Boland | March 19, 2015
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Iran’s imprisonment of Christians has nearly doubled this past year; Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has overseen “deteriorating conditions for freedom of religion and belief in Iran,” according to a statement released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF.)

“Since assuming office in 2013, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has not delivered on his promises to improve conditions for religious minority communities,” said USCIRF Chair Katrina Lantos Swett in a statement. “In fact, the Iranian government has imprisoned more than 350 people, including 150 Sunni Muslims, 100 Baha’is, 90 Christians, and at least a dozen Sufi Muslims, for their beliefs.”

The USCIRF statement was released yesterday ahead of Iran’s meeting with the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) today.

Although the UN offered 291 recommendations to Iran, in previous years most of the recommendations have been ignored. Iran’s Shia Islamic theocracy is ruled by its Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Widespread human rights violations are particularly concerning said Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur, in a report released earlier this year. In a scathing Feb. 20 report detailing Iran's many human rights abuses, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon found that Iran’s religious minorities face “persistent discrimination and persecution.”

U.S. citizen and Christian pastor Saeed Abedini has been detained in an Iranian prison for nearly three years. President Obama promised Abedini’s young son that he would “try very hard” to bring his father home by his March 17 birthday, the boy’s birthday has come and gone and his father remains imprisoned.

“The United States and international community should call for the release of all prisoners of conscience in Iran, including: Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor and U.S. citizen; Ayatollah Mohammed Kazemeini Boroujerdi, a Shi’a Muslim cleric; and Mahvash Sabet, a Baha’i leader held since 2008,” says the statement by USCIRF. “These brave people, among many others, are suffering solely for exercising their fundamental right to freedom of conscience or belief.”