‘Europe should seek new relationship with Iran grounded in human rights’

‘Europe should seek new relationship with Iran grounded in human rights’

‘Challenging Minority Discrimination in Iran’ was the title of a conference held at the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday. 

The two-hour discussion was hosted by Italian MEP Fabio Massimo Castaldo, and jointly organised by Minority Rights Group International, The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO), and the Centre for Supporters of Human Rights.

The discussion focused on the human rights situation in Iran, the structure of the government’s religious ideology, the situation of ethnic minorities, and violations of their rights. 

Some references were also made to religious minorities, including Baha’is, Dervishes, Christians, Zoroastrians, and Jews.

The Italian representative to the European Parliament, who was the first speaker, noted that human rights activists in Iran are risking their lives by speaking out.

He added: “Europe should seek to forge a new relationship with Iran that is grounded in human rights. Overall, by promoting human rights and security we can also achieve goals that benefit us all.”

The UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, and Raha Bahreini from Amnesty International were among the other speakers.

Mr Rehman pointed out that the Islamic political ideology of the Iranian government, which is neither accountable for its actions nor respects the rights of individuals, has created a discriminatory situation against minorities in Iran. 

He referred to his reports, which have explicitly addressed the situation of minorities in Iran, including Christian converts, and human rights violations against them.

Ms Bahreini also highlighted a recent Amnesty International report documenting the deaths in custody of 96 prisoners as a result of deliberate deprivation of medical care. 

Ms Bahreini noted that many of the victims were members of ethnic minorities.

Discrimination and repression against Balochi and Kurdish minorities was highlighted by two other speakers.

During a question-and-answer session, Article18’s representative, Fred Petrossian, challenged the suggestion of one of the speakers that Christians have the right to worship, whereas Sunnis, even though they share the same Muslim faith as the regime, do not.

Mr Petrossian highlighted the “Place2Worship” campaign, launched by a group of persecuted and imprisoned Christian converts in Iran, which has shown that this is not the case for Persian-speaking Christians, who are sent to prison for peacefully gathering to pray and worship.

“Although Europe’s efforts to raise the issue of religious minorities with the Iranian authorities are highly appreciated, why do European countries refuse to grant asylum to members of religious minorities such as Christian converts?” Mr Petrossian asked, highlighting the regular protests of a group of Christian converts in Stockholm who among other things have complained that their asylum claims have not been dealt with fairly.

Javid Rehman replied that his mission was related to the policies and practices of the Islamic Republic, and not those of other countries.

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