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UN Special Rapporteur ‘very concerned’ by Iran’s mass arrests of Christian converts

UN Special Rapporteur ‘very concerned’ by Iran’s mass arrests of Christian converts

Left to right: Simin Fahandej, Javaid Rehman, Hamid Gharagozloo, Bob Blackman MP, Mattie Heaven, and Richard Ratcliffe.

The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran spoke yesterday of his “serious concern” over the “disturbing” mistreatment of converts to Christianity in Iran.

Javaid Rehman, who was speaking at the UK’s Houses of Parliament at an event hosted by the International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights (IOPHR), said he was “personally very concerned” about converts being arrested for praying together and charged with acting against national security. 

The rapporteur also pledged that he would look into the issue “very seriously” in the coming years.

Mr. Rehman noted that although the Iranian constitution recognises Christians as a minority group, only those who belong to the historically Christian ethnic Armenian and Assyrian communities are permitted to practise their faith. Converts are not recognised.

He added that even those religious minorities that are recognised – also Jews and Zoroastrians – face discrimination, sanctioned by the constitution. He used the example of Iran’s inheritance law, whereby a Muslim relative is given all property rights at the expense of non-Muslim next of kin. Mr. Rehman said it “undermines religious freedom”.

Another speaker at the event was UK Member of Parliament Bob Blackman, who highlighted the case of Yousef Nadarkhani, a Christian convert whom he noted was “arrested and beaten and is now serving ten years in prison just for praying with other Christians at a house church”.

Other speakers highlighted the plight of other minority groups, such as the Gonabadi dervishes and Baha’is. 

IOPHR representative Hamid Gharagozloo noted that the dervishes have seen their homes and places of worship destroyed, while the group’s spiritual leader remains under house arrest.  

Meanwhile Simin Fahandej from the Baha’i International Community said that Bahai’s, as an unrecognised minority group, face “state-sponsored persecution … just for being Baha’i”.

Richard Ratcliffe, husband of the jailed British-Iranian woman Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, urged the UK government to ensure that human rights were more than just a “nice to have” and “secondary issue” in future dealings with Iran.