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‘Hold Iran accountable for religious freedom abuses’ – Dabrina Bet-Tamraz at UN

‘Hold Iran accountable for religious freedom abuses’ – Dabrina Bet-Tamraz at UN

The daughter of an Assyrian-Iranian pastor facing ten years in prison for his Christian activities has called on the international community to “hold Iran accountable” and prioritise the “foundational human right” of religious freedom.

“Every person has the right to live out their faith in safety, peace and dignity,” Dabrina Bet-Tamraz said yesterday at the ‘Global Call to Protect Religious Freedom’ event in New York, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Dabrina spoke of the arrest of her father at a Christmas gathering at their family home in December 2014, and his subsequent detention for 65 days in solitary confinement.

“They shaved his head to humiliate him, treated him like a terrorist, a criminal,” she said. “He was kept in solitary confinement for 65 days and was charged with ‘conducting evangelism and ‘illegal house-church activities’, among other false charges that amounted to ‘acting against national security’.”

He was later sentenced to ten years in prison – a sentence that awaiting the judgment of a court of appeal.

Dabrina then explained how her brother, Ramil, was arrested and sentenced to four months in prison – a sentence that he, too, is appealing.

And then Dabrina explained how in 2017 her mother, Shamiram, was arrested and interrogated “for hours”, then sentenced to five years in prison. Shamiram’s appeal is also outstanding.

Dabrina said that before she fled Iran, she “endured similar experiences”, being “detained and held in a men’s detention centre without the presence of any female officers” and “forced to provide names of our church leaders and information of their activities”.

But she said that while she had managed to escape, “I can’t forget those I left behind – my family and the innocent people serving harsh sentences for the peaceful practice of their faith”.

She noted that since 2018 more than 200 Christians have been arrested and are “either now in prison, serving lengthy prison sentences, or awaiting trials”.

“Christians in Iran are no politicians or activists of some sort – including my family,” she said. “They’re simply believers, attending prayer and worship gatherings.”

In her concluding remarks, Dabrina noted that members of other minority faiths, such as Baha’is, Sunni Muslims and Sufis also “face discrimination and severe restrictions to their freedom of religion”.

“I implore the international community gathered here to hold Iran accountable for its mistreatment of religious freedom and prioritise religious freedom as a foundational human right for all,” she concluded. “Every person has the right to live out their faith in safety, peace and dignity.”