Iranians dominate religious freedom victims list

Iranians dominate religious freedom victims list

Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh is among nine Christians named in the list by USCIRF.

Iranians account for over half of all the victims of religious freedom violations named in a new list by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. 

The list, which does not claim to be exhaustive but rather “indicative of the violations practised by the governments or non-state actors”, includes 64 Iranians among a total number of 126 victims.

Among these are nine Christians, including the pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who is currently on hunger strike in protest against the denial of education to his children.

Also named are the three fellow Christian converts alongside whom Yousef is now serving a ten-year prison sentence for “forming a house church” and “promoting Zionist Christianity”: Mohammad Reza Omidi, Mohammad Ali (Yasser) Mossayebzadeh, and Zaman (Saheb) Fadaie.

The recently released Iranian-Armenian Christian Sevada Aghasar is also named, alongside Christian convert Ebrahim Firouzi, who was jailed alongside him and is still in prison.

The final three Iranian Christians named are Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, currently serving a ten-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison for “acting against national security through the establishment of house churches”; Mohammad (Vahid) Roghangir, who was denied early release from a six-year sentence on similar charges in 2016; and Majidreza Souzanchi, whose five-year sentence was reduced to two years in January.

Other Iranians named in the list include 35 Sufis, 14 Baha’is, three Sunnis and one Shiite.

Pro-government media in Iran recently called the US’s criticism of its religious freedom record “biased and baseless”.

USCIRF’s list also includes victims from Vietnam, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, China, Eritrea and Turkmenistan – all designated by USCIRF, alongside Iran, as “countries of particular concern” for religious-freedom violations.