Iran’s continued violations of religious freedom are highlighted in the UK Foreign Office’s latest global Human Rights and Democracy report, published yesterday.
The comprehensive annual report lists Iran among 29 “human rights priority countries”, referencing the “systemic and institutional” persecution of Christians and “economic persecution” of Baha’is.
“Despite notionally benefiting from constitutional recognition and protection, Christians continued to be persecuted in a systemic and institutionalised manner [in 2018],” it states, highlighting the sentencing of four converts to ten years in prison and the arrest of 114 Christians in just one month.
“The authorities continued to pursue the economic persecution of Baha’i, including through shop closures, and by the denial of mainstream education,” the report adds.
It says the UK will “continue to hold Iran to account for its human rights record” in 2019, by supporting human rights resolutions on Iran at the UN Human Rights Council and UN General Assembly, and the mandate of the UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iran.
In the preface to the report, the UK’s Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, says he was “deeply disturbed to learn that 215 millions Christians faced persecution [worldwide] in 2018”, according to a study by Christian charity Open Doors.
In December, Mr. Hunt called for an independent review of the Foreign Office’s efforts to help persecuted Christians worldwide, the preliminary findings of which were published last month.
That report noted that in Iran the situation for Christians and other minorities had “reached an alarming stage” and that “though most cases involve converts, indigenous Christians such as Pastor Victor [Bet-Tamraz], an Assyrian Christian, with his wife Shamiram Issavi and their son, [Ramil], have also been targeted and imprisoned”.
Article18’s inaugural annual report, released in January, noted that at least 14 Christians remained in prison at the end of 2018, detained on spurious charges related to their faith or religious activity.