Debate highlights dangerous escalation of religious persecution in Iran


Members of the UK Parliament taking part in a debate on 11 January on Iran's human rights violations. Pictured from left to right: Alistair Burt, MP for North East Bedfordshire and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside; Andrew Selous, MP for South West Bedfordshire; and Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East.
Members of the UK Parliament taking part in a debate on 11 January on Iran's human rights violations. Pictured from left to right: Alistair Burt, MP for North East Bedfordshire and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office; Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside; Andrew Selous, MP for South West Bedfordshire; and Kerry McCarthy, MP for Bristol East.

[BWNS, 13 Jan. 2012] LONDON — Members of Parliament here have sharply criticized Iran for its human rights violations, focusing especially on the “steep rise” in the persecution of religious minorities.

In a debate held at Westminster Hall on Wednesday 11 January, MPs highlighted the fact that virtually every religious minority in Iran is now facing oppression.

Some 19 MPs, representing the UK’s three major parties, participated in the debate.

Watch video coverage of the debate, here.
Read a transcript of the debate, here.

In the opening speech, Louise Ellman, MP for Liverpool Riverside, described the persecution of Baha’is as “pervasive and escalating dangerously.”

“The repression takes a number of forms in an ongoing and systematic persecution,” said Mrs. Ellman. “It means arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and the denial of access to higher education and areas of employment. The homes and businesses of Baha’is have been subject to arson attacks, cemeteries have been destroyed, and children have been harassed.”

She also expressed concern over the 20-year prison sentences being served by seven Baha’i leaders and Iran’s continuing effort to bar young Baha’is from higher education.

Noting remarks made recently by Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire, Mrs. Ellman said that it “is extremely important that the world does not wait until there is a genocide. It should heed warning and take further action to put pressure on the Government of Iran to stop what they are doing.”

Participants also raised the issue of the increasing persecution of Christians in Iran. Andrew Selous, MP for South West Bedfordshire, reported that at least eight Christian leaders have been murdered since 1979, and expressed particular concern over the case of Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, who was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010 and has since been the focus of an international outcry.

Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough, spoke of “regular raids on gatherings” of Christians, “harsh interrogations and torture…including demands for the recantation of faith and for information on the identities of fellow Christians; detention for long periods without charge and other violations of due process; convictions for ill-defined crimes or on falsified political charges; the economic targeting of the Christian community through the demand of exorbitant bail payments; and the threat of imminent execution of a house-church pastor.”

Regarding Iran’s Jewish community, Martin Horwood, MP for Cheltenham, reported “increasing evidence that anti-Semitism is growing there, and that the small Jewish community there is being blamed for the actions of the Israeli Government.”

At the end of the debate, Alistair Burt, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said that while 2011 showed that demands for human dignity are irrepressible, Iran is moving in the opposite direction.

“Human rights are universal,” said Mr. Burt, “and Iran’s failure to meet its obligations is punishing and stifling the fulfilment of the wishes and aspirations of millions of people.”

Mr. Burt assured those present that the UK will continue to press other countries to support resolutions expressing concern over Iran’s human rights record in the United Nations and at the Human Rights Council.

Dr. Kishan Manocha, Director of the Office of Public Affairs of the Baha’i Community of the United Kingdom, has welcomed the wide ranging discussion.

“The fact that such a good number of MPs, representing all parties, participated really reflects a high level of concern about Iran’s human rights record, and especially its rising religious intolerance,” said Dr. Manocha.

“We are, of course, pleased that Baha’is were prominently mentioned,” Dr. Manocha added. “But we are also happy that UK Parliamentarians are focusing on the problems faced by other religious minorities. We need to speak as one on the situation of religious intolerance in Iran.”

Baha’i World News Service coverage of the persecution of the Baha’is in Iran

The Baha’i World News Service has published a Special Section which includes further articles and background information about Iran’s campaign to deny higher education to Baha’is. It contains news of latest developments, a summary of the situation, profiles of imprisoned Baha’i educators, feature articles, case studies and testimonials from students, resources and links.

Another Special Report offers articles and background information about the seven imprisoned Iranian Baha’i leaders – their lives, their imprisonment, trial and sentencing – and the allegations made against them. It also offers further resources about the persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community.

The International Reaction page of the Baha’i World News service is regularly updated with responses from governments, nongovernmental organizations, and prominent individuals, to actions taken against the Baha’is of Iran.

The Media Reports page presents a digest of media coverage from around the world.



2 Responses

  1. Nasser

    January 13, 2012 10:27 pm

    This is an incredible efforts by people from around the world started to understand the severity of ongoing persecution of the Baha’is in Iran, who , peacefully and tirelessly sacrificing their lives and material belongings to bring about Justice in that country in the past 160 years. The suffering of Baha’is in Iran, for all sort of persecution and discrimination in the hands of Islamic government and its hatred inciting associated groups, increasingly becoming a shameful act of human rights abuse in recent history , but on the other hand people from all stratum of society increasingly and wholeheartedly offering their support to eliminate injustice against the Baha’is in Iran.

  2. Farzan

    January 24, 2012 7:18 am

    In recent disturbing news of ongoing persecution of Baha’is in Iran, purely due to their religious conviction, the authorities in Sanandaj city want to repossess yet another Baha’i cemetery!! – Please read the full story on this site.
    A careful study and follow up on human rights abuse against Baha’is in Iran will reveal that the authorities in that country have taken similar desperate action against Baha’is almost in all cities and regional areas in the country. The arrest and imprisonment of Baha’i academics involved in providing higher education for Baha’i youth, through a legitimate online university, who are deprived from entering normal higher education system in Iran, is another example of this ongoing inhuman behaviour of Iranian authorities against its own people.
    Same pattern of shameless behaviour being repeated by the Iranian authorities over and over again: Authorities give the Baha’is a parcel of land far away from any urban facilities in a rocky mountainside as a cemetery and Baha’is put their heart and soul to develop the area and then after many years repossess the place and repeat the same disrespect behaviour with dead bodies as they do with them when they are alive! Then the authorities allow the Baha’is to start a higher education institution to educate young Baha’is for offering a better service to the country, once again, suddenly authorities change their mind, attack and arrest the academics and administrators, who put their heart and soul in providing higher education for the betterment of country, close the Baha’i university and imprison the innocent and hard working people with a fabricated charges such as dangerous to the security of the country and other similar charges that all are too familiar for everyone around the world!
    All these strange and extremely shameful and brutal behaviour by the Iranian authorities and its hatred-inciting elements is nothing but a sign of confusion and frustration by the authorities. The determination and resolution of the Baha’i community in Iran in NOT taking any revenge or violent action against all outrageous and brutal behaviour of the authorities will continue to confuse Iranian Islamic government and at the same time it will continue to gain international support in defending the Iranian Baha’is by many governments, organisations and individuals around the world.


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