Escalation of Religious Persecution in Iran Addressed in UK Parliament

During a debate held at Westminster Hall on January 11th, members of the UK Parliament lambasted Iran for its human rights violations, especially the persecution of religious minorities such as the Baha'is, Jews and Christians but also women and other people groups.

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

Among them were Stewart Jackson, MP for Peterborough, who shared about the steep rise in the persecution of religious minorities during 2011, particularly of Christians belonging to both the sanctioned Churches and the unsanctioned house-church networks.

"The most worrying forms of persecution include regular raids on gatherings; harsh interrogations and torture of Christians, 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," he said.

Jackson also explained abou the proliferation of anti-Christian rhetoric from authority figures in Iran such as Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei who declared that Christianity was being deliberately spread by Iran's enemies as a means to weaken Islam within Iranian society.

Andrew Selous, MP for South West Bedfordshire, reported that at least eight Christian leaders have been murdered since 1979. Also he pointed out the statistics made by Open Doors, a charity that monitors religious freedom around the world, which ranked Iran to be the second-worst country in the world in which to be a Christian, after North Korea.

Kerry McCarthy , MP for Bristol East, focused in her speech on the human rights abuses on women in the country. "…under Iranian law, a woman's testimony is worth only half a man's testimony; the age of criminality starts at the age of nine for girls, whereas it is 15 for boys; mothers may never have guardianship of their children, even if they are widowed; and women do not have equal inheritance rights."

At the end of the debate Alistair Burt, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said: "Human rights are universal and Iran's failure to meet its obligations is punishing and stifling the fulfillment of the wishes and aspirations of millions of people."

Mr. Burt ensured that the UK is going to continue pressing other countries to support resolutions expressing concern over Iran's human rights record in the United Nations and at the Human Rights Council.

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