Iran lies about religious freedom, Christian, Baha'i believers say at UN

(Photo: Ecumenical News / Peter Kenny)Iranian dissident Marina Nemat testifies during a side event at the United Nations in Geneva on October 30, 2014

GENEVA - Iran's representative has told the United Nations Human Rights Council that the West, a "media blitz" and "propaganda" is to blame for its execution the previous week of 26-year-old Reyhaneh Jabbari.

But human rights' groups accused Mohammad Javad Larijani, chief of human rights in Iran's government, of gross distortion of the truth after he claimed she had a fair trial.

Reyhaneh Jabbari had spent five years on death row for stabbing a 47-year-old surgeon who had previously worked for the intelligence ministry, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Iran's stated claims on its own human rights and religious freedom record and Jabbari's trial came under deep scrutiny during the presentation of its report to the Universal Peer Review process on October 30 in Geneva.

Iran's Larijani said: "We tried and lobbied a lot to solicit forgiveness from relatives of victims. We unfortunately were not able."

Mohammad Mostafaei, Iranian human rights lawyer who was forced to flee the country for his own safety said, however, in a UN side event, "I was Reyhaneh Jabbari's lawyer. Mr. Larijani's statement is completely false.

"It is not true that she had a fair trial. Because the deceased in this case belonged to the intelligence services, the court treated the case differently, and gave undue weight to the prosecution.

"Key evidence in the case, and basic legal principles, were ignored."

The Iranian envoy cited a relative of the killed man saying "One reason was because of huge propaganda created in this case. In my last meeting with sons, I urged him to 'let not even others also not lose a beloved one; forgive.

"We had the intention to forgive, but because of the media blitz - they accused our father of forced rape - we cannot deal with this humiliation."

The present of the International Federation for Human Rights, Karim Lahidji told journalists, "The number of executions in Iran are increasing each year - 2013 was a record year with 700 executions and 2014 following the same worrying trend.

"This is especially troubling considering those facing death sentences are very often denied their basic rights to a fair trial."

The Iran report to the UN Universal Peer Review states, "Several ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities also live in Iran and enjoy equally the rights and privileges accorded to all Iranian citizens."

It also states a commitment to: "Protection of the rights and duties of women at national and international arenas."

Marina Nemat, who now lives in Canada, told a side event at the United Nations organized by UN Watch, "They tortured and raped me at the age of 16.


"I am a Christian. I am from a Christian family. I grew up in Iran. They forced me to convert to Islam in prison. Is that respect freedom of religion?

She said Iran's denial of torture in prisons is a lie and Iran's report to the United Nations was a "work of fiction."

"I was tied to bare wooden bed and lashed my feet with steel cable with rubber casing yelling 'God is Great.'"

Nemat noted, "I just hope that there is someone here at the United Nations who would hold them accountable." Otherwise she said anyone can get away with anything.

She testified that many members of her family are from the Baha'i faith.

"Many members of the Baha'i faith are in jail as well as Christians," said Nemat.

Diane Ala'i of the Baha'i International Community testified at another side event at the UN in Geneva.

"In 2010, the government of Iran accepted a number of recommendations that would, if implemented, improve the situation of Baha'is, "But during the last four years, none have been acted upon."

She said, "Baha'is are blatantly discriminated against in employment and education, proving that they do not enjoy all the rights of citizenship.

"Baha'is are not allowed to work in the public sector at all, and in the private sector there are a lot of restrictions imposed upon them," said Ala'i.

And in education, she said, "Baha'i youth are not allowed to study in Iranian universities – as soon as they are identified as Baha'is, they are expelled."

Sholeh Zamini of Sudwind, an Austrian based NGO, who focused on women's rights in Iran also spoke at the same hearing.

"The reality of Iran on the issue of women is totally different than what is written in their report," said Zamini. She cited a recent UNDP report that ranked Iran 128 out of 187 countries on a "Gender Development Index."

Zamini said in a number of areas such as health, education, employment, and social welfare, Iranian women are not treated equally with men.

"The laws for women are different than laws for men," she said.

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