A report issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has shown that religious minorities in Iran continue to suffer persecution under President Hassan Rouhani. Benjamin Weinthal, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, reported Friday for Fox News.
The bipartisan commission’s 2015 report on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s incarceration and persecution of Christians, Baha’is, Jews and minority Sunni Muslims prompted key lawmakers to call for new human rights sanctions targeting Iran’s clerical regime, and urged President Obama, whose administration is currently in nuclear negotiations with Tehran, to lead the way.
“If the Obama Administration wants to be serious about holding Iran accountable, it should be working with Congress to reinforce and expand sanctions that target Iran’s ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom and human rights,” Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., told FoxNews.com. “But it’s not.”
Kirk, a leading legislative architect of Iranian human rights and nuclear sanctions, added “Iran’s systematic violations of religious freedom … have gotten worse under the supposedly more ‘moderate’ presidency of Hassan Rouhani.”
The report was released shortly after Iran’s foreign minister and lead nuclear negotiator, Mohammad Javad Zarif, claimed that “the Islamic Republic doesn’t imprison journalists or dissidents over their views.” The remark earned Zarif the scorn of Iranian rights advocates.
Despite a pledge by Rouhani to respect “[a]ll ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities,” the report charges that “[s]ince President Hassan Rouhani assumed office in August 2013, the number of individuals from religious minority communities who are in prison because of their beliefs has increased.”
The report isn’t the first indication that the human rights situation has deteriorated under Rouhani. Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Iran, has documented the increase in abuses. Rouhani’s first year in office saw the highest rate of executions in over a decade.