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Expert: Repression of Christians in Rouhani’s Iran Raises Concerns About Nuke Deal Credibility

The continuing repression of Christians and other religious minorities in Iran raises questions about President Hassan Rouhani’s inclination to adhere to any nuclear deal his country might sign, Benjamin Weinthal, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote Sunday in an analysis for The Jerusalem Post.

After his campaign promises in 2013 to guarantee the rights of religious minorities in the Islamic Republic of Iran, the country’s self-declared moderate President Hassan Rouhani has remained silent about the ongoing crackdown on Christians. Rouhani’s indifference to imprisoned Christians is a form of complicity in human rights violations and a window into a flawed nuclear negotiation process.

US Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Illinois) captured the severe deficits in the bargaining process between the world powers and Iran to end the Islamic Republic’s illicit nuclear weapons program, telling The Jerusalem Post recently, “The Iranian regime’s systematic persecution of Christians, as well as Baha’is, Sunni Muslims, dissenting Shi’a Muslims, and other religious minorities, is getting worse not better. This is a direct consequence of President Obama’s decision to de-link demands for improvements in religious freedom and human rights in Iran from the nuclear negotiations.” …

Moreover, Mansour Borji, a spokesman for the Article 18 Committee initiative of the United Council of Iranian Churches (Hamgaam), told the Iranian Christian outlet Mohabat news, “The Islamic regime of Iran treats Christians cruelly, while Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, claims that no one is in jail in Iran for their beliefs. Despite President Rouhani’s promises in his campaign, not only do we see no relief of suppression of Christians, but we see an increase in the number of arrests and unfair sentences, and the security atmosphere imposed by the Islamic regime on the Iranian Christian community still continues.”

These criticisms have been backed up by a report issued by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which called for new human rights sanctions to be imposed on Iran for its persecution of religious minorities, such as the sentencing of 18 Christians to prison for practicing their faith.

The repression of Iranian Christians is symptomatic of the ongoing deterioration of Iran’s human rights situation since Rouhani assumed the presidency. Earlier this year, the United Nations Special Rapporteur for Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, testified about the increase in human rights abuses. Shaheed reported that Rouhani’s first year in office saw the highest rate of executions in Iran in over a decade.

[Photo: Υπουργείο Εξωτερικών / Flickr ]