Say No to Religious Persecution in Iran
- ·End religious persecution in Iran
- ·Free pastor Saeed Abedini from Iranian prison now
- ·Demand observation of human rights in the negotiations with Iran
Ever since its inception 35 years ago, the fundamentalist regime in Iran has been prosecuting religious minorities. Many faith leaders and followers in Iran such as Baha’is, Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian, as well as Sunni Muslim minorities have been imprisoned, executed or slayed by the Iranian theocratic regime. Their places of worship have been shut down and their holly books and religious emblems confiscated and burned or destroyed. The ruling fundamentalists in Iran do not even tolerate different interpretation of Shiite Islam. Seeing them as biggest threat to their theocratic rule, they have executed tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims who had progressive interpretation of Islam calling for separation of religion and state.
Among the religious leaders imprisoned in Iran, that of Pastor Saeed Abedini has recently drawn international attention. Saeed Abedini converted to Christianity from Islam and then became a pastor, living in Boise, Idaho. He regularly made trips to Iran and was working on a government-approved orphanage when he was arrested in mid-2012. The Iranian government sentenced Abedini to eight years in prison convicting him of “undermining” the government by spreading his religious beliefs.
Thanks to the determined efforts of his wife, Naghmeh, Pastor Abedini’s case has shed light on the plight of religious minorities in Iran. In an interview with Ecumenical News Naghmeh Abedini said that before the current negotiations between the United States and Iran over the nuclear issue in the Islamic State, she was told that due to lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries, the US government was at a weak position to apply diplomatic pressure for her husband’s release. “I was expecting the U.S. government to have my husband’s release as a precondition to those talks,” she told Ecumenical News, but that did not happen. “Iran is at a desperate time and this is the best time to release my husband,” Naghmeh Abedini said, also noting that she hoped the United States raises human rights issues with Iran.
We echo Mrs. Abedini’s voice in asking the administration to raise the human rights issues with the rulers in Iran. It was the immense international pressure that forced Tehran government to agree to some concessions in their nuclear program. The same kind of pressure needs to be upheld to make them improve the human rights situation in Iran. Expecting moderation from any factions of the fundamentalist regime is a myth. Iran has executed at least 150 people this year alone, many of them in public, ranking Iran as the country with the highest rate of execution. It is our moral, religious, and in the case of pastor Abedini, a US citizen, our national obligation to defend the rights of the meek people of Iran. Human rights issues shall not be ignored in order appease the Mullahs. Now that the Iranian regime due to dire economic calamity facing the country is pressured to negotiate with the US, we should raise and emphasize the requisite of observing basic freedoms in Iran by the government. In their uprising 4 years ago, when the Iranian people took to streets, risking their lives for freedom, their call for support went unheard in Washington. Let us not make the same mistake again. Nuclear weapons are not the only thing the Mullahs can kill with.
Coalition for Democracy and Human Rights in Iran – San Diego