Declaration of ECPM Members of Parliament on the Freedom of Religion or Belief in Iran

Friday, June 19, 2020

Declaration of ECPM Members of Parliament on the Freedom of Religion or Belief in Iran

Brussels, 19 June 2020- ECPM Members of the European Parliament are greatly concerned about the situation of Christians in Iran and thus, make the following statement:

We, as ECPM MEPs are concerned about the freedoms and rights of Christians in Iran. Estimates say there are between 300,000 and 1,000,000 Christians (<1% of the population) living in Iran and many of them are harassed, beaten or jailed regularly for their faith. In jail they are often tortured and denied healthcare. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights has called on Iran to temporarily release all its political prisoners during the pandemic.

The only Christian minority tolerated in Iran are people of Syriac or Armenian ethnicity. It is not allowed for a Muslim to convert to Christianity. It is illegal to produce Christian literature or to hold religious services in any other language than Syriac or Armenian and churches have been shut down for conducting religious services in Farsi.

We find it disturbing that in 2018 as well as in 2019 there has been a rise in arrests of Christians and other religious minorities (Baha’i, Sufi, Sunni)  in Iran, with Christians being specifically targeted at Christmas. We draw attention to the fact that the US has been designating Iran a “country of particular concern” (CPC) since 1999 under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedoms.

Religious freedom represents more than the freedom to believe privately. It is also the freedom to talk about and act in accordance with your core beliefs without interference from the government. Iran blatantly disregards this. We utterly condemn the Iranian government's systematic persecution, surveillance, harassment and torture of Christians and other religious minorities.

We call on all EU institutions to denounce Iran’s violation of religious freedom and human rights and to pressure Iran into fulfilling its international obligations under the UDHR and the ICCPR. Iran must commit to protecting the freedom of Christians and of the other religious minorities in the country.

We urge NGOs active in this area to report violations of the Freedom or Religion or Belief perpetrated by Iran and we urge world leaders and NGOs to continue to advocate for the speedy release of Christians imprisoned in Iran because of their faith.

Iran is acting in a totalitarian and oppressive way towards women, religious minorities or anyone who dares to speak against the regime. The EU has had a permissive attitude towards Iran’s behavior so far, but we call on the EP, the Commission and the Council to reconsider its diplomatic and economic stance. The European Union can only be credible towards its own citizens and member states if it upholds the same values at home and abroad.

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