An open letter to US secretary of State to put pressure on the Iranian regime to stop the violation

An open letter to US secretary of State to put pressure on the Iranian regime to stop the violation of the rights of the religious and ethnic groups in Iran

In a open letter (see below) various human right organisations, including IOPHR, religious groups, and civil liberties groups asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “Call on the Iranian government to release all religious prisoners of conscience and to reach out to U.S. allies to express their concern making it clear that detaining such innocent individuals during a pandemic demonstrates a particularly reckless disregard for human rights and human life for which Iran’s government should be held accountable.”


In the letter the attention of Mr Pompeo is drawn to the fact the Iranian government reportedly released on furlough tens of thousands of prisoners. Yet, despite this, reports indicate that it did not release a single Gonabadi Sufi. Moreover, only small portion of other religious minorities that are imprisoned have been furloughed. In fact only seven out of twenty-three Christian prisoners were released in March. Also some 40 Sunni religious prisoners of conscience are in Iranian prisons. None are reported to have been furloughed due to COVID-19.


The letter also highlights that ”Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Iranian authorities have stepped up their prosecutions and sentencing of religious groups. For instance, the authorities have targeted at least 60 Bahá’is in recent weeks. Specifically, 55 Bahá’í have been summoned to court in Shiraz, Birjand, Karaj, and Kermanshah. (Of this number, 26 have been tried and sentenced.) Three have been arrested in Yazd and two were arrested in Isfahan and released shortly thereafter. Some 56 Gonabadi Sufis have been sent into internal exile over the last several weeks as part of their sentences.”


Full Letter:


July 3, 2020


The Honorable Michael R. Pompeo Secretary of State U.S. Department of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, D.C. 20520


Dear Secretary Pompeo,


As you are aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a particularly dangerous situation for prisoners. Perhaps nowhere is this more true than in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where Bahá’í, Christian, Gonabadi Sufi, and other religious prisoners languish in Iranian jails in crowded conditions.


In March 2020, in recognition of the dangers, the Iranian government reportedly released on furlough tens of thousands of prisoners. Yet, despite this, reports indicate that it did not release a single Gonabadi Sufi. Seven remain in prison. Some twenty Bahá’ís were released. However, in May, the government summoned eleven to return to prison. Reportedly, seven out of twenty-three Christian prisoners were released in March, but one has been summoned to return. Some 40 Sunni religious prisoners of conscience are in Iranian prisons. None are reported to have been furloughed due to COVID-19.


Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Iranian authorities have stepped up their prosecutions and sentencings of religious minorities. For instance, the authorities have targeted at least 60 Bahá’ís in recent weeks. Specifically, 55 Bahá’í have been summoned to court in Shiraz, Birjand, Karaj, and Kermanshah. (Of this number, 26 have been tried and sentenced.) Three have been arrested in Yazd and two were arrested in Isfahan and released shortly thereafter. Some 56 Gonabadi Sufis have been sent into internal exile over the last several weeks as part of their sentences.


In addition to religious minorities in Iran, ethnic minorities are repressed; journalists are jailed; lawyers and other human rights defenders are targeted; and high numbers of executions continue.


We are buoyed by the Administration’s continuous record of support for international religious freedom, as expressed recently by the signing on June 2, 2020 of Executive Order 13926 to advance international religious freedom. This followed two very successful ministerials of the Secretary of State to Advance Religious Freedom in 2018 and 2019.


We are deeply worried about religious freedom and human rights in Iran. We ask you to voice your concern by calling on the Iranian government to release all religious prisoners of conscience and to reach out to U.S. allies to express their concern making it clear that detaining such innocent individuals during a pandemic demonstrates a particularly reckless disregard for human rights and human life for which Iran’s government should be held accountable.


Sincerely,


American Islamic Congress

Anti-Defamation League Task Force on Middle East Minorities

Bahá’ís of the United States

Faith & Liberty

International Christian Concern

Jubilee Campaign USA, Inc.

International Organization to Preserve Human Rights

International Religious Liberty Program

Institute on Religion and Democracy

Jacob Blaustein Institute for the Advancement of Human Rights of the American Jewish Congress

Boat People SOS – Religious Freedom Project

Church of Scientology National Affairs Office

Law and Liberty International

Religious Freedom Institute

Citizen Power Initiatives for China

Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience

The Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)

United Macedonian Diaspora

Human Rights Without Frontiers (Brussels)

Paul Marshall, Wilson Distinguished Professor of Religious Freedom, Baylor University


Originally published on the International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights (IOPHR) website. The International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights (IOPHR) is an active not-for-profit organisation and think tank based in the United Kingdom, with members spanning across the globe.

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