UK ambassador calls on Iran to end persecution of Christian converts

March 14, 2021

The persecution of Christians should be a focus of governments all across the world that have commitments to human rights and religious freedom. We hope that this call from Julian Braithwaite will lead to concerted British government action to protect the Christians of the world, particularly converts, who are still vulnerable and subjected to ongoing harassment and persecution.

The Iranian government particularly targets converts to Christianity, as it considers them “to be apostates, a form of religious abandonment which is a criminal offense under Iran’s law.” There are laws in Iran that grant some limited freedoms to the Christians, but they are generally not considered applicable to converts from Islam to Christianity, who are all too often considered enemies of the state. The U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a “country of particular concern” for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“UK ambassador calls on Iran to end persecution of Christian converts,” Article 18, March 11, 2021:

The UK’s permanent representative to the UN has called on Iran to end its “persistent” discrimination and persecution of religious minorities, “particularly the Baha’i and Christian converts”.

Julian Braithwaite was speaking as part of a 9 March interactive dialogue with the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, who was presenting his latest report.

Mr Rehman’s report, released ahead of the 46th session of the Human Rights Council, called on Iran to “release all those imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of religion or belief” and “eliminate all forms of discrimination against them”.

In his comments on 9 March, the special rapporteur said he was “disturbed” at the “harassment, arbitrary arrests and imprisonments of religious minorities” in Iran and called on UN member states “to make human rights compliance an integral element in all their bilateral dialogue with the Islamic Republic”.

He also said the international community should “continue to raise concerns publicly and privately when [rights] violations happen”. 

The UK representative was the only speaker to specifically mention the plight of Christian converts during the 9 March discussion, though Israel’s representative also named Christians among the religious minorities facing “discrimination and oppression”….

Article18’s partner organisation CSW, in a statement written for the 9 March session, echoed the UN working group’s call for Mr Nadakhani’s release, as well as that of his friend and fellow Christian convert Zaman (Saheb) Fadaei. Both men are serving six-year sentences in Tehran’s Evin Prison because of their involvement with house-churches.

CSW also referenced the arrest last year of at least 115 Christians, as mentioned in our joint annual report, the recent detention of Christian convert Ebrahim Firouzi, and the interrogation of 11 Christian families near Karaj, who were warned “to stop house-church activity and not to visit each other’s homes”….