01/14/2011, 00.00
IRAN
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Shirin Ebadi: crackdown on dissidents and Christians shows regime is afraid

by Layla Yousif Rahema
The Nobel Prize laureate says, “fear [is] developing within the government”. Human rights activists and Evangelical Christians are victims of repression. Believers are subjected to interrogations and solitary confinement to extract names of other members to arrest.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – Fear is pushing Iranian authorities towards greater repression against any form of dissent, this according to Nobel Peace Prize laureate Shirin Ebadi. The Iranian writer told Radio Farda that the measures taken by the government in the past few weeks “are all clear signs of the fear developing within the government”. On 9 January, Ebadi’s lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, was sentenced to 11 years in prison for “acting against national security". However, her case was not unique; in fact, it follows a series of repressive acts against Christians during Christmas.

The authorities arrested some 70 Christians over Christmas, 25 on Christmas Day, Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported. The Christian human rights group described the series of arrests as “brutal”, noting that the 25 rounded up on Christmas Day were Evangelicals, including pastors and leaders from Iran’s house church networks, which are under severe pressure from the government.

Eleven of the group have so far been released but CSW said it had “serious concerns” for the 14 who are still in detention.

Andrew Johnston, CSW advocacy director, said, “We condemn this brutal attack on Evangelical Christians in Iran. The arrest of 70 members of one group reveals the clear targeting of individuals along religious lines. Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and is therefore legally obligated to uphold international standards of religious freedom for all its citizens.”

CSW said members of house churches have been subjected to brutal interrogations and solitary confinement at the hands of the authorities looking to extract the names of other Church members and deter them from practicing their faith.

An anti-Christian rhetoric also prevails in media and the speeches of religious and political leaders.

Most recently the Governor of Tehran, Morteza Tamadon, described Christians as ‘tabshiri’, or ‘missionaries’, and threatened more arrests during a speech in Tehran he delivered on Tuesday when he announced the arrest of several Evangelical leaders.

He told the state-run IRNA news agency, “Just like the Taliban . . . who have inserted themselves into Islam like a parasite, they [Christians] have crafted a movement with Britain’s backing in the name of Christianity.” However, “their conspiracy was unveiled quickly and the first blows were delivered to them," he added.

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