Christians Persecuted At Alarming Rate In Iran, Arab World, US Report Says

ICC Note: In the 2014 report released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom they highlight the staggering rate of persecution taking place in the Middle East. While legislation and diplomatic tools are in place for the United States to address these concerns, the Obama administration has shown very little willingness to do so. From time to time public statements have been made, but very little true action has been taken to address the issue.

By Benjamin Weinthal

05/07/2014 Middle East (Fox News) – Christians are under siege in the Middle East, and the Obama administration is not doing enough to stop religious persecution by its allies, according to a new report from a bipartisan federal commission.

The report, from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, faulted usual suspects Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, as well as North Korea. The number of Christians in the Middle East has plunged to just 10 percent of the overall population from more than 25 percent in 2011.

“While the Obama administration should continue to shine a spotlight on abuses through public statements, it also should impose targeted sanctions to demonstrate that there are consequences, too,” Dwight Bashir, the commission’s deputy director of policy and research, told “By not utilizing an existing legislative tool, the United States risks sending the message that it prefers a nuclear deal to standing up for the rights of the Iranian people. The United States should not be confronting such a scenario in the first place.”

The report identified the 16 worst violators of religious freedom, designating them “countries of particular concern.” It said Iran, a fixture on the commission’s reports since it began issuing them in 1999, has only gotten worse since “purportedly moderate President Hassan Rouhani” came to power last year.

“As of February 2014, at least 40 Christians were either in prison, detained or awaiting trial because of their religious beliefs and activities,” noted the report.

Morad Mokhtari, an Iranian human rights researcher at the New Haven, Conn., Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, told any hopes that Rouhani would usher in a more tolerant age in the Islamic Republic have been dashed. Mokhtari, an Iranian Christian, said Rouhani “has not been effective in changing the judicial system” and it is unclear if he wants to reform Iran’s Shariah-dominated legal apparatus.

Hamid Babaei, spokesman for Iran’s mission to the UN, told that he would review the commission’s report, but declined further comment.

Saudi Arabia — a traditional U.S. ally in the Gulf region — was criticized because it bans all non-Islamic religious institutions and practices.

“Not a single church or other non-Muslim house of worship exists in the country,” the report stated. Some Saudi Arabia textbooks in 2013/2014 “justified violence against apostates and polytheists and labeled Jews and Christians ‘enemies.’”

During his March visit to the Kingdom, President Obama chose not to raise human rights issues with King Abdullah or other Saudi officials. Prior to Obama’s trip, a bipartisan group of 70 members of Congress urged Obama to address Saudi Arabia’s ban of women drivers and other important human rights cases.

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