Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) states that "over the last six months" it has observed "an escalation in the judicial harassment of Iran's religious and ethnic minorities." CSW adds that since "since the presidential elections in May 2017, there has been a particularly sharp increase in the number of Christians receiving excessive sentences after being found guilty of unsubstantiated national security-related charges."
I know that organisations such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide and others have highlighted instances of unfair treatment and practices, including the detention and subsequent trials of Christians peacefully gathered to worship.
Indeed, Human Rights Watch has said that the judiciary in Iran has continued to crack down on citizens for the legitimate exercise of their rights, and Amnesty International has said that trials are “generally unfair”. I am also aware of reports of church property being seized and converts being harassed by security services.
The work that organisations such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide do is so important in highlighting human rights abuses and reminds us that religious freedom is still oppressed in many parts of the world.
The Government has acknowledged that religious freedom in Iran is an area of serious concern. I believe upholding and promoting human rights should be at the heart of our foreign policy and that the Government should therefore use the UK’s influence to stand up for the rights and freedoms that every person is entitled to. That is why the manifesto I stood on at the recent General Election promised to introduce a Global Ambassador for Religious Freedom to fight discrimination and promote equality globally.
I hope the Government will listen to the concerns expressed by organisations such as Christian Solidarity Worldwide and raise these matters with the Iranian authorities.