Fox News Website, 11 May 2014, Excerpts
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 and other countries.
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 FoxNews.com. “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.”
“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.”
- Dwight Bashir, U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom
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 FoxNews.com 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 FoxNews.com that he would review the commission’s report, but declined further comment.