Iran’s rulers have spent over three decades terrorizing their neighbors, the entire world, and even their own people. Whether it was the violent crackdown following illegitimate elections in 2009 or the daily repression that has become routine, the Iranian people deserve America’s support.
I am deeply distressed by news accounts regarding Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, who is facing imminent execution for apostasy (abandoning Islam) and failing to recant his Christian faith. Pastor Nadarkhani is 34 years old, has a wife and two young children, and is the pastor of an evangelical church in Iran.
Equally troubling are the facts that his wife was imprisoned to force him to recant, and his lawyer has been sentenced to prison and banned from practicing or teaching law. This is an unjust violation of the religious freedom that is a universal right of every human being.
According to international legal experts, the death penalty is not even codified in the Iranian Penal Code. Yet the Iranian courts claim that the writings of Islamic scholars and the “fatwas” of the Ayatollahs take precedence over the Iranian Constitution or law. Under Sharia law, the pastor can be executed after refusing three times to recant his Christian faith.
In recent years, there has been a very troubling increase in religious persecution in Iran. This is true for anti-Christian efforts, but it has also been evident in the repression of non-Shiite Muslims. While there has been some good documentation of this by a few in the media and in the human rights arena, there has unfortunately been a cowardly silence by the United Nations and most of the international community in this case and others.
Our own State Department should call for his immediate release. These are the moments when the government of this great nation must not be silent, and must be a voice for freedom for those who are defenseless.
In free and civilized societies, the freedom to practice one’s religion is a fundamental right. Once again, Iran’s government is proving to the world, and to the Iranian people, that it will spare no means to suppress their God-given right to freely express their ideas and worship.
As history has proven, countries that do not respect the rights of their citizens seldom respect the rights of their neighbors. The Iranian regime’s blatant disregard for its own citizens should raise alarms about its behavior in the region and the world should its illicit nuclear program be allowed to go on unchecked.
America’s commitment to the universal rights of man requires us to clearly speak out against their violations wherever they make occur. I urge the administration to relentlessly call for an immediate and unconditional release for Pastor Nadarkhani.