There are certain truisms in life. Not paying your taxes will get you into trouble. Eating high fat foods makes you gain weight and the paid lobbying machine for the Iran regime will always remain silent when it comes to the mistreatment of those living in Iran.
That was on display the other as Fox News reported that “Iran’s revolutionary court imposed harsh prison sentences on 18 Christian converts for charges including evangelism, propaganda against the regime, and creating house churches to practice their faith.”
The sentences totaled almost 24 years, but the lack of transparency in the regime’s infamous judicial system did not reveal how the sentences were dished out to each person. In addition to prison time, each defendant was barred from organizing home church meetings and given a two-year ban from leaving Iran.
The Christians, many of whom were arrested in 2013, were sentenced in accordance with Article 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, a vague law used as a catch-all criminal statute to penalize threats to Iran’s clerical rulers. According to the law, “Anyone who engages in any type of propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran or in support of opposition groups and associations, shall be sentenced to three months to one year of imprisonment.”
It’s a code that has been used widely against religious minority as well as political dissidents as a quick means of throwing them in prison before deciding on more serious charges such as espionage, treason or heresy.
The persecution doesn’t stop with Christians as Iran’s mullahs have also targeted Sunni Muslim sects and other religious minorities such as Baha’is for harassment. The number of Christians in Iran is estimated at between 200,000 and 500,000, out of an overall population of nearly 78 million.
Although the Islamic Republic’s constitution guarantees on paper that Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism are protected religions, the application of mullah’s constitution relegates the members of the minority religions to second class citizens.
Against that backdrop was testimony given on Capitol Hill yesterday by the families of Americans being held hostage in Iran, including Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor imprisoned by the regime’s revolutionary court.
The family of Amir Hekmati, an Iranian-American Marine, taken prisoner in 2011, testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee that he has been subjected to brutal torture both physical and psychological. “Amir’s feet were beaten with cables. His kidneys were shocked with a Taser. He was drugged by his interrogators, who then forced him to suffer through withdrawal. Amir was also kept in solitary confinement for months on end and held in a cell so small for the first year of his imprisonment that he could not fully extend his legs. He was allowed to walk outside his cell once a week,” said Sarah Hekmati, Amir’s sister.
Amir was also kept incommunicado for years. His jailers took advantage of this and falsely told him his mother had been killed in a car accident in a cruel example of the regime’s treatment of its prisoners.
Yet throughout all this mistreatment, Trita Parsi and other advocates for the regime have barely uttered a word of protest, even while Parsi hob nobs with Iranian delegates in Swiss hotel hallways and lounges. Their silence, while deafening, is not unexpected since the brutal treatment of Iranian-Americans could prove troublesome to the end goals of bailing out the Iran regime with a nuclear agreement that lifts all economic sanctions immediately.
It is unfortunate that this Iranian hostage crisis appears to have no end in sight.
By Laura Carnahan