London, MEFD On Wednesday 1 November, Middle East Forum for Development (MEFD) held an event in the House of Commons regarding the human rights situation in Iran.
The event was chaired and hosted by Mr Jim Shannon, Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) Member of Parliament, and Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief. The speakers included Mr Mosa Zahed, executive director of Middle East Forum for Development; Ms Sara Saei, a student of spiritual teacher and prisoner of conscience Mohammad Ali Taheri; Mr Reza Hosseinbor, Iranian Baloch human rights activist and Mr Qusay Doraghi, representative of Ahwaz Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) UK. The panellists addressed the grave human rights violations by the Iranian authorities in general and the persecution of Iran’s minorities in particular and further deliberated about how the international community can better support and protect such minorities.
Sara Saei raised awareness about the plight of Mohammad Ali Taheri, who is imprisoned for establishing a spiritual doctrine and group called Erfan-e Halgheh. Taheri was arrested in April 2010 and released after two months. He was rearrested in May 2011 and sentenced by a Revolutionary Court in Tehran for five years, 74 lashes and a large fine, for insulting Islamic sanctities. In December 2015, Taheri was acquitted of a second charge of spreading corruption on earth, for which he had been previously sentenced to death in August 2015. The Iranian authorities have subjected Taheri to torture and mock execution throughout his imprisonment and on 27 August again sentenced him to death on the charge of spreading corruption on earth, which was ultimately quashed on 30th October by Iran’s Supreme Court. Sara Saei stipulated that the Iranian authorities increasingly crack down on Erfan-e Halgheh students .Weeks after Taheri was retried, at least one hundred of his students were arrested by the Revolutionary Guard in cities such as Esfahan, Tabriz, Shiraz and Mashhad Saei said. The detained students are held for interrogation and forced to make false statements against Mr Taheri or to bring new charges against him, she added.
Ms Shimaa Elsayed the founder of Women’s Action Against Violent Extremism (WAVE) and a leading committee member of Amnesty International UK Womenâ€™s Action Network (WAN) was also in attendance and expressed the deep concerns of both organisations in regard to the systematic violation of women’s right in Iran and use of vaguely worded national security charges to crack down on women’s human rights defenders and women’s rights activists. WAVE and WAN have been working together to campaign, in particular for women’s human rights defender in Iran Narges Mohammadi and British Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Ms Elsayed urged the British government to call on Iranian authorities to release immediately and unconditionally Narges Mohammadi and Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and all other human rights defenders who have been imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising their rights.
The panellists agreed that the UK government must relinquish political expediency and espouse a principled approach in solving Iran’s human rights crisis.