In his address at the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in July, Vice President Mike Pence described the Iranian regime as one of world’s worst violators of religious liberty:
“The Iranian people enjoy few, if any freedoms – least of all the freedom of religion. Christians, Jews, Sunnis, Baha’is and other religious minorities are denied the most basic rights enjoyed by the Shia majority.”
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom Vice Chair Gayle Manchin has chosen an Iranian prisoner of conscience for a project the Commission instituted to bring attention to the plight of individuals persecuted solely for what they believe, and to pressure the government to respect their religious liberty.
That prisoner is Golrokh Ebrahimi Iraee, an Iranian author and women’s rights defender who is serving a six-year prison sentence for the so-called crimes of “spreading propaganda” and “insulting Islamic sanctities,” after authorities discovered an unpublished story she wrote critical of stoning.
“She was put on trial twice. Neither time was she allowed to speak for herself, nor were her lawyers allowed to represent her. . .This is a woman that has been taken away from her family merely for bringing out the cruelty of stoning women for adultery in a country.”
Commission Vice Chair Nadine Maenza is also highlighting an Iranian prisoner of conscience: Youcef Nadarkhani, a pastor and Christian convert, who spent years in prison and at one point was sentenced to death for apostasy, though he was later acquitted. But in July 2018 Pastor Nadarkhani was detained again to serve a 10-year prison sentence for “acting against national security” by “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running house churches, as Ms. Maenza recounted:
"The Iranian police tried to knock his door down in the middle of the night. His son opened the door. They lazered him with an electric taser to the ground and then beat Pastor Nadarkhani before arresting him and [taking] him to prison. He’s now serving a 10 year sentence in Evin prison in Tehran which is one of the worst prison in the world.”
At the Ministerial, Vice President Pence emphasized that the United States will continue to call out the persecution of religious minorities in Iran. And he had a message for the long-suffering Iranian people: “Even as we stand strong against the leaders in Tehran, know that we are with you…And we urge you to press on with courage in the cause of freedom.”