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Yadegary And Religious Freedom In Iran

Yadegary And Religious Freedom In Iran

Opinion Piece by Gordon Copeland United Future MP

I think the Refugee Status Appeals Authority (RSAA) displays a degree of naivety in the decision that they have made concerning the Iranian refugee, who arrived in New Zealand in 1993, and has since converted from Islam to Christianity and is now a practising Catholic (appeal decision 74704). I believe that, in cases of this kind, the RSAA needs to give much greater weight to human rights. In particular they need to take into account the right to religious freedom as it is set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Article 18 of the UDHR provides: "Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance."

Such rights do not exist in an Islamic state when an individual converts from Islam to Christianity. Sharia (Islamic) law governs Iran. Under that law, the penalty for a Muslim converting to Christianity is death! It is simply wrong, therefore for the RAA to send a Christian convert from Islam back to Iran. New Zealand should take a more principled approach and, in line with the UDHR, take into account the gross breach of fundamental human rights which comes into play as a result of sharia law.

The situation in Iran is quite straight-forward. People who already belong to the Jewish, Zoroastrian, or Christian faiths are able to live their lives with some degree of freedom, although, somewhat as second class citizens. Members of the Baha'i faith, on the other hand, which came into existence after the majority of Iranians had become Muslims, are routinely executed in Iran to this day because of the application of the sharia law. They are deemed to have converted from Islam to Baha'i. Likewise, Muslims converting to Christianity have been executed.

That reality needs to be taken into account and from all that I have been able to discover about the situation in Iran, there is a very real chance that the Refugee Status Appeals Authority could, in fact, be sending this young man back to his death.

Clearly, the RSAA is playing fast and loose with the sincerity of this man's life when they clearly anticipate that he will not be able to enjoy freedom of religion including the right to manifest his faith in public worship as a Catholic but instead choose to send him back as a clandestine and secret Christian. I simply don't think the Iranian Authorities are that naive.

The man should be given refugee status.


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