Date: January 24, 2016
TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS -- Jan. 24, 2016) -- Authorities in Tehran are planning to transform illegally seized church grounds into an “Islamic prayer center.”
According to a story by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the land belonging to the Iranian Assyrian community’s Chaldean Catholic Church in Tehran’s Patrice Lumumba Street (in Western Tehran) was illegally confiscated two years ago.
This was under the pretext of constructing an Islamic prayer hall and the authorities have refused to hand it back, a member of the regime's Majlis (Parliament) was quoted as saying by the state-run newspaper Sharq on Dec. 30 2015.
Repeated complaints about the illegal confiscation of the church grounds have fallen on deaf ears despite repeated pleas by the representatives of the Christian minority, said Jonathan Bet-Kelia, a member of the regime’s Majlis.
Bet-Kelia told Sharq that he had approached Ali Younesi, special assistant to the regime's President Hassan Rouhani on ethnic minorities affairs, on this matter but was told that nothing could be done about it.
Younesi is a former Minister of Intelligence and Security (MOIS). NCRI said he is personally responsible for ordering numerous arrests and assassinations of dissidents.
Commenting on the regime's admission that it had usurped church grounds to build its own prayer hall, Ali Safavi of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) said, “The brazen admission displays first and foremost the discriminatory and sectarian policies of the regime vis-à-vis Iran’s religious minorities. At the same time, it speaks to the failure of Western policy to accommodate the regime in the futile hope that it will promote moderation and tolerance on the domestic front.”
Under the banner of Shiite Islam, the ruling clerics have systematically suppressed people of different faiths and even denied the minority Sunni Muslim population their basic rights.
NCRI said on July 29 2015, the regime destroyed a Sunni prayer hall in the capital Tehran.
Officials from the Tehran municipality, backed by state suppressive forces (police), raided and destroyed the Sunni “Pounak” prayer hall. They also searched the premises of the mosque’s Sunni imam Abdullah Moussa-Zadeh and confiscated his mobile phone.
The Tehran municipality had shut down the Pounak prayer hall and placed seals on its entrance earlier in the year. Although the seals were later removed, Sunni Muslims had been prevented from praying in the center.
At the time, NCRI reported, Maryam Rajavi, the president-elect of the Iranian Resistance, described the destruction of the Sunni prayer hall in the Pounak district of Tehran as an anti-Islamic, sectarian and criminal act.
She called on all defenders of human rights and freedom of religion and belief and the international community, especially Muslim countries, Europe and the US, to protest against it.
The prayer hall’s destruction also drew immediate criticisms from Iranian Sunni leaders.
NCRI said Mowlavi Abdulhamid, the Sunni imam in the city of Zahedan, south-eastern Iran, sent letters of protest to the mullahs’ Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and to Hassan Rouhani condemning the raid.
In his letter to Rouhani, Abdulhamid wrote, “Intolerance towards even a single ordinary prayer hall and its destruction in a city that does not allow Sunnis to build a mosque ... not only hurts the sentiments of Iran’s Sunni community, but also offends all Muslims of the world.”
The regime’s security forces have on numerous occasions prevented Sunni Iranians from holding prayers in particular during the religious Eid festivals.
For more information, please visit www.ncr-iran.org
Photo captions: 1) A church in Iran. 2) Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 3) Jeremy and Elma Reynalds
About the writer: Jeremy Reynalds is Senior Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, a freelance writer and also the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, www.joyjunction.org. He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is “From Destitute to Ph.D.” Additional details on “From Destitute to Ph.D.” are available at www.myhomelessjourney.com. Reynalds lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico with his wife, Elma. For more information, please contact: Jeremy Reynalds at jeremyreynalds@gmail,com.