The Bishop of Chelmsford asked a question on whether the government would consider providing a safe route scheme for those persecuted on account of their faith in Iran on 23rd May 2023:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, in a recently published joint annual report by Article 18 and other Christian organisations, the IRGC’s increasing involvement in the crackdown against peaceful Christian activities in Iran was highlighted for the second year in a row. Other religious minorities and peaceful protesters also report violent treatment during arrest and detention, as well as the interference of the IRGC’s intelligence branch in court proceedings to ensure harsher sentences against those who are accused. I absolutely agree with the noble Lords who are pressing for proscription, but given all of this, does the Minister agree that we can and should do more, beyond proscription of the IRGC? Will the Government consider offering a safe route scheme for those from Iran who have suffered persecution in the form of arrest and imprisonment on account of their faith?
The Bishop of Exeter asked about the potential of a fact finding mission to investigate the possible poisoning of Iranian schoolgirls on 9th March 2023, during a debate on reports that toxic chemical agents had been used against the schoolgirls by Iranian authorities:
The Lord Bishop of Exeter: My Lords, the production and utilisation of chemical warfare in civil and international conflicts is explicitly prohibited under the Chemical Weapons Convention, to which Iran is a signatory and a participating member. Will His Majesty’s Government commit to using this existing framework to advocate for the creation of a fact-finding mission by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons?
The Bishop of St Albans spoke in a debate on British-Iranian relations on 23rd February 2023, emphasising the importance of holding the Iranian regime to account, and the critical role played by media services such as BBC Persian:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for obtaining this debate, for his superb introductory talk and not least for his powerful call that we should oppose the persecution of Baha’is and Christians. I will raise just two issues in the few moments I have.
First, as we conduct British-Iranian relations, it is vital that we support loudly and clearly those who are demonstrating for their freedoms, in particular those who face the most opposition: the young and the women who are being opposed by their own Government. They are rightly demonstrating for freedom of speech and for their rights to an education and a job.
It is difficult to know exactly how many people have been caught up in the demonstrations although it is widely reported that, so far, between 600 and 800 protesters have been killed, more than 30,000 have been arrested and more than 40 have been executed. Those are probably very modest figures. I echo the question to the Minister from the noble Lord, Lord Alton: what attempts are being made to record the regime’s crimes so that they can be taken to the UN Security Council? What representations have His Majesty’s Government made to the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran? Does the Minister agree that Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi should be held to account?
The Bishop of St Albans received the following written answers on 19th December 2022:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans asked His Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the number of children detained in prisons in Iran.
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): The treatment of juvenile offenders in Iran falls short of international standards. The Iranian judicial system is deeply flawed with frequent and well-documented violations of fair trial rights. The use of death sentences against minors is also a regular occurrence. Because of the lack of transparency of the Iranian judicial system, it is difficult to calculate with accuracy the number of children detained in Iran. In recent months, we have observed a significant increase in the rate at which children are arrested and a disproportionate number who have died during the protests. This was also noted by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 17 October. The UK will continue to work with partners to hold Iran to account for its actions.
The Bishop of Chelmsford asked a question about support for Iranians in the UK with loved ones in Iran on 12th December 2022, in light of the recent arrests and executions of protesters in Iran:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, the news of the executions in Iran is deeply concerning and heart-breaking. I declare an interest as someone who originally comes from Iran and still has friends and loved ones there. There are likely to be many more executions still to come, with a dozen death sentences already issued. I would be grateful if the Minister could outline what support the Government are providing to Iranians in the UK who are seeking to ensure the safety of loved ones in Iran.
The Bishop of Durham asked a question on threats made against journalists at Iran International during a debate on protesters in Iran on 9th November 2022:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: To follow up on that, it was reported earlier this week that the lives of two British-Iranian journalists were at risk due to lethal threats from Iran following their coverage of the protests for the news channel Iran International. Will the Government take steps to condemn these threats and encourage the freedom of the press in Iran?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon (Con): My Lords, we will and I do so now.
The Bishop of St Albans tabled a question for short debate on 27th October 2022, concerning the recent protests and demonstrations in Iran:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: To ask His Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Iran concerning the recent demonstrations in that country.
My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity that this short debate affords to highlight the plight of many people in Iran, especially young women, who are fighting for their basic human rights and, as a consequence, suffering horrific violence at the hands of the state.
Within a few metres of this Palace of Westminster, we have seen and heard the many protesters over recent weeks who have been chanting—please excuse my pronunciation — “Jin, Jiyan, Azadî”, a slogan which has been taken up by the protesters. It is Kurdish and it means “Woman, Life, Freedom”. The protesters are demonstrating in solidarity with the women in Iran. I hope that this will give us an opportunity for their voices to be heard in this Chamber today.
The Bishop of Chelmsford asked a question about freedom of religion on 27th April 2022, during a debate on the Amnesty International 2021/22 report:
The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for referencing freedom of religion and belief. Amnesty International’s latest annual report sets out the parliament of Iran’s introduction of two articles to the country’s penal code that further undermine the right to freedom of religion and belief. These articles prescribe up to five years’ imprisonment and/or a fine for insulting Iranian ethnicities, divine religions or Islamic denominations, or for engaging in
“deviant educational or proselytising activity that contradicts … Islam.”
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