Iran can now boast that its national football (soccer) captain is from the Armenian Christian ethnic group.
Rouhani has appointed an advisor on religious and minority affairs.
The government last year donated nearly half a million dollars to Tehran’s Jewish hospital.
While it has been suggested that developments such as these show that Iran’s treatment of religious minorities is improving, in fact Rouhani’s gestures merely distract the world's attention from the ongoing severe persecution of minorities, driven by the hardline bloc.
Iran’s new football captain is Andranik Teymourian, an Armenian. Having an ethnic Christian in such a prominent public position favourably increases the profile of Iran’s Armenians. Similarly positive is the fact that Jewish students are no longer being required to go to school on Saturdays, the Sabbath day in the Hebrew calendar.
However, none of this window dressing has changed the reality for suffering minorities in Iran. Hardliners, who are strongly opposed to such conciliatory moves, have not remained quiet. And although the Advisor on religious and minority affairs recently publically announced, “Iran belongs to all Iranians from any ethnic or religious groups,” but he also declared last October that conversion away from Islam is ‘illegal’ in Iran. Converts from Islam to Christianity continue to be treated very harshly, as do the Baha’is and Gonabadi Dervishes, while Armenians, Jews and Zoroastrians continue to be treated as second-class citizens in many ways.
Please join us in continuing to pray for true freedom of religion in Iran, beyond mere gestures, which are intended to improve Iran’s image in the international community.