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PROMOTING IRANIANS’ RIGHTS TO FREEDOM OF RELIGION

January 2020

Current tensions between the United States and Iran could further threaten the rights of religious minorities in the Middle East. New short videos on SAT-7 PARS’ Insiders program will support the Persian speaking Channel in its advocacy to inform viewers in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan of their rights to freedom of religion and belief.

The videos, which explain issues such as the rights to hold, change, and practice a religion or belief in a clear and accessible manner, were produced by the Freedom of Religion and Belief (FORB) Learning Platform. As part of SAT-7’s advocacy across all channels for religious freedom in the Middle East and North Africa, they will be translated to Persian and will be broadcast on SAT-7 PARS’ weekly talk show Insiders, as well as on social media.

“We are always seeking relevant video clips to use on our live shows as they bring a greater dynamic to the show and enrich them with good content” explains Moe Pooladfar, Producer of Insiders. “I found the videos to be very educational and balanced. They teach and inform viewers on human rights, regardless of their religion, country, or race.”

As a minority, Christians in Iran and across the Middle East are vulnerable to abuses of their rights, which are frequently disregarded. Furthermore, Christianity is often wrongly viewed as a foreign import in the region, and during times of increased anti-Western sentiment, Christians may face the threat of retaliation.

“Often, our viewers aren’t even aware of their basic human rights” adds Moe Pooladfar. “These videos help inform people in Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan of their rights and serve as a starting point to bring about change in these countries. I’m aware that greater change and measurable impact will take some time, but I believe it starts with education and information.”

Satellite broadcasts cannot be censored by governments, which enables SAT-7 to reach viewers across the region in times of increased regulation, such as when Internet access was cut during protests in Iran in November 2019. The SAT-7 PARS Audience Relations team, who are a vital point of contact for viewers, will also receive special training on freedom of religion and belief to help them counsel and advise viewers.

SAT-7’s religious freedom advocacy has been strengthened since March 2018, when the broadcaster took part in a discussion with representatives of the EU and UN to explore how media can promote freedom of religion or belief. One of the outcomes of this discussion was the FORB Learning Platform, to which SAT-7 has access through its partnership with the Nordic Ecumenical Network on International Freedom of Religion and Belief (NORFORB). SAT-7 staff have since participated in training offered by the platform.

You can find out more about the Freedom of Religion and Belief (FORB) Learning Platform here; https://www.forb-learning.org/

Religious Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa
Many countries in the Middle East and North Africa are signatories of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 18 of the declaration states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief…”.

Despite this, the religious rights of Christians and other religious minorities in the region are abused on a regular basis. Some Christians face oppression from their friends and families; others are wrongfully arrested, tortured or imprisoned; and some lose their lives for their faith. In a region where religion and state are intertwined, Christians can be considered western agents, or as betraying their nation. For example, many Christians in Iran have been arrested for ‘acting against national security’.