By ANUGRAH KUMAR
Land belonging to an Iranian Assyrian church that was illegally confiscated by authorities two years ago will soon be the venue for a center for Islamic prayers, according to Iran's state-controlled media.
The Chaldean Catholic Church in Western Tehran, the original owner of the land, has made numerous pleas to authorities to get the grounds back, but in vain, the state-run newspaper Sharq quoted Jonathan Bet-Kelia, a member of the regime's Majlis, or parliament, as saying, according to Assyrian International New Agency.
Bet-Kelia met with Ali Younesi, special assistant to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on ethnic minorities affairs, with the same request but was told that nothing could be done about it. Younesi is a former Minister of Intelligence and Security, and is known for ordering arrests and assassinations of numerous dissidents.
Ali Safavi, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, also criticized the regime for confiscating land belonging to a church for building an Islamic prayer center.
"The brazen admission displays first and foremost the discriminatory and sectarian policies of the regime vis-a-vis Iran's religious minorities," he was quoted as saying. "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."
Iran has an extremely poor record in civil and political rights.
Amnesty International recorded nearly 700 executions, including those of members of ethnic and religious minorities convicted of "enmity against God," in just a little over six months last year in the Shiite Muslim nation, which put people to death even during the holy month of Ramadan.
Many of those executed were charged with drug-related offences, but also included members of ethnic and religious minorities convicted of "enmity against God" and "corruption on Earth," including Kurdish political prisoners and Sunni Muslims.
A U.S. State Department report, Trafficking in Persons Report 2015, noted that Iran's government officials were involved in sex trafficking of women and girls, and some of them even forced girls into prostitution rings.
"Iran is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to sex trafficking and forced labor," the report noted. "Organized groups reportedly subject Iranian women, boys, and girls to sex trafficking in Iran, as well as in the United Arab Emirates and Europe."
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said the report shows how "irresponsible" the Obama administration was in striking a nuclear deal with Tehran.
Several Christians are in jail in Iran due to their faith.