Many foreign governments and political organizations issued statements condemning Wednesday’s attack, among them the Islamic Republic of Iran. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham joined Muslims everywhere in saying that such violent assaults on innocent persons are completely contrary to the teachings of Islam. But Afkham seemed also to qualify that commentary by calling into question the innocence of the victims and recalling attention to the motivations behind the attack.
As Iranian propaganda network Press TV explained, “The spokeswoman also condemned as unacceptable any form of misuse of freedom of speech, intellectual radicalism, and character assassination against personalities that are revered by religions and nations.”
Instead of simply condemning the actual act of terrorism and the associated trend of radicalization, Afkham apparently attempted to equate such violence with so-called misuses of free speech, saying, “Such behaviors are the continuation of the wave of extremism as well as physical and intellectual violence that has been spreading unprecedentedly across the world throughout the past decade.”
This certainly seems to raise questions about the earnestness of the Iranian condemnation, which is already belied by a continuing stream of news related to Iran’s suppression of religious minorities under its Shiite Islamic theocracy. On Wednesday, the same day as the attack and the Iranian Foreign Ministry Response, Bos News Life reported upon the politically motivated arrests and imprisonments of Christians in the Islamic Republic.
The Christian news outlet reports that one member of the Iranian house church movement had been released on bail on January 3 after having been held for 10 months, while a Pentecostal pastor had been given a one year sentence in addition to the six years he is already serving for the vague, political charges of “acting against national security,” “cooperating with foreign agents,” and proselytizing. The new sentence reportedly stems from a headline-making crackdown on the main political prisoners’ ward of Evin Prison, after which authorities blamed the pastor for the alleged discovery of two liters of alcohol, which was used to justify the raid.
Bos News Life also notes that Christmastime raids on Iranian Christians are coming to be viewed as a sort of annual tradition, resulting in the arrest of at least 24 people during Christmas gatherings and celebration. Christian Solidarity Worldwide’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas was quoted as saying that these continued raids and the dubious additional sentence for Pastor Fathi Malayeri constitute “further evidence of the ongoing suppression of freedom of religion or belief.”
Such suppression is not compatible with any condemnation of Islamic extremism by the Iranian regime, especially when those statements themselves target the victims as well as the perpetrators. By contrast with this, Iranian Opposition leader Maryam Rajavi issued an unqualified statement of condemnation of the same attacks, reflecting the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s long-established positions in favor of freedom of religion, separation of religion and state, and inclusion.