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Volume 495: debated on Friday 3 July 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the government of Iran on the protection of religious and ethnic minorities. (283644)

We have serious concerns about the situation of religious and ethnic minorities in Iran.

The Iranian authorities continue to prohibit the use of minority languages in schools, and ethnic groups such as Ahwazi Arabs, Azeris, Baluchis, Kurds and Turkmen face persecution and arbitrary arrest for campaigning for their basic rights. Many activists remain in detention on charges of endangering national security.

Iran's religious minorities continue to suffer gross human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings, detention without charge, confiscation of property, and denial of education. Such events appear to be increasingly commonplace, and are cause for serious concern.

Alongside our EU partners we have made clear to the Iranian authorities that the persecution of individuals on the grounds of religion, belief or ethnicity is unacceptable. We have expressed concern about the persecution of ethnic minorities and, in a declaration of 25 May 2009, called on the Iranian authorities to uphold their international legal undertakings to safeguard religious freedom and to stop their persecution of legitimate religious activities.