The Islamic Republic of Iran and the group of P5 +1 countries (China, France, Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom (UK) and Germany), have reached a deal on nuclear and economic sanctions; however, the nation’s political activists, human rights defenders and ethnic and religious minorities continue to face repression.  The deal, finalised in Vienna on 14 July, was the outcome of negotiations between Iran and the six world powers that have been ongoing since 2006. Iran agreed to halt its nuclear enrichment programme in return for the lifting of sanctions by the US, UN and EU that have been in place for the past nine years and that have isolated the country and negatively impacted its economy.

Iranian President Rouhani called the deal “historic”, while President Obama said it would ensure that “every pathway to a nuclear weapon had been cut off” for Iran. However, the agreement makes no mention of the dire human rights climate in Iran, where there has been a spike in executions since the advent of the Rouhani government, with Iran executing more people per capita than any other country. Since 2014, more than 1,000 people have been executed – including women, political activists and religious minorities – marking a 12–year high in the number of executions. In addition, despite President Rouhani’s promises to ensure human rights and equality for all, Iran has witnessed a deterioration of human rights since his election to office two years ago. 

Iran continues to imprison political opponents, journalists and members of religious minorities, in particular converts to Christianity. Following the announcement of the nuclear agreement, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, who continues to be denied access to Iran, called on President Rouhani to turn his attentions to human rights, urging him to “focus on his other campaign pledges, specifically those to promote the enjoyment of all human rights by the Iranian people”.  In other news, Christian prisoner Behnam Irani was released on a 15-day furlough on 8 July after posting bail of 150 million tomans (50,000 USD). His temporary release is seen as a result of “nuclear negotiations and international pressure.”

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “Since the new agreement effectively ends Iran’s longstanding isolation, it should also encourage the nation to fully embrace its international undertakings, particularly with regard to human rights. CSW therefore calls on the international community to press Iran to fulfil its human rights obligations and to ensure that freedom, justice and equality before the law are guaranteed to all its citizens. We also urge the Iranian authorities to secure Behnam Irani’s permanent release without condition, as he has no legitimate charges to answer, and to uphold the country’s constitutional and international obligations to guarantee freedom of religion or belief for all.”

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

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Following revelations that Planned Parenthood is harvesting and selling body parts of aborted babies, House Speaker John Boehner is calling for hearings. And at least one House committee has said it will investigate. The news came just hours after a pro-life protest against the abortion provider was staged outside Speaker Boehner’s office. The protesters said Boehner should lead the charge to make sure Planned Parenthood no longer gets half-a-billion taxpayer dollars a year. Mark Harrington heads up the group Created Equal, which displays huge posters of dismembered unborn babies on campuses and elsewhere to spark the consciences of pro-abortion Americans.

“We have young people from all across America who have been gathered here in front of Speaker Boehner’s office for one reason, and that is to call for the defunding of Planned Parenthood,” Harrington said at the protest. “He’s the only man who can do that, and that’s why we’re here.” U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., echoed that sentiment in a press release. “Current law that proscribes altering abortion procedures in order to procure baby organs and body parts, as well as the law that says it is ‘unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive or otherwise transfer any human foetal tissue for valuable consideration,’ need to be enforced and if need be, strengthened,” he said. “Congress must and will investigate and put an end to these barbaric practices,” he added.

The protest came after the release of a video showing Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, describing “disposal practices” to employees of a biotech firm. “We’ve been very good at getting rid of hearts, lungs and livers. So I’m gonna crush below and above those parts,” Nucatola says while enjoying lunch at a Los Angeles restaurant. In reaction Rev. Pat Mahoney, with the Christian Defence Coalition, said, “America should not be giving one cent to an organization that traffics in baby parts.” James Conrad, with Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, also weighed in. “Planned Parenthood’s practice of dismembering defenceless human beings is outrageous and atrocious.” Conrad said. “These new revelations seal the deal.” 

Planned Parenthood responded, saying it’s only been donating the body parts at the wish of the mother and any money received is to reimburse the organization for transporting those body parts. But obstetrician Christina Francis said even if that were true, Planned Parenthood uses partial birth abortions as the best method to harvest the parts. “That has been illegal in this country since 2003,” Francis stated. “So I’d want to hear their defence of why they think it’s okay to perform an illegal procedure in this country solely for the purpose of obtaining tissue that they are potentially profiting from.”  “When an organization monetizes an unborn child – and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific video – we must all act,” Boehner said.

Source: CBN News

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United Nations human rights experts, the European Union, UK, US and other voices from the international community have expressed their concern regarding the detention of over 200 lawyers and activists in China since 10 July. On 16 July, five UN independent experts called on the Chinese authorities to stop harassing and intimidating lawyers and their colleagues, stating that “Lawyers are essential to ensure the rule of law; they need to be protected not harassed”. A Spokesperson for the EU’s European External Action Service also called on China to release those detained for seeking to protect human rights, while a spokesperson for the British embassy in Beijing expressed deep concern about detentions.

The US has also released a statement strongly urging China to release “all those who have recently been detained for seeking to protect the rights of Chinese citizens”. Also, the UK’s Law Society wrote to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang raising its concerns about the situation and requested the immediate and unconditional release of the lawyers still in detention. In the US, the Chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, Representative Chris Smith and Senator Marco Rubio,  released a statement asserting that the “wave of repression constitutes an undeniable setback in US-China relations”. Those detained include human rights lawyers and activists, but also relatives of lawyers and staff from the lawyers’ firms. 

Many of the lawyers questioned had signed a letter condemning the forced disappearance of lawyer Wang Yu, who had previously defended members of Falun Gong, a spiritual practice banned in China. Among the lawyers arrested were many who have defended the right to freedom of religion, belief and speech. The number of lawyers, activists and family members detained or interrogated has risen to 236, according to the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group. While the majority have been released, at least 20 are still being held in some form of detention or confinement. Amnesty International reports that some lawyers are being held on suspicion of “inciting subversion of state power”, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.

Christian Solidarity Worldwide Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “We are deeply concerned by the spate of arrests and interrogations across China since 10 July. We note that while this wave of arrests is unprecedented in its speed and scope, rights lawyers in China have faced intimidation and harassment for many years at the hands of the police, security agents and even court officials. The oppression of the legal community and the smear campaign against some of the nation’s top lawyers calls into question the government’s claim to promote the rule of law. We join governments and the international community in calling for the unconditional and immediate release of all the lawyers, activists, colleagues and family members still in detention.”

Source: Christian Solidarity Worldwide

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Afghan security forces battling the Taliban near Kabul have sustained heavy casualties as senior members of the government criticized the response to the assault as slow and ineffective. Details of the fighting were murky, but statements by various officials said that 16 to 30 members of the Afghan Local Police  were killed, along with at least two civilians. Some of the dead were decapitated, officials said. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said “the desecration” of the bodies was a “war crime.” The ugly turn in the war comes as Afghanistan’s struggling coalition government remains without a minister of defence 10 months after taking office. President Ashraf Ghani’s third nomination for the post was recently rejected by Parliament.

The fighting was taking place on an important highway connecting Kabul, the capital, to the central province of Bamian. A spokesman for the local governor said 30 members of the Taliban had been killed and 18 wounded. The spokesman accused the province’s police chief, Gen. Khalil Andarabi, of negligence and expressed concern that the insurgents could threaten Kabul next. “There is only one mountain between us and Kabul” he said. Security officials said hundreds of supporting forces had taken back much of the land lost and had secured the government buildings in central Jalrez. “The Afghan Local Police members fought the insurgents until their last breath, and when the ammunition finished they were killed by the Taliban,” said one local security official.

More than 400 Taliban fighters were involved in the onslaught, the official said. Some senior officials, including Vice President Sarwar Danish, criticized the security forces’ response to the assault, underscoring the dysfunctional nature of Afghanistan’s power-sharing government as it struggles to push back against the Taliban. Mr. Danish, who called the Taliban assault a “brutal and unacceptable tragedy,” accused officials of “negligence and delay” and criticized a “lack of responsibility and coordination.” Hajji Mohaqeq, the deputy chief executive of the coalition government, said that 22 security personnel had been killed and “their bodies chopped up and burned after their martyrdom” while units of an Afghan police force headquartered nearby provided no support.

Source: The New York Times

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A pro-family resolution has been passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva of “unprecedented” force and reach, thanks to a coalition of African and other developing countries, China and Russia and a support group of socially conservative NGOs. “This is unprecedented, a tremendous victory for the family,” Sharon Slater, the head of Family Watch International, said. “It is the first time ever in the history of the United Nations that a comprehensive resolution has been passed calling for the protection of the family as a fundamental unit of society, recognizing the prior right of parents to educate their children, and calling on all nations to create family-sensitive policies and recognize their binding obligations under treaty to protect the family.”

The voting on the “Protection of the Family” resolution was 27 for and 14 against. Those opposing the motion included the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland and other Western European countries, while its sponsors included Russia, China, Belarus, and more than a dozen Muslim and African countries. The four abstaining members of the council—Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Macedonia—probably were forced to do so by the rich countries opposing the bill. “The developed countries probably put huge pressure on the others to stop the bill or insert amendments undermining its intent by threatening to withhold foreign aid,” said Slater. “We applaud those who were able to stand up for the family.”

Austin Ruse of the Centre for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM), also termed the resolution “a tremendous victory for the pro-family world” and a defeat for the small but powerful anti-family groups supported by developed countries. Several attempts were made by feminist and pro-LGBT (homosexual) groups to first defeat and then amend the resolution by inserting “reproductive rights”—a euphemism for abortion, and by replacing “the family” with “families” and by inserting inclusive language to apply the resolution to sexual minorities. The passage of the resolution was predictably condemned by feminist and sexual advocacy groups however the victory marks the growing impact of the UN Family Rights Caucus, a coalition of pro-family NGOs.

Source: LifeSiteNews

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British Prime Minister David Cameron has signalled that he wants British forces to carry out air strikes on Islamic State in Syria. Mr Cameron said he wanted Britain to “step up and do more” but added that he would need the approval of Parliament to do so. MPs voted against military action in Syria two years ago. Islamic State, (ISIL), has forced tens of thousands of Christians to flee their homes as it advances in large parts of Iraq and Syria. Christians have been told to pay a tax, leave or face death in areas they have lived in for a thousand years. In an interview for US television channel NBC Mr Cameron pledged to help America “destroy” the Islamist extremists in Syria. “We know that we have to defeat Isil, we have to destroy this caliphate, whether it is in Iraq or in Syria,” he said.

“That is a key part of defeating terrorism. I want Britain to do more and we are discussing in Parliament at the moment what more we can do. But be in no doubt, we’re committed to working to destroy the caliphate in both countries.” The prime minister appealed to all religious faiths to “support the British way of life” using “shared values”. He said complaints about spying to prevent terror attacks are part of the “ludicrous conspiracy theories” of plots against Islam. In a direct appeal to young people tempted to join ISIS he said: “You won’t be a valued member of a movement. You will be cannon fodder for them. If you are a boy, they will brainwash you, strap bombs to your body and blow you up. If you are a girl, they will enslave and abuse you.

Mr Cameron went on “we must de-glamorise the extremist cause.  ISIS isn’t a pioneering movement, it is vicious, brutal and abhorrent.” He added: “We have a clear creed in our country and we need to promote it more confidently. “Wherever we are from, whatever our background or religion, there are things we share together. “We are all British. We respect democracy and the rule of law. We believe in freedom of worship and speech, equal rights regardless of race, sex, sexuality or faith. “We believe in respecting all faiths but also expecting those faiths to support the British way of life. “Whether you are Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian or Sikh, whether you were born here or abroad, we must all come together and stand up for our values with confidence and pride.”

Source: Premier Daily News

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The Senate has unanimously approved legislation promoting international religious freedom. The measure, sponsored by Sen. James Lankford, R-OK, requires the White House to take religious freedom into account when negotiating trade deals with other countries. “Our greatest export is our American values. The dignity of each person, hard work, innovation, and liberty — that’s what we send around the world. It has the greatest impact,” Lankford said during a floor speech on the amendment. The measure was added as an amendment to the overall negotiating objectives outlined in Trade Promotion Authority legislation. The Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 92 to 0.

If signed into law, it would be the first time in history that religious freedom considerations would be required for international trade discussions.  “We believe every person should have protection of the government to live their faith, not the compulsion of government to practice any one faith or to be forced to reject all faith altogether. It’s one of the reasons that Americans are disturbed by the trend in our courts and military and public conversation,” Lankford said. “It’s not the task of government to purge religious conversation from public life. It is the task of government to protect the rights of every person to live their faith and to guard those who choose not to have any faith at all,” he said.

Source: CBN News

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