Remembering the Plight of Iranian Christians

While much attention to the persecution of Christians in the Middle East has focused on Iraq and Syria, Shay Khatiri calls attention to the growing, and endangered, Christian population of Iran:

Islam is the fastest shrinking religion [in Iran], while Christianity is the fastest growing. According to a U.S. State Department report from 2018, up to half a million Iranians are Christian converts from Muslim families, and most of these Christians are evangelicals. Recent estimates claim that the number might have climbed up to somewhere between one million and three million.

Under Iran’s constitution, Christians have full rights to practice their religion, but they don’t have the right to evangelize. The government also restricts . . . the selling and the distribution of Hebrew and Christian Bibles to people the government identifies as Muslim, and sellers have gone to prison. The state only protects freedom of worship for those born into Christian families. Under Iran’s apostasy laws, conversion out of Islam merits the death penalty. Conversely, those who convert into Islam receive special rights—precisely, complete inheritance from their parents, leaving their non-Muslim siblings empty-handed.

Similarly, Iranian Jews officially have religious freedom, but that fact hardly reflects their actual situation. Khatiri calls on Washington to take note:

Both the United States government and Christian groups should prioritize Iran’s treatment of Christian converts. Many other states persecute Christians, but Iran has perhaps the highest rate of persecution and the greatest number of Christian converts, who persistently resist government persecution.

Read more at Providence

More about: Freedom of Religion, Iran, Middle East Christianity, U.S. Foreign policy

Hamas Has Its Own Day-After Plan

While Hamas’s leaders continue to reject the U.S.-backed ceasefire proposal, they have hardly been neglecting diplomacy. Ehud Yaari explains:

Over the past few weeks, Hamas leaders have been engaged in talks with other Palestinian factions and select Arab states to find a formula for postwar governance in the Gaza Strip. Held mainly in Qatar and Egypt, the negotiations have not matured into a clear plan so far, but some forms of cooperation are emerging on the ground in parts of the embattled enclave.

Hamas officials have informed their interlocutors that they are willing to support the formation of either a “technocratic government” or one composed of factions that agree to Palestinian “reconciliation.” They have also insisted that security issues not be part of this government’s authority. In other words, Hamas is happy to let others shoulder civil responsibilities while it focuses on rebuilding its armed networks behind the scenes.

Among the possibilities Hamas is investigating is integration into the Palestinian Authority (PA), the very body that many experts in Israel and in the U.S. believe should take over Gaza after the war ends. The PA president Mahmoud Abbas has so far resisted any such proposals, but some of his comrades in the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) are less certain:

On June 12, several ex-PLO and PA officials held an unprecedented meeting in Ramallah and signed an initiative calling for the inclusion of additional factions, meaning Hamas. The PA security services had blocked previous attempts to arrange such meetings in the West Bank. . . . Hamas has already convinced certain smaller PLO factions to get on board with its postwar model.

With generous help from Qatar, Hamas also started a campaign in March asking unaffiliated Palestinian activists from Arab countries and the diaspora to press for a collaborative Hamas role in postwar Gaza. Their main idea for promoting this plan is to convene a “Palestinian National Congress” with hundreds of delegates. Preparatory meetings have already been held in Britain, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Qatar, and more are planned for the United States, Spain, Belgium, Australia, and France.

If the U.S. and other Western countries are serious about wishing to see Hamas defeated, and all the more so if they have any hopes for peace, they will have to convey to all involved that any association with the terrorist group will trigger ostracization and sanctions. That Hamas doesn’t already appear toxic to these various interlocutors is itself a sign of a serious failure.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Palestinian Authority