Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Free Thomas Yadegary

For the past twenty three months, Thomas Yadegary has been imprisoned without charge or trial in Mount Eden prison. Like Ahmed Zaoui before him, he is being held under a Warrant of Commitment under the Immigration Act, which effectively allows indefinite detention without trial for those awaiting deportation. Unlike Ahmed Zaoui, he is not being held for security reasons - Yadegary lived freely in New Zealand for twelve years prior to his imprisonment - but rather because he has refused to sign the Iranian passport application required for him in order to be deported to his home country. He has refused to do this because as a convert to Christianity, he fears persecution if returned to Iran.

Yadegary's fears are well-founded. Iran is an Islamic Republic, and engages in the institutional discrimination and repression of other religious (including "heretical" branches of Islam, such as Sunnis and Sufis). Here are a few snippets from the US State Department's 2006 International Religious Freedom Country Report for Iran:

Conversion of a Muslim to a non-Muslim religion is considered apostasy under the law and is punishable by the death penalty, although it was unclear whether this punishment had been enforced in recent years. Similarly, non-Muslims could not proselytize Muslims without putting their own lives at risk. Evangelical church leaders were subject to pressure from authorities to sign pledges that they would not evangelize Muslims or allow Muslims to attend church services.


On November 22, 2005, a Muslim convert to Christianity, Ghorban Tori, was kidnapped from his house in the northeast and killed. His body was later returned to his house. Tori was a pastor at an independent house church of converted Christians. After the killing, security officials searched his house for Bibles and banned Christian books in Persian. In the previous week, according to some sources, the Ministry of Intelligence and Security arrested and tortured ten Christians in several cities.

On May 2, 2006, a Muslim convert to Christianity, Ali Kaboli, was taken into custody in Gorgan, after several years of police surveillance and threatened prosecution if he did not leave the country. He was interrogated and was held incommunicado. So far no charges have been filed against him.

The government and RSAA's response to this atmosphere of persecution is to deny that it is a problem because Yadegary can "practice his faith in secret". This is simply wiping our hands of the problem. To point out the obvious analogy, this is like telling a Jew fleeing pre-war Nazi Germany that they could simply hide. Yadegary is exactly the sort of person the Refugee Convention is supposed to protect, and our attempts to deport him show that our government is not living up to its legal or its moral obligations in this case.


Indeed, but does not the problem lie with Islam's appalling intolerance? There are many Islamic States, and it is ony in a slect few that any measure of religious plurality/tolerance is afforded. If you are making comparisons with Nazi Germany, then surely it is at the level of ideology that it is most pertinent. If Islam (or Islam as practiced in many nation states around the world) is akin to Nazism, as you seem to be suggesting, should we not be doing more to fight it?

Posted by Anonymous : 10/11/2006 03:41:00 PM

"...does not the problem lie with Islam's appalling intolerance?"

Yes, but I don't think that the NZ Government is going to be able to make Islam accept apostasy, it can however allow Yadegary to stay here in safety. And it should.

Posted by Muerk : 10/12/2006 12:14:00 PM

Absolutely it should; but not without the strongest of protests to Iran about its barbarism.

Posted by Anonymous : 10/12/2006 12:26:00 PM


Yup, totally agree with you here. You may be interested in this article about Islam and the idea of freedom -

Posted by Muerk : 10/13/2006 01:06:00 AM