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Iran's minorities hail approval of law on equal blood-money


Iran's announcement on Saturday that it had approved equal blood-money for Muslims and non-Muslim nationals was cheerfully acclaimed by the country's religious minorities, IRNA reported from Tehran.

MP Morris Motamed, who represents the Jewish community in the Majlis, said the Expediency Council verification will have "a very positive effect" on the image of the Islamic Republic in the international community.

Motamed told IRNA that he was happy that the efforts of Majlis deputies had materialized a "long-sought wish" of Iran's religious minorities.

He thanked the Majlis deputies, particularly members of Majlis Judicial Commission, for following up the issue of equal blood-money for Muslim and non-Muslim Iranians.

The Expediency Council (EC) on Saturday approved a Majlis bill on equal "blood-money", or diyeh, for Muslim and non-Muslim Iranian nationals.

EC Secretary Mohsen Rezaei told IRNA that under a state verdict by the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, Iran's religious minorities can enjoy a "blood-money" equal to that of Muslims.

MP Yonathan Bet-Kolia, who represents the Assyrians and Caledonians in the Majlis, said the approval of the bill was the greatest Christmas gift that the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei had given to the Iranian Christians.

Bet-Kolia said the law on equal blood-money had materialized one of the 'long-sought' wish of Christians in Iran.

"We, Assyrians, consider ourselves entitled to enoy equal rights. This is because we are one of the most ancient tribes in Iran and have always been present in different arenas of the country during the war, the reconstruction and the reforms," he said.

"We have taken small steps in the great history of Iran." Bet-Kolia further stressed that Ayatollah Khamenei has proved that he is following the path of Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) and Imam Ali (AS) by approving the bill.

He recalled the charges of violation of human rights against the Islamic Republic, stressing: "Today, we can strongly say that the religious minorities are free and equal in our country, and need no custodian".

MP Khosrow Dabestani, who represents the Zoroastrian community in the Majlis, told IRNA that the community is happy with the decision. Dabestani stressed that the Zoroastrians, in a letter to Majlis Speaker Mehdi Karroubi, thanked the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, President Mohammad Khatami, the Judiciary Chief Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, members of the Expediency Council (EC) and Majlis deputies for the measure.

The Majlis had first submitted the bill, which is an additional note to the Article 297 of Iran's Islamic Penal Code, to the Guardian Council (GC) in January, but the council later in April rejected it citing certain discrepancies with the Constitution and the Islamic Sharia law.

The GC had argued that the bill contradicted the Sharia law (the law of Islam) because the amount of diyeh for recognized religious minorities in Iran is known in that law.

"If the Vali Faqih (the supreme jurisprudent) deems it right that a certain amount should be paid to the family of a non-Muslim victim in addition to his diyeh to equal that of a Muslim, we will act according to his directive," the GC had stressed in a letter to Majlis Speaker Mahdi Karroubi.

Under the bill, the blood money for recognized religious minorities in Iran -- Jews, Christian and Zoroastrians -- has become equal to that of a Muslim Iranian national.

According to the Sharia law, the family or relatives of a murdered person can either pardon the murderer or demand blood money or capital punishment.

MP Leon Davidian, who represents the Armenians of Tehran and the northern provinces in the Majlis, said the decision would have an extremely positive effect on stabilizing the conditions of religious minorities in Iran.

Davidian said the religious minorities consider themselves as Iranians and love Iran the same way that other Iranians do. "The implementation of this law will provide more security for the Iranian religious minorities, and will enable them to better perform their duties as Iranian nationals," he said.

"The approval of this law not only made Iran's religious minorities happy, but also frustrated the propaganda against the Islamic Republic regarding the status of human rights in the country."

Davidian said the international human rights organizations are under the influence of the countries that are opposed to the Islamic Republic, stressing that the law on equal blood-money for all Iranians will be a firm response to the biased positions of those organizations.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of Islamic Human Rights Commission, Mohammad-Hassan Ziaeifar, said that the approval of the law on equal rights for Muslim and non-Muslims Iranians had been a positive development that could present an appropriate image of Islam at a global level.

Ziaeifar also said the law would reinforce Iran's national solidarity given that it reduces discrimination among the Iranian nationals.

Furthermore, lawyer Mohammad Saleh Nikbakht said the law could be a positive and important move in preventing international human rights organizations from issuing legal resolutions against the Islamic Republic.

Nikbakht added that the law can be a significant step toward Iran's recognizing the UN Declaration on Human Rights as well as the related international regulations.

He also said that measures such as the approval of equal blood-money for all Iranians will make an important contribution to improving the image of the Islamic Republic worldwide, and will prevent pretexts against Iran in the area of human rights.

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