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WikiLeaks: 2007-08-30: 07IRANRPODUBAI58: Catholic Nuns in Iran Report Difficulties

by WikiLeaks. 07IRANRPODUBAI58: August 30, 2007.

Posted: Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 06:08 PM UT


Viewing cable 07IRANRPODUBAI58, CATHOLIC NUNS IN IRAN REPORT DIFFICULTIES

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07IRANRPODUBAI58 2007-08-30 14:36 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET//NOFORN Iran RPO Dubai
VZCZCXRO4556
PP RUEHBC RUEHDE RUEHKUK
DE RUEHDIR #0058/01 2421436
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P R 301436Z AUG 07
FM IRAN RPO DUBAI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0176
INFO RUCNIRA/IRAN COLLECTIVE
RUEHDIR/IRAN RPO DUBAI 0169
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC
RHEFDHP/DIA DHP-1 WASHINGTON DC
RHEHAAA/NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL WASHINGTON DC
RUEHDE/AMCONSUL DUBAI 0160
RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI 0126
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 IRAN RPO DUBAI 000058 
 
SIPDIS 
 
NOFORN 
SIPDIS 
 
LONDON FOR GAYLE, BERLIN FOR PAETZOLD 
BAKU FOR HAUGEN, PARIS FOR WALLER 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL:  8/30/2017 
TAGS: IR KIRF SOCI PGOV
SUBJECT: CATHOLIC NUNS IN IRAN REPORT DIFFICULTIES 
 
RPO DUBAI 00000058  001.2 OF 002 
 
 
CLASSIFIED BY: Jillian Burns, Director, Iran Regional Presence 
Office, Department of State. 
REASON: 1.4 (d) 
 
1.(S//NF) Summary:  A Catholic nun living in Iran told IRPO said 
she leads a small group of nuns who do community work and 
operate under the authority of the Assyrian Church in Iran.  The 
nun said their ability to carry out their duties is severely 
limited when compared to pre-revolutionary days and that their 
community center is closely monitored by the Iranian government. 
 She said the nuns have had difficulty obtaining permission and 
funding to build a new community center outside of Tehran, 
complaining of government corruption.  She requested USG funding 
to complete the community center, while acknowledging the 
difficulty of accepting money from foreign sources.  End 
Summary. 
 
2. This is an action request.  Please see para 10. 
 
3.(S//NF) A Catholic nun who has lived 33 years in Iran, 
discussed with IRPoff the situation for her and her fellow 
sisters in Iran.  She said that she came with a small group of 
Catholic nuns (four Italians and one Brazilian) to Iran in 1974. 
 They chose to operate under the authority of the Assyrian 
Church, the nun said, because it was poorer and needed more help 
than the Armenian Church. 
 
Less freedom than before revolution 
----------------------------------- 
 
4.(S//NF) Prior to the 1979 revolution, the nuns ran a boarding 
school where she said many Iranian elite sent their children, as 
well as a clinic and orphanage, also open to non-Christians. 
Following the revolution, however, their school, clinic, and 
orphanage were closed, and today they are only allowed to run a 
Christian community center.  Furthermore, the community center 
is off limits to non-Christians.  While many foreigners were 
forced to leave Iran after the revolution (in part, she said, 
because rations were not available to non-Iranians), the nuns 
were able to stay because they had acquired Iranian citizenship. 
 (Note: It was not clear whether this is the only group of 
Catholic nuns in Iran. End note.) 
 
5.(S//NF) The nuns, who currently number 6-8, are permitted to 
hold a mass at the center every Tuesday, performed by an 
Assyrian priest.  She said they also hold "underground" 
workshops in ceramics, computers, and foreign languages, 
inferring that the workshops are also attended by 
non-Christians.  She said that young people used to come to 
their workshops more freely in the past.  The nun indicated that 
more recently they have had difficulty attracting people to 
their classes and said that the organization now has to offer 
some incentives.  (Note: She did not indicate why interest was 
waning or specify what kind of incentives they offered. End 
note). 
 
6.(S//NF) The nun commented that the Assyrian Church in Iran 
today has a fragile structure.  The Assyrian bishop in Iran is 
Iraqi, she said, and without Iranian citizenship he is 
technically vulnerable to expulsion at any time.  She also said 
the Assyrian church is very patriarchal.  As an example of this, 
she claimed that when Assyrian church officials participate in 
events relating to interfaith dialogue, they never invite the 
sisters.  She added that the nuns feel that their own situation 
is fragile despite their Iranian citizenship.  For example, she 
said they were likely to face (unspecified) repercussions if 
they did not vote in elections, although she did not indicate 
any pressure to vote for specific candidates.  She also 
mentioned their suspicion that the government monitors their 
emails and telephone calls. 
 
Christians leaving 
------------------ 
 
7.(S//NF) The nun said, similar to other sources, that there is 
high rate of emigration of Christians from Iran, although she 
did not indicate whether the reason was because of specific 
persecution or general economic or social pressures.  She said 
there is an organization in Austria that helps Christians, as 
well as Muslims, emigrate from Iran to the US at a cost of 
$3000.  She estimated the Assyrian community in Iran today to be 
15-20,000. She did not give an estimate for the Catholic 
community, only indicating that it is very small. 
 
 
RPO DUBAI 00000058  002.2 OF 002 
 
 
Obstacles to a new center 
------------------------- 
 
8.(S//NF) The nuns have been attempting to build a much larger 
community center just outside of Tehran for the past ten years 
but have had difficulty obtaining needed permission and funding, 
the nun said.  She detailed the frustrations of dealing with the 
municipality, which has granted them building permits, but for 
insufficient time frames to complete the project, and then 
withheld renewals for months or years.  They were also in 
dispute with the Agriculture ministry, which claimed they were 
building on land meant for agriculture.  The nun bemoaned the 
corruption of government officials, adding (without details) 
that "everything depends on the Pasdaran (IRGC)."  In addition 
to their woes in dealing with the government, the nun said that 
the costs of construction had risen significantly since the 
government began forcibly expelling illegal Afghan immigrants, 
who had provided cheap construction labor. 
 
Reason for meeting 
------------------ 
 
9.(S//NF) The nun, whose request to meet a USG official had been 
passed to IRPO through an Emirati contact of Embassy Abu Dhabi, 
solicited USG funding to complete the new community center.  She 
said the nuns currently have a valid building permit but lack 
funds to complete the project.  They have reportedly exhausted 
funding from the Vatican and need approximately 500,000 euros 
(USD 683,250) to complete the project.  IRPOff replied that USG 
funding for projects of this sort is uncommon, suggesting the 
nuns seek out Christian charitable organizations in the US and 
elsewhere, an idea the nun appeared not to have considered.  The 
nun acknowledged the difficulty they would face in bringing in 
any funding from the US or other countries.  She said that 
funding from the Vatican came through the Vatican's diplomatic 
pouch, but she doubted that other countries would be able to 
bring them funds in a similar manner. 
 
10.(S//NF) Action request:  Please advise if the USG wants to 
try to pursue this request for funding for a Christian community 
center in Iran in any way.  IRPO does not see a direct USG 
interest in such a project, but the USG could  convey the 
details to relevant religious groups.  It is not known whether 
the Vatican would agree to transfer funds on behalf of another 
religious organization. 
BURNS

 



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