Iran: ‘Every day we see reports of severe persecution of Christians’

December 12, 2020

Persecution of Christians in Iran: according to Iran expert Alireza Nader, “Iran’s religious minorities are today facing the greatest threat to their existence since the 1979 revolution,” and Christians are persecuted on a daily basis.

We continue to pray that the international community will take the persecution of Christians in Iran seriously and move to protect the embattled Christians and other religious minorities of that country.

Please join us in prayer for an end to the persecution of Christians of Iran, that the Christian communities of that country would be protected and strengthened, and that all Iranians would find by God’s grace the full expression in the Holy Orthodox Church of the faith that Iran’s Christians are holding fast to amid so much suffering.

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“‘Iran’s religious minorities facing greatest threat since revolution,’” Article 18, December 4, 2020:

Iran’s religious minorities are today facing the greatest threat to their existence since the 1979 revolution, according to one expert.

Alireza Nader, senior fellow at the US-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), was speaking at a recent virtual event focused on the Islamic Republic’s attitudes towards different religious groups, hosted by the International Organisation to Preserve Human Rights (IOPHR) as part of the third annual Ministerial to Advance Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Mr Nader referenced the recent flogging of Christian convert Zaman (Saheb) Fadaie as he suggested that “today, in 2020, religious minorities are perhaps facing the greatest danger to their existence since the 1979 revolution”. 

“Every day we see reports of severe persecution of Christians,” he said. “… I don’t think that since the revolution – and probably the 80s – that there’s been this much repression against Iran’s religious minorities, and in particular Christians, but also [Sufi] dervishes, Baha’is, Sunnis … and Jewish Iranians.”

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, was another of the guest speakers, explaining how Iran’s repression of Christians includes both recognised ethnic Assyrian and Armenian Christians as well as unrecognised converts to Christianity.

Mr Borji used the example of Iranian-Assyrian pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, forced to flee Iran in August this year, to show the pressure facing members of the recognised Christian community who do not comply with the regime’s prohibition on evangelising to Muslims.

“But even those members of the Iranian recognised minorities who choose not to evangelise do not enjoy the same rights as their Muslim compatriots,” he explained, “whether it’s inheritance – where one Muslim relative is entitled to inherit everything at the expense of his non-Muslim family member – or employment, where non-Muslims are prohibited from many government jobs or a position in the army, despite being forced to partake in military service, or testimony in court, where the testimony of non-Muslims cannot be accepted against that of a Muslim.” 

However, Mr Borji acknowledged that it is Iran’s unrecognised minorities, like the Baha’is and Christian converts who “suffer most”.

He cited the example of the 17 Christian prisoners of conscience inside Tehran’s Evin Prison at the moment – all of them converts – as well as the recent flogging of Saheb Fadaie and fellow convert Mohammad Reza (Youhan) Omidi for drinking wine with Communion, and the decision to remove an adopted two-year-old girl from her parents only because they are Christian converts.

Another speaker, IOPHR’s Afshin Sajedi, noted that several converts have been “brutally murdered” since the revolution, adding that while “religion-change is still a crime in some parts of the world, Iran is the only country where conversion is punishable by death”. 

Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the execution of a Christian convert, Rev Hossein Soodmand, for his “apostasy”, and while he remains the only Iranian Christian to have been killed on such a charge, others have been sentenced to death – only to see the ruling overturned after an outcry – and seven have been killed extrajudicially since the 1979 revolution.

Ebrahim Ahrari Khalaf, representing Iran’s Sunni community, said the regime had stigmatised different minority groups over the past 42 years, including Baha’is, Christian converts and Sufis, and that through this “they have instilled animosity among different populations and different groups in Iran.”…