The U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a “country of particular concern” for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“‘The interrogator made fun of my words and even the colour of my skin,’” Article 18, October 18, 2022:

Sahar Dashti experienced racism as a child as one of very few dark-skinned children in her city, so she was hesitant when after becoming a Christian she was asked to help with the Sunday school. And when, instead of racism, Sahar experienced love and acceptance from the children, the impact was significant.

“A heart that had been broken in the past as a result of the words and actions of many children was healed by God through the children of our Sunday school,” she says.

But when Sahar and her friends were arrested for their Christian activities, Sahar’s interrogator told her she faced a heavier sentence because she had worked in the Sunday school or, as he put it, had been “misleading children” by teaching them about Christianity.

Sahar’s interrogator then went on to offer her a job.

“You’re clearly very talented in your ability to attract children, teenagers and young people,” he said. “You had a positive impact on them, worked very well with them. Come, cooperate with us, and we’ll give you a high salary and you can attract and guide children towards Islam!”

Sahar’s story, like that of so many other Iranian Christians, is one of conversion, finding a house-church, arrest, sentencing – in Sahar’s case to a year in prison – and then ultimately being forced to leave the country.

Sahar was among six Christian women arrested in February 2013 at a meeting of house-church leaders in a city near Isfahan.

The women were detained for nearly two weeks in the infamous “Alef-Ta” ward of the city’s Dastgerd Prison, where Sahar experienced further racism from her interrogator.

“He made fun of my words, and even the colour of my skin,” she recalls.

The interrogator’s questions, meanwhile, focused on Sahar’s Christian faith and church activities.

“The interrogator asked: ‘What year did you become a Christian? When were you baptised? Who was your supervisor? Who were you in contact with? In which places have you been active? Which foreign countries did you travel to? Who were your teachers there? What did you teach the children?’, etc,” Sahar says.

Sahar was asked to write down the answers, and was just responding to one about baptism by writing that she had been “baptised by the Holy Spirit” when her interrogator violently kicked her chair.

“If the chair hadn’t been up against the ledge behind me, I’m sure my head would have hit against the wall, and been broken,” she says.

This wasn’t the only time Sahar was scared during her detention.

“Once, during an interrogation, I heard the moans of one of my friends as he was being tortured,” she says, “and the interrogator threatened me that if I didn’t answer his questions, he would do the same to me.”

Sahar says she had also heard stories of women being raped in prison.

“I was very afraid, and prayed about it,” she says….

Sahar is now living as a refugee, but even after leaving she says her family have been harassed and threatened by intelligence agents.

“After I left Iran, agents of the Ministry of Intelligence went to our house twice at 6.30 am or 7 am to arrest me,” she says. “My mother protested: ‘You are coming to our house to terrorise us, even though you know Sahar has left the country!’…