Worrying violations of religious freedom in Iran, Christians arrested

According to the USCIRF, the Islamic Republic engages in “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom”. The latest case involves the arrest of a 49-year-old convert, Rahmat Rostamipour, on Easter Monday. Other countries of concern are Saudi Arabia, North Korea and Myanmar.

Tehran (AsiaNews) – Iran remains a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) in terms of religious freedom because of “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom”, this according to the US International Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF).

In view of the situation, the commission wants the US State Department to keep the Islamic Republic on its list of countries that limit freedom of worship, including that of Christians even though the latter are recognised in Iranian law.

The list includes, among others, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, China, Syria, Vietnam and Myanmar.

In its latest annual report, released today, the independent, bipartisan group noted that religious freedom in Iran “remained poor” in 2021.

The study criticises the Iranian government and the ruling clergy for arresting, convicting, sentencing, and jailing scores of Christians on charges such as ‘propaganda against the regime’.”

The list of the people whose rights were violated last year include three Christian converts convicted under article 500 of the penal code (amended in February 2021) for “deviant activities” that contradict the “sacred law of Islam”. The three were given five years in prison.

Another case involves the continued imprisonment of USCIRF Religious Prisoner of Conscience Yousef Nadarkhani for “acting against national security” and “promoting ‘Zionist’ Christianity”.

One Christian convert, Sam Khosravi, who was convicted for “propaganda against the state”, saw his appeal rejected after he and his wife Maryam were told they must relinquish custody of their daughter “on the basis of their religious beliefs”.

The latest case concerns a 49-year-old Christian convert, Article 18, a group dedicated to human rights in Iran, reported.

On 18 April, a dozen plainclothes agents from the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) took Rahmat Rostamipour (pictured) from his home in Anzali, a town in northern Iran, and confiscated several Bibles, as well as personal documents and other items, including identity cards, family’s phones, tablets and various books.

Although he has not yet been charged, he is being held for “propaganda against the regime through involvement in house-church activities”.

At the time of the raid, his 13-year-old son was present at the house; his wife was summoned to the MOIS office in Anzali but was later released.

In addition to Christians, other groups are victims of rights violations, such as Baha'is, Sufis, Sunnis, and atheists.

The USCRIF report calls on the US government and international agencies to “exert multilateral pressure on Iran to improve religious-freedom conditions”.