Iran targets minorities one year after Mahsa Amini’s death, 69 Christians arrested
Iranian authorities began to arrest more than two months ago converts from Islam, but also some Iranian-Armenians. At least 10 are still in jail, while those released have had to pay hefty fines worth thousands of dollars or undergo Islamic re-education. The crackdown comes a few weeks before the first anniversary of the death in custody of the young Kurdish woman.
Tehran (AsiaNews) – Iran arrested scores of Christians, mostly converts from Islam but also some Assyrian-Chaldeans baptised as children, over a seven-week period in June and July in 11 different cities of the country, this according to Article18, a human rights organisation that advocates on behalf of Iranian Christians and religious freedom.
In an early report, the NGO had reported 50 arrests by mid-July in five cities, but its latest update indicates that at least 69 people were taken into custody, 10 of which – four men and six women – are still held by the authorities.
The arrests occurred between 1 June and 17 July in the following cities: Tehran, Karaj, Rasht, Orumiyeh, Aligoudarz, Isfahan, Shiraz, Semnan, Garmsar, Varamin, and Eslamshahr.
In the capital Tehran and the other cities, after their arrest, people were forced to sign statements pledging to refrain from Christian activities or undergo Islamic re-education in order to be released.
Some say that after their release they were summoned for further questioning, or were ordered to leave Iran. One said he lost his job at the request of intelligence agents. For those granted bail, families had to pay between US$ 8,000 and US$ 40,000.
The majority of those arrested are converts from Islam, but at least two are Iranian-Armenians, who were born into Christian families..
The wave of arrests among Christians also coincides with a new crackdown on Iran’s Baha'i community, which, along with Christian converts, is a minority religious group not recognised by the Islamic Republic.
In fact, "in recent months, scores [of Baha'is] have been arrested, tried and jailed on religiously grounded charges and targeted on the basis of their faith,” says the US Commission on Religious Freedom in the World.
Commenting on Iran’s recent actions, Article18 director Mansour Borji said that “a fresh crackdown on civil liberties" has included "traditionally vulnerable groups, such as Christians [who] are on the frontline of those targeted”.
For the activist, the hard-line approach taken by the authorities, with the morality police back at work, is likely meant as “a message, both nationally and internationally" sent just weeks before the first anniversary of Mahsa Amini's death.
“[O]verall there seems to be a renewed or more aggressive crackdown on groups the regime feels threatened by,” Borji explained.