02/24/2023, 00.00
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Tehran: anti-Christian persecution escalates in riots over Mahsa Amini

The data contained in the 2022 report by Article18 activists. At least 134 believers were arrested because of their Christian affiliation, 30 were sentenced to jail or exile, 61 served time in prison. Those who promote prayer services in house churches are also in the crosshairs. Places of worship still closed due to restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tehran (AsiaNews) - In the year of the demonstrations for Mahsa Amini, the Iranian authorities have intensified their persecution of Christians, both recognised and "clandestine", it has emerged from the report drawn up by Article18 activists, confirming a harassing and discriminatory practice towards religious minorities that continues to grow.

Religiously motivated violations of worship and persecution, most often passed over in silence or in the indifference of an international community that has reacted timidly even in the face of the bloody repression of protests.

A popular uprising, with women at the forefront and largely peaceful, triggered by the killing of the 22-year-old Kurdish woman at the hands of the morality police in Tehran, whose only crime was not wearing the hijab, the compulsory veil that has become a symbol of oppression.

The 2023 report on "Violations of Christians' Rights in Iran" is a study prepared by activists of Article18, together with Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), Middle East Concern and Open Doors International now in its fifth edition.

The 25-page document was published in recent days to coincide with the 44th anniversary of the murder of Reverend Arastoo Sayyah, the first Christian killed for his faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran, just eight days after its founding. 

Today, violent deaths of Christians are a less common phenomenon than in the past, as studies document, but, contrary to the claims of the leadership in Tehran, the country is still far from guaranteeing full freedom of faith.

On the contrary, religious minorities including Christians - both 'recognised' communities such as the Chaldeans and Armenians and converts who do not enjoy constitutional rights - are 'systematically' deprived of the right to worship. A repressive policy in open violation of its obligations as a signatory country of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The street protests linked to the killing of the young woman and the perception of the veil as an element of "oppression" show the growing "cry for freedom" among Iranians, especially the young.

Activists explain, freedom means being able to live "in accordance with one's beliefs and ideals" and which applies even more to Christians, who are also persecuted for their faith.

The numbers contained in the report reveal the emergency: 134 Christians were arrested last year for faith-related matters, more than double the 59 in 2021; at least 30 were sentenced to prison or forced into exile; another 61 served time in prison, again a far higher figure than the 34 in the previous year.

At the end of 2022, 17 Christians were in jail with sentences of up to 10 years for "acting against national security" or "propaganda against the regime", while it remains common practice to target those who do not profess Shia Islam by branding them as a "threat" to the Republic and its values.

Last year, two believers were sentenced to 10 years for holding a prayer service inside a private home, in so-called 'house churches'. Again, in 2022, 49 cases of psychological torture and 98 reports of abuse emerged (but the actual figure is far higher because victims often do not report the violence) and 468 individuals - among them non-Christian relatives of the defendants - ended up in the sights of justice. 

The last aspect concerns places of worship: only four Persian-speaking churches are still authorised to operate within the territory of the Islamic Republic. However, the authorities have not yet granted permission for their definitive reopening after blocking services as a countermeasure for the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, the communities are not allowed to accept new believers and their numbers are gradually decreasing, so that they do not exceed 70 members in total.

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See also
Tehran frees Christian convert leader of 'Place2worship' campaign
10/02/2023 11:24
Christian clergyman pardoned while Mahsa Amini's father was briefly detained
16/09/2023 18:38
Iran jailing lawyers, even those defending Christian converts
09/11/2022 17:18
Filmmakers, opponents and Christians, victims of Tehran's repression
11/07/2022 10:59
Three Christian women arrested without charges to go on trial in Iran
01/07/2023 21:45


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