New report: Iranian Christians denied basic rights

A new report has documented evidence of the persecution of Christians in Iran, including threats against life, as well as actual death sentences and imprisonment

by The Commentator on 21 January 2013 11:04


A new report has claimed that despite the Iranian government’s assertions that it respects the rights of its recognised religious minorities, the Christian community in Iran faces systematic state persecution and discrimination.

The plight of Iranian Protestants, says the report, is of particular concern. The community faces tough restrictions on religious practice and association, arbitrary arrests and detentions for the practice of its faith. State executions and extrajudicial killings have also been noted, in the report by the New York based ‘International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran’.

The 73-page report, The Cost of Faith: Persecution of Christian Protestants and Converts in Iran, documents a pattern of rights violations that extends to all walks of life for Protestant converts in Iran and lists the systematic arbitrary arrest and detention of Christian converts.

Farshid Fathi, a 33-year-old Christian leader from Tehran was detained in December 2010 as part of a Christmas crackdown on Christians and subsequently charged with “acting against national security,” “contact with enemy foreign countries,” and “religious propaganda.” The judiciary sentenced him to six years in prison, which he is currently serving.

It is reported that Christian detainees are often denied due process and basic rights. They are held in prolonged detention without formal charges, trials are held without access to counsel, or, if there is counsel, without access to court files, and ill treatment is common during detention.

The Campaign’s research reveals that interrogators, prosecutors and courts consistently refer to standard Christian practices, such as membership in a house church, evangelical activities, and participation in a Christian conference, as criminal acts, and security officers routinely confiscate standard Christian items such as bibles, religious literature, and crosses during arrests.

The report also found clear and consistent evidence of the threat to life for Christian converts. One leading Christian pastor, Hossein Soodmand, was executed by the state for apostasy in 1990; other church leaders who were sentenced to death for apostasy, including Christian pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, were subsequently acquitted only due to intense international pressure.

The research revealed numerous reports of security officials threatening Christian detainees with execution on apostasy charges, and numerous cases of suspicious deaths involving Christian leaders whose investigations were so lacking in due diligence that government complicity in the killings or the cover-ups is strongly suggested.

“The egregious violations of Christians’ rights, which include not only the inability to freely practice their religion, but also the threat of torture and death at the hands of state officials, go against all international law. The international community must let the Iranian government know this is unacceptable,” said Hadi Ghaemi, Executive Director for the Campaign.

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