A recent joint report by religious freedom advocate groups Open Doors, Middle East Concern, Article 18, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide assessed that the persecution of Christians in Iran rose to new heights during 2018, with an “unprecedented wave of raids on private house gatherings” and many prison sentences imposed on Christians.
Yet the Regime claims that religious minorities, including Christians, are treated fairly in Iran, even as the mullahs step up their targeting of Christians who are merely practising their faith. This is backed up by the ever-growing records of arrests and punishments for non-Muslims in Iran, which includes the more than 100 Christians arrested across Iran in the week before Christmas in 2018.
Rafizadeh explained that the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence conduct surveillance of Christian communities and pass this information onto the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), who conduct the brutal raids and make sweeping arrests.
He wrote: “The abuse does not stop with surveillance and arrest; these innocent citizens are then denied fair and due process or access to their own counsel. To solicit a confession, the interrogators resort to violence and, according to Open Doors, solitary confinement and an assortment of physical and psychological torture techniques.”
The IRGC does not merely target individual Christians, but have actually raided and shut down churches and confiscated the buildings themselves. As a result, many Christians host church services in their own houses, but even this doesn’t stop the Regime from invading and closing the service down.
Christians are often charged with trumped-up national security violations to justify their inhumane treatment and the long prison sentences, such as Shamiram Issavi Khabizeh, the wife of Rev. Victor Bet Tamraz, who was given ten years imprisonment for being caught practising her religion.
The Regime’s crackdown is motivated by the desire to threaten and intimidate the entire Christian community in Iran into hiding their faith and encourage them to flee Iran, which will result in less Christian converts.
But why is the international community not doing anything to stand up for the rights of Christians in Iran, when the Iranian government has an obligation to respect freedom of religion under international law?
Rafizadeh wrote: “If the Iranian government refuses to take steps to protect the rights and freedom of the Christians, these innocent people can only plead for humanitarian aid from the community outside their borders, in the hope that one day they might live in a land where their beliefs and prayers are not a reason for imprisonment and torture.”