Nine evangelical Christians have been arrested in recent days in Alborz province, neighboring the capital Tehran, the state-run Tasnim, a news agency with ties to the IRGC Quds Force, reported on Sunday.
Tasnim had already reported the arrest of four Christians on Saturday and on Sunday it said five more were arrested on December 26, a day after Christmas. It is not clear when exactly the first four were detained.
The Iranian regime regularly persecutes people who convert from Islam to Christianity and most converts try to worship secretly in home-churches.
International and Human Rights organizations and monitors have repeatedly condemned Tehran’s treatment of religious minorities, including people who convert to Christianity.
Traditional ethnic Christian churches and their followers, such as Armenians, enjoy official recognition and the right to worship freely in Iran. But converting Muslims is illegal and it is also forbidden for a Muslim to convert to another religion.
Freedom for religious minorities increasingly restricts
According to the 2018 United States International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) Report, freedom for other religions in that country, such as Judaism, Bahai, Zoroastrian or different Muslim branches is increasingly restricted.
Religious freedom has continued to deteriorate during the past year in Iran, with the government targeting Baha’is and Christian converts in particular.
Harsh sentence were handed down to Christian converts for their religious activities. Many were sentenced to at least 10 years in prison.
A national debate about limiting the political rights of religious minorities followed the suspension of a Zoroastrian elected to the local council of Yazd. President Rouhani had promised to address some religious freedom violations, but these promises have yet to be implemented, and people continue to be imprisoned for their beliefs.
The U.S. Department of State has designated Iran as a “country of particular concern,” (CPC) under the International Religious Freedom Act (RFA), since 1999.
The USCIRF has once again recommended in 2018 that Iran be designated as a CPC.
Lela Gilbert elaborates on this report in the Jerusalem Post.
“Whatever faith one embraces in the Islamic Republic of Iran, if it is not Shi’ite Islam, it is incompatible with the mullahcracy that rules the country. That means there can be life-or-death risks for minority members who protest, defy the rules, speak too boldly, or otherwise offend the turbaned clerics who cling to power with their iron fists,” she writes, adding, “Meanwhile, the story about the ‘staggering’ number of Christian arrests tells us all we need to know about Iran’s intolerance for religious minorities.”