Message Tab

Iran's Christians facing 'systematic persecution'

 

TEHRAN (BP) — Iran’s treatment of its Christian minority has come under fresh scrutiny in recent months with some harsh reports on the country’s human rights record.

Reports from the United Kingdom’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) and New York-based International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran (ICHRI) cite evidence of “systematic persecution and prosecution” of Protestants and Christian converts, as part of a widespread violation of international laws.

The United Nation’s special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, noted in September 2012 that more than 300 Christians have been arrested and detained since 2010, while at least 41 were detained for periods ranging from one month to over a year, sometimes without official charges.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in February that Iran “refuted” the UN’s claim of an increase in discrimination towards religious minorities, claiming “all people of Iran regardless of their religion or ethnicity enjoy equal citizenship rights.”

However, ICHRI’s January report, “The Cost of Faith: Persecution of Christian Protestants and Converts in Iran,” based on interviews with 31 Iranian Christians between April 2011 and July 2012, claims 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.”

This view is supported by Mansour Borji, advocacy officer for the human rights initiative Article18.

“Sometimes the phrase ‘systematic persecution’ is used so loosely that it sounds like a cliché. However, in the case of Iran’s persecution of Christians, it fits the criteria,” Borji told World Watch Monitor.

“Arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, severe restrictions on worship services in Farsi language, a ban on the publication of Bibles and Christian literature in Farsi, threats and harassment of evangelical church leaders, and continued attempts to confiscate church properties – these are all pieces in the puzzle.”