An overview of Iranian government’s treatment of its Christians citizens in 2016
Mohabat News – December 10 of every year is marked as the International Human Rights Day and Iran as a signatory country of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights observes this day, while Iranian citizens from all walks of life suffer severe violation of their basic Human Rights.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights includes freedom of thought, speech and religion among the most basic rights every human being should be entitled to. In Iran, however, ethnic minorities, political dissidents, journalists, social and civic activists and religious minorities face violation of their Human Rights on a regular basis.
Read more:19 Human Rights Organizations Call to Protect the Rights of Christians in Iran
The Human Rights situation of Iranian Christians in 2016 has gotten worse compared to last year. Mohabat News has compiled a brief overview of the situation of Iranian Christians, which reveals a heightened and more organized oppression of Christians in the country.
According to the latest statistics, 92 Christian converts are currently imprisoned in Iran, awaiting, in uncertainty, to be tried. This is only a published figure and by no means reflects the actual number of Christians in prison for their faith.
Last year, tens of house churches were closed and their members interrogated, harassed and lost their jobs for faith related reasons. Additionally, several historic Christian buildings were destroyed and many Iranian Christians were forced to leave their home country.
Read more: There is “Absolute Religious Freedom” in Iran: Claims Iranian Official
Most importantly, last year we witnessed a steep rise in organized, government sponsored anti-Christian campaigns. Most of these campaigns had been planned and thought through for years prior to last year and were only implemented in 2016. Below are a few of manifestation of Iran’s aggressive anti-Christian campaign:
Production of anti-Christian Radio and TV Programs
The main aspect of the Iranian government anti-Christian campaign was the production of a series of radio and TV programs aimed to discredit Christianity in the minds of an Iranian audience. These programs included one-sided analysis of Christian faith by Islamic clergy who presented false information about Christianity and Christians using unrealistic documents and literature.
Highly Politicized, Staged Seminars with State Sponsor Christian Attendees
Secondly, the Iranian government organized a number of seminars and meetings with supposedly Christian attendees sponsored by Russia, Belarus, Croatia, Lebanon, Venezuela and Bulgaria. These Christians were invited through government sponsored programs with political motives portrayed as Christian-Islamic talks. A large budget was allocated to such meetings. Among the attendees of these meetings were pastors and bishops with strong ties with the governments of the above mentioned countries.
Defaming Known Farsi-speaking Christians
In this phase of the Iranian government’s anti-Christian campaign, the state-run media closely monitored well known Farsi-speaking Christian individuals, spreading scandals about them in order to counter the rapid spread of Christianity in the country. The Iranian Intelligence service played a significant role in this campaign to fabricate false evidence against these influential Iranian Christians in order to portray them as morally and financially corrupt.
In the area of publication, the Islamic regime of Iran invested heavily in books that portray a different image of Christianity than what it is in reality. They continued their crack down on publication of the Bible and books by Christian authors, while subsidizing publication of certain books with no historical or academic credibility, entirely aimed to portray a false image of Christianity.
Even government organizations meant to provide public service, such as Iranian customs and border services participated in spreading anti-Christian literature. In one instance, the Organization of the Commercial and Industrial Free Zone of Aras distributed anti-Christian pamphlets among travellers crossing the northern borders of Iran to Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Arrest of Christians with Dual Citizenship
Possibly the most political part of Iran’s anti-Christian campaign in the last year was the arrest of Christian foreigners as well as dual citizen Iranians who traveled to Iran. The Iranian government arrested these individuals and used them as leverage in international talks. Iran was able to receive a large amount of its money that had been blocked in other countries in exchange for the release of these foreign and dual citizen Christians.
These rigorous anti-Christian campaigns were organized and implemented by the so called moderate administration of President Hassan Rouhani who had promised to improve the situation for religious and ethnic minorities. As for 2016, the Rouhani administration failed to deliver on his election promises.