Christians in Iran and Turkey face marginalization, discrimination, and persecution

TEHRAN / ANKARA — Religious minorities in Iran have suffered from marginalization and discrimination since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Although the Christian population in Iran today has reached about 16,000, human rights violations against them are common. They live under threats and intimidation by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and other arms of the Iranian regime.

Local sources reported that the Iranian authorities subjected three Christians to trial after passing a new amendment to the Penal Code. According to the International Christian Solidarity Organization, the three Christians were charged with engaging in “sectarian activities” and making propaganda against the Islamic regime. Reportedly, Iranian authorities constantly pressured them to leave the country.

In related news, well-informed reports indicated that Christians in Turkey are increasingly marginalized and persecuted. The recent annual report of the Protestant Churches Association in Turkey shed light on the situation of Protestant Christians in the country and the discrimination they are subjected to.

The report revealed the continuing challenges facing the Protestant Christians, including the Turkish government obstructing the building of Protestant worship centers. Lacking places of worship, it is difficult for Protestants in the country to meet.

Protestants in Turkey have also reportedly been asked by people identifying themselves as civilian police and intelligence officers to spy on the community.

“If these are public officials, it is alarming that the authorities approach their citizens whose worship places are public with such suspicion. If these are not public officials, again, the situation is alarming because it would indicate that some people are ‘playing the role of the state’ to monitor and intimidate the Protestant community,” Dr. Mine Yildirim, head of the Freedom of Belief Initiative and Eurasia Civil Society Program at Norwegian Helsinki Committee, told Arab News.

The U.S. is increasingly interested in Turkey’s treatment of Christians. The U.S. State Department’s 2020 report on International Religious Freedom pointed to an escalation of religious and ethnic violations in Turkey, noting that external intervention should not be required for Turkey to change its policies.