LONDON — London non-profit Article18, in collaboration with its partners CSW, Middle East Concern, and Open Doors International, released its fifth annual report on “Rights Violations against Christians in Iran”. The 25-page report was released on 19 February, the 44th anniversary of the murder of Rev Arastoo Sayyah, the first Christian killed for their faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran, just eight days after its establishment.
The report shows that, contrary to the Islamic Republic’s claims, there is still no religious freedom in the country. Christians, both recognized Christians of Armenian and Syriac–Assyrian origin and unrecognized converts, are systematically deprived of their right to freely practice their faith, a violation of Iran’s obligations as a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The joint report argues that the protests that took place in 2022, following the state-murder of Jina “Mahsa” Amini, were a cry for freedom. At their core, the protests demanded that the Iranian people be able to live in a way that corresponds with their beliefs, according to Article 18.
The report states that Christians continued to face harassment, arrest, and imprisonment in 2022, solely because of their peaceful practice of their faith. In 2022, at least 30 Christians were imprisoned or exiled, the same number as in 2021. However, the number of arrests more than doubled, with 134 in 2022 compared to 59 in 2021. Additionally, there was a significant increase in the number of Christians detained, with 61 in 2022 compared to 34 in 2021.
At least 17 Christians were still in prison at the end of 2022, with sentences of up to 10 years on charges such as “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the regime.” Practicing a belief other than Shia Islam in the Islamic Republic of Iran is seen as a threat to the regime and its values. For example, in 2022, two Iranian-Armenian Christians were sentenced to 10 years in prison for holding church services in their homes.
The report provides more details on these and other examples of violations against Christians in Iran and can be downloaded here.