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Iran: Christians are being jailed as religious persecution grows more severe

The U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a “country of particular concern” for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

For previous ChristianPersecution.com coverage of Iran, see here.

“Christians are being jailed in Iran,” by Steve Dew-Jones, The Critic

Iran has long been known as a silencer of dissenting voices, but even by its standards the jailing in mid-August of a 63-year-old man with advanced Parkinson’s disease, and his wife, came as a surprise.

Last week, a 58-year-old man and 48-year-old woman joined them in Tehran’s Evin Prison. And apart from their senior years, these four Iranians have one crucial thing in common: they profess to be Christians.

Yet the quartet also possess one crucial difference: in the regime’s eyes, only one of them can truly be considered a Christian.

Fifty-eight-year-old Joseph Shahbazian is of Armenian descent and as such is considered to be “ethnically Christian”.

The other three — 63-year-old Homayoun Zhaveh, his 44-year-old wife Sara, and 48-year-old Malihe Nazari — are ethnic Persians, and this, in the regime’s eyes, means that they were born Muslims, and remain so, regardless of what they may have since come to believe.

The similarities and differences between these four Iranians — and their shared predicament — show clearly that, in the Islamic Republic, neither recognised nor unrecognised Christians are free to act out their beliefs.

For while Iranians of Armenian (and Assyrian) descent are permitted a degree of freedom to worship — they have their churches, as the regime likes to point out – they are not permitted to teach in the national language of Persian, nor to welcome “Muslim-born” Iranians into the church.

In August, UN experts called on Iranian authorities to stop the persecution and harassment of religious minorities and end the use of religion to curtail the exercise of fundamental rights.

They pointed to an increase in arbitrary arrests and highlighted concern for members of the Baha’i faith, Christian converts, Gonabadi dervishes and atheists.

Experts said: “The international community cannot remain silent while Iranian authorities use overbroad and vague national security and espionage charges to silence religious minorities or people with dissenting opinions, remove them from their homes and effectively force them into internal displacement.”

Christians in Iran have seen an uptick in arrests and sentencings in the first half of 2022 – with 58 arrested just in the first half of the year compared to a total of 72 arrests in 2021.

Meanwhile, 15 Christians were sentenced in 2021, compared to 25 so far this year….

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