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Iran: USCIRF report focuses on ‘sharply deteriorated religious freedom’

There are roughly 300,000 Christians in Iran. Most of them are members of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Other Christians in Iran are members of the Assyrian Church of the East, the Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Roman Catholic Church; there is also a growing number of Pentecostals, Evangelicals, and other Protestants. 

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“USCIRF report focuses on ‘sharply deteriorated religious freedom’ in Iran,” Article 18, May 2, 2023:

The “sharply deteriorated religious-freedom conditions” in Iran are the focus of the cover and introduction to the latest annual report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

The cover of the report, which was published yesterday, features a photograph of Mahsa Amini, alongside the names of scores of Iranians imprisoned on account of their religious beliefs, including a dozen Christians.

The report begins by explaining how protests erupted in Iran following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, “because her visible hair violated the government’s religiously grounded headscarf law”. 

“Outraged by this flagrant denial of life,” the report goes on, “young women and girls led hundreds of thousands of fellow Iranians in peaceful protests asserting their right to freedom of religion or belief, risking severe punishment, permanent injury, and even death.”

The cover, USCIRF says, “honors the many Iranians, known and unknown, held in prison in 2022 on account of their religious beliefs, activity, or identity by displaying the names of the individuals from Iran who are included in USCIRF’s Freedom of Religion or Belief Victims List”. 

Among the names listed are a dozen Christians: Malihe NazariJoseph Shahbazian, Gholamreza KeyvanmaneshMorteza Mashoodkari, Ahmad Sarparast, Ayoob Poor-RezazadehAlireza Nourmohammadi, Amin Khaki, Milad GoodarziAbdolreza (Matthias) Ali-HaghnejadZaman (Saheb) Fadaie, and Yousef Nadarkhani.

The report also highlights the cases of Anooshavan Avedian, Abbas Soori, Maryam MohammadiRahmat RostamipourNasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, and Fariba Dalir, as well as the Christian converts “pressured to abandon their faith” in Dezful, and Armenian church leaders “pressured … to issue statements supporting the government”….

USCIRF recommends that the US State Department re-designates Iran as a Country of Particular Concern for “systematic, egregious, and ongoing violations of religious freedom”; “imposes targeted sanctions on Iranian government agencies and officials responsible for severe violations of religious freedom”; “continues to coordinate international action to lift the veil of impunity under which Iran’s leadership continues to operate”; and “prioritizes resettlement for survivors of the most egregious forms of religious persecution, including Iranian religious minorities”.

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