IRAN: Country Profile | Prev | Next Iran FactsPopulation:80,946,000Official language: Persian (Farsi)Other spoken languages:Azeri, Kurdish, Gilaki, Mazani, Luri, Arabic, Balochi, ...Official religion: Shia Islam (approx 87%)Other religions: Sunni Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Bahá'í Faith, Mandaeism, Yarsanism, ...Christians: 500,000-800,000Government: Theocratic Republic OverviewIranian authorities heavily suppress the right to freedom of religion or belief. Iranian Christians continue to face arbitrary arrest and detention, grossly unfair trials and lengthy imprisonment. Lack of due process, unfair trials, widespread torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners has been widely reported. Officially recognised churches are subjected to increasingly restrictive controls and effectively banned from using the Persian language in their activities. The authorities continue to raid "house churches" and publicly vilify evangelical Christians - thereby endorsing brutal security measures against them. Forcible closure of businesses owned by Christians, confiscation of properties, bans on employment in the public sector and denial of access to universities are also among the reported violations of freedom of religion. BackgroundIran’s constitution establishes Iran as an unalterably Islamic state (Twelver Ja’fari school) and establishes Islamic law as the basis of all legislation. Increasingly a strict interpretation of Shi’a Islam has been imposed by authorities on individuals of all faiths as a code of public conduct.The constitution provides religious-minority status to Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians, and states that the human rights of non-Muslims are to be respected as long as they refrain from activities against Islam or the Islamic Republic of Iran. These three recognised religious minorities have parliamentary representation and are entitled to establish and use their own rites in matters of personal status. The principle of non-discrimination is affirmed, and article 23 states that the “investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden”.Although the Penal Code does not stipulate the death penalty for apostasy (a proposed amendment to the Code to criminalise apostasy was not adopted in 2013 amendments), the Code makes provision for judges to rely on authoritative Islamic sources in matters not covered by the Code – effectively providing scope for Islamic law sanctions to be applied for apostasy (though there are no known examples of judicial death sentences having been applied for apostasy since 1990).Iran ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on 24 June 1975. The ICCPR upholds the right to freedom of religion, including the right to hold a religion of one’s choice and the right to manifest that religion (Article 18). It also upholds the rights of minorities and the principle of non-discrimination. Iran’s ratification of the ICCPR was made without reservation.Although Iran is party to ICCPR and other international covenants that provide for freedom of religion or belief, several Christians, Bahá'ís, Sufi Dervishes and Sunni Muslims have been killed judicially and extra-judicially, tortured, imprisoned or generally harassed on account of their faith. Iranian Parliament or Islamic Consultative AssemblyA remembrance ceremony for the fallen members of religious minorities during the Iran-Iraq war. Christians in Iran | Prev | Next Armenian Orthodox church service in TehranIranian Christians worship in a house-church Iran’s officially recognised Christian community includes Armenian and Syriac communities, thought to number approximately 300,000 – though some recent unofficial estimates suggest this has dropped very significantly in recent years due to emigration. These communities preserve their own linguistic and cultural traditions. The other main category of Christians does not have official status – these are Persian believers from Muslim backgrounds, principally within the Protestant “house church" movement. Their numbers are conservatively estimated to be between 500,000 and 800,000. Iranian authorities grant some limited freedoms to official churches and they are allowed to conduct their religious services in their own ethnic language but are forbidden from offering services to people of other backgrounds in Persian, Iran’s national language. Recognised churches include Armenian Apostolic, Russian Orthodox, Syriac Orthodox, Armenian, Chaldean and Roman Catholic, and Anglican, Presbyterian and (until recently) Pentecostal.Officially recognised churches have been subjected to increasingly restrictive controls since 2009. This has led to the rise of "house churches", where Christian converts of Muslim heritage gather in private homes for worship and Bible study. Main sources of persecution of Christians in IranSince the 1979 revolution, Iran's religious minorities have suffered increasing human rights violations, with the persecution of Muslim converts to Christianity in particular escalating since 2009. This has placed Iran among the top-10 persecutors of Christians since 2011, according to the World Watch List produced by Open Doors International.Persecution of Christians in Iran comes mostly from the state. Hardliners within the Iranian regime are increasingly concerned about the spread of Christianity, and see evangelical Christians as a threat. Since 2010, political leaders, including Iran's Supreme Leader, have issued warnings about the "house church" movement as a destabilising factor threatening the future of their theocratic state. In addition to persecution from government sources, Christian converts of Muslim heritage often face strong family and societal pressure. Iranian society as a whole is more tolerant than the state. But conversion from Islam is still seen by some traditional families as a great family disgrace.A combination of these factors accounts for the high emigration-rate of Christians from Iran, whether from Muslim or indigenous Christian backgrounds. Arbitrary arrest and detention of Christians continues Freedom of religion or beliefFreedom of religion or belief is systematically violated. This includes arbitrary arrests, lengthy imprisonment, torture and other ill-treatment, forcible closure of businesses owned by members of religious minorities, confiscation of properties, bans on employment in the public sector and denial of access to universities. Officially recognised churches have been subjected to increasingly restrictive controls since 2009. Churches are effectively banned from using the Persian language in their activities, a restriction enforced through various means. Intelligence forces have asked leaders of these churches to hand over details of their members. Churches have also been asked to end their Friday Persian-speaking services in a clear attempt to reduce attendance since Friday is a weekend day and Sunday is a working day. The largest Persian-speaking church in Tehran was forced to cease its Sunday services in Persian in 2013.Iranian Christians continue to face arbitrary arrest and detention, grossly unfair trials and lengthy imprisonment. The authorities in most cases charge them with spurious national security offences in connection with the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of religion or belief. Lack of due process, unfair trials, widespread torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners has been widely reported.The authorities continue to crack down heavily on activists in the "house church" movement. Every year many Christians are summoned for interrogation, detained and prosecuted for participating in house-church activities. The authorities regularly incite hatred and violence, vilifying evangelical Christians as “heretical”, “deviant”, and “parasites”. They have endorsed pervasive discrimination and violence based on religious belief.The right to change or renounce religious beliefs continues to be violated. Christian converts have received lengthy prison sentences, ranging from 10 to 15 years in several cases.Christians arrested for their "house church" activities have been arbitrarily dismissed from employment or denied enrolment in universities. Non-Shi’a Muslims are not allowed to stand as presidential candidates or hold key political offices.Torture and other ill-treatmentTorture and other ill-treatment remains common, especially during interrogations. Detainees held by the Ministry of Intelligence and the Revolutionary Guards are routinely subjected to prolonged solitary confinement, amounting to torture.The authorities continue to deprive prisoners detained for religious reasons of adequate medical care. In many cases, this has been done as a deliberate punishment to force them to recant their faith and amounts to torture.Prisoners endure cruel and inhumane conditions in detention, including overcrowding, limited hot water, inadequate food, insufficient beds, poor ventilation and insect infestations.Unfair trialsTrials of Christians are systematically unfair. There are no independent mechanisms for ensuring accountability within the judiciary. Serious concerns remain that judges, particularly those presiding over Revolutionary Courts, are appointed on the basis of their political opinions and affiliation with intelligence bodies.Fair trial provisions of the 2015 Code of Criminal Procedure, including those guaranteeing access to a lawyer from the time of arrest and during investigations, are routinely flouted. The authorities continue to invoke Article 48 of the Code of Criminal Procedure to prevent those detained for political reasons from accessing lawyers of their own choosing. Lawyers have been told they were not on the list approved by the Head of the Judiciary, even though no official list has been made public.Trials, particularly those before Revolutionary Courts, remain closed and extremely brief, sometimes lasting just a few minutes. Article18's Latest Annual Report Timeline: Incidents reported 10 December 2019 Iranian news site reports arrest of Christian evangelist A local news site in an Iranian city near the Azerbaijan border has reported the arrest of a Christian evangelist. […] Read More 2 December 2019 Iranian Christian denied medical treatment in Evin Prison An Iranian Christian serving a ten-year sentence for charges related to the peaceful practice of his faith has been denied […] Read More 21 November 2019 Assyrian Christian among Iran protest dead An Assyrian Christian has been named among the scores killed so far in nearly a week of protests in Iran […] Read More 19 November 2019 Jailed lawyer who helped Christian convert demands retrial A human rights lawyer who helped an imprisoned Christian convert with his failed bid for a retrial is now seeking […] Read More 13 November 2019 Christians’ appeal hearing postponed again as court ‘too crowded’ Yet another scheduled hearing in the drawn-out cases of five Christians facing between five and 15 years in prison was […] Read More 12 November 2019 Iranian Yarsani kicked out of university because he won’t say he’s Muslim An Iranian follower of the Yarsan faith has been prevented from completing his university dissertation because he refused to deny […] Read More 11 November 2019 Ebrahim Firouzi sent into exile 1,000 miles from home Two weeks after returning home from six years in prison, Christian convert Ebrahim Firouzi is on his way to the […] Read More 31 October 2019 Christian convert’s bail increased tenfold A 65-year-old convert to Christianity had his bail increased tenfold at a court hearing in Shiraz last week. Ismaeil Maghrebinejad […] Read More 28 October 2019 Ebrahim Firouzi returns home from prison but now faces exile Christian convert Ebrahim Firouzi has returned home after six years in prison for his religious activities, but he now faces […] Read More 18 October 2019 Nine Christian converts given five-year sentences Nine converts to Christianity have been sentenced to five years each in prison for “acting against national security”. The nine […] Read More 15 October 2019 Yousef Nadarkhani ends hunger strike after 21 days Iranian Christian prisoner Yousef Nadarkhani yesterday brought an end to his 21-day hunger strike. Yousef, who is serving a ten-year […] Read More 15 October 2019 ‘I was arrested for the crime of believing in Jesus’ – Rokhsareh Ghanbari Sixty-one-year-old Christian convert Rokhsareh Ghanbari presented herself at Shahid Kachooei Prison in her home city of Karaj yesterday to begin […] Read More 10 October 2019 Amin Khaki remains in prison as friends go home Four Christian converts have completed their jail sentences and returned home. A fifth member of the group remains in prison. […] Read More 27 September 2019 Yousef Nadarkhani goes on hunger strike as son barred from school Christian prisoner Yousef Nadarkhani has gone on hunger strike to protest against his son being barred from school because he […] Read More 25 September 2019 Three converts given six-month sentences for ‘promoting Zionist Christianity’ Three converts to Christianity have been sentenced to six months in prison for “propaganda against the system through promoting Zionist […] Read More 23 September 2019 Tehran withdraws tax exemption from churches, synagogues Embed from Getty Images Churches and synagogues in Tehran are no longer tax exempt, according to a report from Iranian […] Read More 31 August 2019 Fatemeh Bakhteri begins one-year jail sentence Fatemeh Bakhteri presented herself at Tehran’s Evin Prison today to begin her one-year jail sentence. Fatemeh, who is 35 years […] Read More 28 August 2019 Bookseller jailed for selling Bible An Iranian bookseller has been sentenced to three months and one day in prison for selling copies of the Bible, […] Read More 29 July 2019 Woman convert, 61, sentenced to year in prison A 61-year-old woman convert to Christianity has been sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the system”, reports Middle […] Read More 24 July 2019 Convert refused asylum in Germany arrested on return to Tehran An Iranian convert to Christianity refused asylum in Germany and deported back to Iran was arrested “immediately” upon her arrival […] Read More 23 July 2019 Church ban ‘worse than prison’ for woman convert who lost appeal Two months after two converts to Christianity were told they had lost their appeals against jail sentences for “spreading propaganda against the […] Read More 22 July 2019 ‘Now I know even innocents can be jailed’ – Sevada Aghasar after his conditional release Iranian-Armenian Christian Sevada Aghasar has been granted “conditional release” from prison after serving half of his five-year sentence for “acting against national […] Read More 18 July 2019 Bushehr Christians bailed but could face long jail sentences Eight converts to Christianity arrested in the southwestern city of Bushehr earlier this month have been released on bail but could face […] Read More 18 July 2019 Woman convert, 65, due in court next week A 65-year-old woman convert to Christianity arrested shortly before Christmas is due to appear in court next week, reports Middle […] Read More 12 July 2019 Christian activist arrested while filing complaint about assault A young female Christian convert and activist who spent six months in prison for her membership of a Tehran house-church […] Read More 10 July 2019 Cross put back on top of Tabriz church after outcry The cross has been replaced on top of the forcibly closed Assyrian church in Tabriz following a global outcry. In the 9 […] Read More 8 July 2019 Karaj converts begin jail sentences Five Iranian converts to Christianity submitted themselves to the central detention centre in Karaj on Saturday to begin their jail […] Read More 3 July 2019 Five family members among eight Christians arrested in Bushehr Eight converts to Christianity, including five members of one family, were arrested in the southwestern city of Bushehr on Monday, […] Read More 23 May 2019 Assyrian Presbyterian church in Tabriz closed down The Assyrian Christian community in the northwestern city of Tabriz has been left it a state of shock, after the […] Read More 20 May 2019 Four months after appeal hearing, converts told jail sentences upheld Two Iranian converts to Christianity have been informed that their jail sentences have been upheld, four months after their appeal […] Read More 24 April 2019 16 Bushehr converts face prison as appeals fail Sixteen converts to Christianity in the southwestern city of Bushehr are facing time in prison after their convictions were upheld […] Read More 20 March 2019 Seven Rasht Christians released on bail, two detained Seven of the nine “Church of Iran” members arrested this year in Rasht have been released on bail, but two […] Read More 28 February 2019 Arrests of Rasht Christians continue, taking total to 9 in a month Three more members of the “Church of Iran” network in Rasht have been arrested, taking the total to nine in […] Read More 22 February 2019 ‘This used to be a Christian cemetery … but all the graves have been dug up’ A video has been posted online showing a desecrated Christian cemetery in Kerman. “I’m in Kerman and this used to […] Read More 21 February 2019 Convert charged with ‘propaganda against state’ for promoting Christianity Twenty-six-year-old convert to Christianity Sina Moloudian has been charged with “propaganda against the state through the promotion of the Christian […] Read More 20 February 2019 Three more members of Yousef Nadarkhani’s church arrested Three more members of the imprisoned pastor Yousef Nadarkhani’s “Church of Iran” group in Rasht have been arrested and taken […] Read More 19 February 2019 Shamiram Issavi’s appeal postponed until after Nowruz Shamiram Issavi’s appeal against her five-year jail sentence for “acting against national security” was postponed after a hearing today at […] Read More 17 February 2019 Convert taken to Evin Prison, threatened with 10-year sentence A Tehrani woman who converted to Christianity has been told she could face a ten-year prison sentence for “disturbing public […] Read More 12 February 2019 Three Christians arrested at Yousef Nadarkhani’s church Three Christians standing in for the imprisoned pastor Yousef Nadarkhani in leading services in their church in Rasht have been […] Read More 4 February 2019 Convert, 64, charged with ‘insulting sacred Iranian establishment’ Sixty-four-year-old Iranian Christian convert Ismaeil Maghrebinejad has been released on bail after being charged with “propaganda against the state and […] Read More 31 January 2019 Convert forced to receive religious ‘instruction’ from Islamic cleric A 61-year-old woman who converted to Christianity has been forced to visit an Islamic cleric to receive religious “instruction” and […] Read More 29 January 2019 Christian convert’s jail sentence reduced on appeal An Iranian Christian convert sentenced last year to five years in prison for “membership of an evangelical group and conducting […] Read More 28 January 2019 Iranian who converted 40 years ago arrested in Shiraz An Iranian who converted to Christianity nearly 40 years ago was arrested in Shiraz on Friday morning by plainclothes officers […] Read More 28 January 2019 Convert, 26, arrested during violent raid on Isfahan home A 26-year-old convert to Christianity was arrested following a violent raid on his home in Isfahan last week, Article18 can […] Read More 18 January 2019 Rasht converts told to renounce their faith by appeal court judges Two converts to Christianity were asked to renounce their faith during their appeal hearing on 15 January in Tehran. When […] Read More 17 January 2019 Iran’s Christians faced ‘unprecedented’ wave of arrests in 2018 An “unprecedented” wave of raids on private house gatherings of Christians at the end of 2018, leading to more than […] Read More 19 December 2018 Two sisters among four converts arrested in Ahvaz Four Christian converts, including two sisters, have been arrested and detained in the western city of Ahvaz. Shima Zanganeh, 27, […] Read More 16 December 2018 64-year-old convert released on bail after two weeks in solitary confinement Sixty-four-year-old Jamshid Derakhshan has been released on bail after two weeks in solitary confinement in Karaj’s Rajaei-Shahr Prison. Jamshid was […] Read More 14 December 2018 64-year-old convert who disappeared two weeks ago is in prison A 64-year-old convert to Christianity who failed to come home from a visit to a “house church” in Hashtgerd on […] Read More 5 December 2018 114 Christians arrested in one week At least 114 Christians have been arrested in the past week following a series of raids in nine different cities […] Read More 28 November 2018 Iranian pastor and wife fled after threat of execution for apostasy An Iranian pastor who fled the country with his wife four years ago after they were both threatened with execution […] Read More 26 July 2018 Rasht Christians violently arrested On Sunday morning, 22 July, plainclothes officers attacked the Rasht home of “Church of Iran” pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, and, after […] Read More 8 July 2018 Pastor’s son sentenced to 4 months in prison Ramil Bet-Tamraz, son of pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and Shamiram Issavi, has been sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for engaging in […] Read More 14 May 2018 Aziz Majidzadeh released on bail from Evin Prison Christian convert Aziz Majidzadeh was today released on bail from Evin Prison, pending the formation of formal charges against him. […] Read More 22 April 2018 Hadi Asgari released on bail after 19 months’ detention Christian convert Hadi Asgari was released from Tehran’s Evin Prison on bail today, 19 months after his arrest. His bail […] Read More 19 January 2018 Christian convert Ali Amini arrested in Tabriz A Christian convert arrested ahead of Christmas in Tabriz, northwest Iran, is still in the city’s central prison, according to […] Read More 12 January 2018 Assyrian Christian Shamiram Issavi sentenced to 5 years in prison The court hearing on the case of Shamiram Issavi, the wife of the pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, was held on 6 […] Read More 23 November 2017 Mohammad Ali Torabi released on bail Christian convert Mohammad Ali Torabi has been released from Ahvaz Prison on a bail of 200 million tomans (around $60,000). […] Read More 12 November 2017 10-year prison sentences upheld for four Christians An Iranian court has upheld the ten-year prison sentences given to one Iranian and three Azerbaijani Christians in July. Nasser […] Read More 12 October 2017 Iran detains another Christian convert Mohammad Ali Torabi, an Iranian convert to Christianity, has been arrested in the city of Dezful, in the southwest of […] Read More 8 July 2017 Four Christians receive long prison sentences An Iranian court has sentenced four Christians to ten years’ imprisonment. Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, an Iranian citizen and Christian convert, […] Read More 5 July 2017 Court sentences four Christians to a total of 45 years in prison An Iranian Revolutionary Court judge has sentenced Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and Christian converts Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi and Hadi Asgari to 10 […] Read More Latest news and updates ‘Human rights defenders are trying to give Iran…10th December 2019An Iranian pastor who fled the country after being threatened with death for apostasy says…...Read more...Iranian news site reports arrest of Christian evangelist10th December 2019A local news site in an Iranian city near the Azerbaijan border has reported the…...Read more...Article18 calls on UN to condemn Iran’s ‘grave’…9th December 2019Article18 has joined with other rights groups to call on the UN General Assembly to…...Read more... Iran in pictures Press Room Contact Article18 for Interviews and Inquiries Article18 is your source for news on the persecution of Christians in Iran. 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