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Arrests of Rasht Christians continue, taking total to 9 in a month

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 the past month.

Babak Hosseinzadeh and Mehdi Khatibi were arrested at two separate “house churches” on Saturday evening, reports Middle East Concern

A third “Church of Iran” member, Behnam Akhlaghi, was summoned to the offices of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (Sepah) on the same day, 23 February.

All three remain in custody.

L to R: Kamal Naamanian, Mohammed Vafada and Shahrooz Eslamdoost. (Middle East Concern)

Previously, Hossein Kadivar and Khalil Dehghanpour were detained following a raid on the “house-church” meeting they were leading on 29 January; Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad was arrested on 10 February during a raid on his home; then Kamal Naamanian, Mohammed Vafada and Shahrooz Eslamdoost were arrested at a “house-church” gathering on 15 February. 

All six were helping to lead services in the absence of their jailed pastor, Yousef Nadarkhani. Two of them – Abdolreza and Kamal – had been arrested before for their Christian activities.

Middle East Concern reports that Hossein and Khalil have been taken to Lakan Prison, pending a court hearing. The others are still being detained in the offices of the Revolutionary Guards.

L to R: Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, Khalil Dehghanpour, and Hossein Kadivar (MEC)

Yousef and three other “Church of Iran” members – Saheb (Zaman) Fadaee, Mohammad Ali Mosayebzadeh, and Mohammad Reza Omidi – are currently serving ten-year jail sentences for “acting against national security” by “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running “house-churches”. They were sentenced in July 2017 and taken to serve their sentences a year later, in July 2018, after violent raids on their homes, having received no warning, nor summons.

Yousef previously spent nearly three years in prison after being sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010. He was acquitted of the charge in September 2012.

Yousef’s wife, Fatemeh, was recently told she will be arrested if she leaves Gilan Province, HRANA reported last week.

Religious freedom ‘systematically violated’ in Iran – Amnesty International

Religious freedom ‘systematically violated’ in Iran – Amnesty International

Amnesty appealed for release of (clockwise from top left): Hadi Asgari, Shamiram Issavi, Amin Afshar-Naderi, Victor Bet-Tamraz.

Iran’s “systematic violation” of freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) was just one of the ways the 40-year-old regime “suppressed” human rights in 2018, says Amnesty International in its latest report.

FoRB was systematically violated in Iran in both “law and practice”, Amnesty says in its review of human rights in 2018 across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Last month Amnesty called 2018 Iran’s “year of shame” for its “chilling” crackdown on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. 

Amnesty’s new report highlights Iran’s continuing “harassment, arbitrary arrest and detention” of Christians; raids on “house churches”; and “harsh” prison sentences given to Christians such as the Assyrian pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, his wife Shamiram, and church members Amin Afshar-Naderi and Hadi Asgari – both converts. 

Amnesty, which launched a petition for the release of the four Christians in August last year, noted that they had been sentenced to between five and 15 years in prison “for peacefully practising their faith”.

Shamiram’s appeal against her five-year sentence was last week postponed until after the Iranian New Year. The new judge in the case, Ahmad Zargar, ruled that her appeal will now be heard alongside that of her husband and the three men sentenced alongside him – Amin, Hadi and a third convert, Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi.

Amnesty’s report also highlights FoRB violations against Iran’s other religious minorities, including the Gonabadi Dervishes, Baha’is, Sunni Muslims, and Yaresan.

“The authorities continued to impose, on people of all faiths and none, codes of public conduct rooted in a strict interpretation of Shi’a Islam,” the report says, adding: “The right to change or renounce religious beliefs continued to be violated.”

Other abuses of human rights in Iran highlighted by the report include:

  • An “intensified crackdown” on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, jailing hundreds on “spurious national security charges”. 
  • Excessive force used to repress peaceful demonstrations – including beating unarmed protesters, using live ammunition, tear gas and water cannons, causing deaths and injuries.
  • Systematically unfair trials; torture and other ill-treatment widespread and committed with impunity – including the use of floggings, amputations and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments.
  • Numerous executions – including of juvenile offenders – carried out after unfair trials, some in public. 
  • Persecution of ethnic groups, and arrest and detention of minority rights activists.
  • Authorities sanctioning pervasive discrimination and violence based on gender, political opinion, religious belief, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability.
  • Restrictions on access to water in marginalised communities, and poor-quality water leading to 350 in Khuzestan province contracting intestinal infections.
  • Imprisonment of at least 112 women’s rights defenders.
  • Generalised impunity, including for those responsible for the forced disappearance and secret execution of thousands of political dissidents 30 years ago. 
  • Undermining of the right to work, and continued ban on independent trade unions.
‘This used to be a Christian cemetery … but all the graves have been dug up’

‘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 be a Christian cemetery… But all the graves have been dug up and the bodies taken away,” says the journalist reporting for Manoto TV, a Farsi-language station that broadcasts internationally.

The short video clip was posted to Manoto’s social media accounts earlier today.

It is not clear from the report whether this is the same hundred-year-old cemetery that was desecrated in 2012.

That historic cemetery, in the Ghal’e-Dokhtar area of Kerman Province, was reportedly destroyed to “free up land around Ghal’e-Dokhtar and Ghal’e-Ardeshir”, Mohabat News quoted the head of public relations at the Cultural Heritage organisation of Kerman, Mohammad Mehdi Afzali, as saying. 

Afzali later denied the claim, in an interview with the state-sanctioned IRNA news agency.

A year prior to the desecration of the Ghal’e-Dokhtar cemetery, an historic church in Kerman was bulldozed.

The Church of St. Andaryas had been registered as a protected national site in 2009, but it was then torn down overnight in 2011, without explanation, and the site has since become used as an office for a taxi company.

The church, pictured below, had been designed by famous local architect Ali Mohammad Ravari and was considered a work of art.

Several other Iranian churches have been desecrated or demolished in recent years.

In 2017, an Armenian member of the Iranian parliament, Robert Biglarian, reported that a “group of extremist Muslims” had destroyed an Armenian church in Sava, near Marivan County, Kordestan Province.

In 2016, St. Mary’s Church in Salmas County, West Azerbaijan Province, was desecrated by a group of vandals, who smashed a cross and statues of the Virgin Mary, and tore down pictures from the walls.

The Church of Haftvan, also in Salmas County and registered as a protected site, was also vandalised; an historic evangelical church in Mashhad, registered as a protected site in 2005, was destroyed; and vandals removed crosses from an historic cemetery in Bushehr that had been used by members of Iran’s Armenian Christian minority. 

Convert charged with ‘propaganda against state’ for promoting Christianity

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 faith and the distribution of Bibles”.

Sina was released from Isfahan’s Dastgerd Prison on 4 February after posting bail of 100 million tomans (around $7,500).

No date has yet been set for his court hearing.

Sina was arrested on 23 January during a violent raid on his home. Witnesses told Article18 that he was dragged away with bruises around his eyes and told that he had been under surveillance for months.

Eight plainclothes officers claiming to be from the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS) failed to show a warrant as they forced their way inside his house by breaking down the door. 

Sina’s parents were also present during the raid and witnessed their son’s arrest.

The officers searched the house and confiscated Sina’s phone and computer, as well as his Bible and other Christian items, such as books, CDs and a cross.

Sina was then taken away to an unknown location, before telephoning his family a few hours later to let them know he was in Dastgerd Prison and would soon be taken to court.

But when his family asked the authorities about where precisely he was being held, they refused to confirm that he was in Dastgerd Prison.

Fellow convert Ismaeil Maghrebinejad was arrested just two days later.

Sina is one of several Christians to have been arrested in Iran in recent weeks, continuing the pattern of late 2018, when over 100 Christians were arrested in just one week.

Fellow convert to Christianity Ismaeil Maghrebinejad, 64, was arrested in Shiraz just two days after Sina, on 25 January.

Four days later, on 29 January, two more converts were arrested in Rasht, before a fellow church member was arrested on 10 February.

Then on 15 February, three more church members were arrested.

Left to right: Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, Khalil Dehghanpour, and Hossein Kadivar – three of the six Christians arrested in Rasht.

All six are part of the imprisoned pastor Yousef Nadarkhani’s “Church of Iran” congregation, and were helping to lead services in his absence. 

Yousef is currently serving a ten-year sentence for “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running “house-churches”, alongside three more of his church members: Saheb (Zaman) Fadaee, Mohammad Ali Mosayebzadeh, and Mohammad Reza Omidi.

Three more members of Yousef Nadarkhani’s church arrested

Three more members of Yousef Nadarkhani’s church arrested

L to R: Kamal Naamanian, Mohammed Vafada and Shahrooz Eslamdoost (Middle East Concern)

Three more members of the imprisoned pastor Yousef Nadarkhani’s “Church of Iran” group in Rasht have been arrested and taken to an unknown location.

Kamal Naamanian, Mohammed Vafada and Shahrooz Eslamdoost – all converts to Christianity – were arrested on Friday, 15 February, at a “house-church” gathering.

Their arrests follow those of fellow converts Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, Hossein Kadivar and Khalil Dehghanpour – all within the last month.

L to R: Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, Khalil Dehghanpour, and Hossein Kadivar

Meanwhile, Yousef’s wife, Fatemeh, has been told she will be arrested if she leaves Gilan Province, according to HRANA.

Abdolreza was arrested on 10 February during a raid on his home. Hossein and Khalil were detained two weeks earlier during a raid on the “house-church” meeting they were leading, in Yousef’s absence, on 29 January. Officers from the Ministry of Intelligence scaled the wall of the property where the service was being held, arrested Hossein and Khalil, and threatened all other attendees, confiscating their ID cards and mobile phones.

All six arrested Christians are members of Yousef’s church, who were helping to lead services in his absence. Two of them – Abdolreza and Kamal – have been arrested before for their Christian activities.

L to R: Saheb (Zaman) Fadaee, Yousef Nadarkhani, Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Mohammad Reza Omidi.

Yousef and three other church members – Saheb (Zaman) Fadaee, Mohammad Ali Mosayebzadeh, and Mohammad Reza Omidi – are currently serving ten-year jail sentences for “acting against national security” by “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running “house-churches”. They were sentenced in July 2017 and taken to serve their sentences a year later, in July 2018, after violent raids on their homes, having received no warning, nor summons.

Yousef previously spent nearly three years in prison after he was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010. He was acquitted of the charge in September 2012.

Remembering Rev. Arastoo Sayyah, 40 years after his murder

Remembering Rev. Arastoo Sayyah, 40 years after his murder

By Anahita Babmohammadi

On 19 February 1979, just eight days after the revolution, Anglican pastor Arastoo Sayyah was brutally murdered in his church office in Shiraz.

Rev. Sayyah was the first of several church leaders murdered in Iran in the violent early years of the revolution, as radicals sought to alienate the communities they felt were the weakest – including the Christians.

On the 40th anniversary of his murder, Article18 has spoken with some of his church members, as well as a British woman who worked in the Anglican hospital in Isfahan at the time, to better understand who Rev. Sayyah was and the impact of his murder upon those close to him. 

The interviewees are referred to only by their first names, to protect them.

What do you remember about Rev. Sayyah’s murder?

Joy

I was in Isfahan when the news came from a friend of mine at the missionary hospital in Shiraz that something really terrible had happened. 

Rev. Sayyah was brutally murdered. They killed him by cutting the vessel on his neck, like cattle. As a sign of disrespect they left a bullet there, next to his body, to show that they had had the opportunity to shoot him but chose the other way.

Zari

It was so upsetting when we heard the news. I thought about his family first: his two sons. We used to play with them and gather in church conferences. Kamran and Kiyomars were still at school. They had to leave the country almost immediately.

It made us all so anxious and we developed fear and uncertainty about the future – really negative thoughts regarding the future of the Church. Since then, nothing was shocking for us; all we could do was pray.

Hossein

I was abroad, studying in India and preparing myself for an exam when one of my classmates read about Rev. Sayyah’s murder. 

It was really a bitter season for all of us, really dark. I cannot describe my feelings. I was distracted, and my exam went badly. Even my tutors felt the change and asked me what had happened.

Kamran, who had been worried when his dad didn’t come home, found him dead in his office. It was terrible. I was not in Iran, but I understood that no-one could fit within this chaotic situation. Lots of people suffered and had to leave the country because of the revolution.

What kind of man was he?

Hossein

I had known him a long time. He was a people-person. I can remember he was the vicar of Isfahan when I was about to receive my first communion. He always encouraged me to become involved in church services, by doing Bible readings and preaching, etc.

He had been a vicar in Kerman and Isfahan before Shiraz.

I was very young in my faith and I can remember his excellent behaviour and encouragement. He was a real evangelist and had a great passion for sharing the Gospel. He asked me to sing Christian songs in the traditional Persian style – Masnavi style. We recorded hymns based on Dastgahs [a traditional Persian system], so people could enjoy listening to them and relate to them.

He often went to the villages in order to share the good news. He would talk one-to-one with people, give them Bibles. He had a medical team with him and would provide medical support for people. He even would provide jobs for people who were unemployed.

I can remember a disabled person who had no money for treating his foot. Sayyah brought him to the hospital and he received treatment for his foot. Then Sayyah supported him and his family to find jobs and stand on their feet.

He spent time researching and reading books. We used to talk about literature and the books we both read.

Since 1967 he was in Isfahan and he encouraged me a lot. When he moved to Shiraz we were still in touch and he visited my family as well. 

As Matthew 6:3 teaches, he would never mention his own name when helping my family. He was really into charity.

He came from an outstanding, cultured family. His father was an army general. Like him, he was killed. His sister was married to the executive director at the Isfahan airport. They had knowledge of philosophy and literature. We had interesting discussions after church services. 

He had a wide knowledge. He completed his theological education in India. It was not a nice place and no-one was pampered there. All of us completed our course with difficulties. I went to his college in India and everyone remembered him really fondly. Even in India he helped many people and had the same attitude towards the locals.

Jila

He was so caring and generous. He supported a few orphans. In order to empower them, he brought them to the Nourayin Institution for the Blind, so they could learn interpersonal skills through helping disabled people. They would go to school and were able to achieve a good quality of life.

A few times, when my brother Hossein was away, he brought some groceries for my mother and told her that they were from her son. He was so sensible and always respected people’s dignity and privacy.

Zari

He had such an attractive voice and I was fond of his Bible cassettes. That warmth in his voice always encouraged me to memorise Bible verses. He would empower needy people.

He would treat all of us the same. In church conferences Rev. Sayyah and his wife would make us feel like he was our father: loved, valued, and respected.

Joy

He was very kind and involved with individuals. In the late 60s, he ran a children’s camp in the diocese. He was a very firm person, but really kind.

Shamiram Issavi’s appeal postponed until after Nowruz

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 Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran.

The new presiding judge, Ahmad Zargar, appeared visibly confused at the details of Shamiram’s case and ruled that her appeal would next be heard in conjunction with that of her husband, Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz, and the three men sentenced alongside him.

Judge Zargar said the next hearing would take place after Persian New Year.

Shamiram was convicted in January 2018 of “acting against national security and the regime by organising small groups, attending a seminary abroad and training church leaders to act as spies”.

Her husband Victor, a well-known Assyrian pastor, was given a ten-year sentence in July 2017, alongside three of his church members – all converts – for “acting against national security by organising and conducting house churches”.

Two of the converts – Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi, and Hadi Asgari – also received ten-year sentences, while the third, Amin Afshar-Naderi, was given an additional five years in prison for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy against Islam).

Shamiram and Victor led the Assyrian Pentecostal Church of Shahrara in Tehran before it was forcibly closed in March 2009. 

With the pressure of officials from the Ministry of Intelligence and the intervention of the Assyrian representative of the Islamic Consultative Assembly, Yonathan Betkolia, the pastor was removed from the leadership of the church and the church was forced to halt all meetings in Farsi and ban all non-Assyrian members. 

The pastor and two of the converts – Amin and Kavian – were first arrested as they celebrated Christmas together at his home on 26 December 2014. 

Hadi did not attend the Christmas celebration but was arrested on 26 August, 2016, along with several other Christians, including Victor and Shamiram’s son, Ramil, during a raid on a private apartment in Firoozkooh, near Tehran. 

Ramil was later sentenced to four months in prison, then released owing to time served.

In August 2018, Amnesty International launched a campaign for the release of Victor and Shamiram and their church members.

Iranian leaders sending their children abroad ‘troubling’ – US secretary of state

Iranian leaders sending their children abroad ‘troubling’ – US secretary of state

The US secretary of state has highlighted the hypocrisy of top Iranian officials sending their children to schools in America while at the same time claiming that Iran offers its citizens all the freedom and opportunities they need. 

“You have the very people that are destroying the way of life for ordinary Iranians all across the country, but they’re sending their kids … because they’re wealthy, because they’ve stolen from you, they’ve taken your money, corruptly, in a way that has really harmed the good, hard-working people of Iran … they’ve taken your money and they’re sending their kids abroad to go to school, to shop, to benefit from the very freedoms that we have here in the United States, because they know their country is not good enough for their own people. It’s good enough for you, but it’s not good enough for their families,” Mike Pompeo said in a video message broadcast by USA dar Farsi, the State Department’s virtual Iranian Embassy, on 10 February. 

“So we’re looking at this. We too find it troubling that they’re sending their family members abroad – not troubling for us but troubling for Iran – and we’re very hopeful that we can find a way forward, so that the Iranian people will have good lives in their country; they won’t need to come here to the United States to find liberty and freedom and prosperity.” 

In July last year, the former head of Iran’s Central Bank, Mahmoud Bahmani, caused a stir when he claimed more than 5,000 privileged youths from influential and well-connected families were studying abroad and held a total of $148 billion dollars in their foreign bank accounts – an amount exceeding Iran’s foreign exchange reserves. 

Iranians reacted by venting their frustrations on social media using the hashtag #Where_is_your_kid. The term “Aghazadeh”, referring to young people who abuse the power and influence of their relatives for personal social, political or financial gains, has since become part of the everyday vocabulary of Iranians. 

USA dar Farsi’s video message showed photographs of some of the officials in question – including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif – and of their children shopping for clothes in America and driving expensive-looking cars. 

Assyrian representative another culprit 

The Assyrian Representative in Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly, Yonathan Betkolia, is another of the officials whose children and other relatives live in the US, even though he has been an outspoken critic of American interference in Iran and a defender of Iran’s human-rights record and particularly the rights of the Christian minority he represents.

Despite his position as representative for Iran’s Christian minority, Betkolia has been instrumental in putting pressure on church leaders, and in the closure of at least two churches.

At the same time, he has called Iran a “paradise” and the “safest place in the world” for religious minorities, and said Assyrian Christians – a recognised minority in Iran – need no protection from foreign powers. 

Responding to claims in 2017 from the former US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, that there was no religious freedom in Iran, Betkolia declared: “This claim cannot be true, as all religious minorities have their rights and freedoms in Iran.” 

He added that religious minorities in Iran were free to conduct their religious ceremonies and that the US and other Western countries should follow Iran’s example. 

“The Iranian government does not allow anyone to attack and violate our values, while we can all see that in some Western countries religious minority leaders have been attacked by extremists and no-one has stood up for them,” he said. 

He also criticised the reports of the former UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, who highlighted violations of the rights of religious minorities in Iran. 

Betkolia’s other public comments include:

“The fact that we have many churches in Iran, even in the smallest villages, shows how religious minorities enjoy absolute freedom and security in Iran.” 

“Officially recognised religious minorities have no problem practising their faith in Iran. Our constitution grants them special privileges like civil and religious rights.” 

“Religious minorities, especially Christians, have no problem in Iran and I testify against the reports on the violation of Christian rights in Iran.” 

40 years of brutality 

On the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Revolution last week, Article18 looked back at Iran’s treatment of its Christian minority over the four decades since the ayatollahs came to power. Ayatollah Khomeini promised freedom and religious freedom for all Iranians, but the reality has been very different, with several church leaders brutally murdered and hundreds of church members jailed or forced into exile

US leaders including the president, Donald Trump, national security advisor, John Bolton, and ambassador for international religious freedom, Sam Brownback, each released messages on their Twitter profiles, criticising the Iranian regime for its rights violations over the past 40 years.

Last month, Article18 published its inaugural annual report, documenting the “unprecedented” wave of arrests just before Christmas as the culmination of a year in which Iran continued to violate the rights of its Christian minority. 

Amnesty International noted the arrest of at least 171 Christians last year in its report, which called 2018 Iran’s “year of shame”. 

Convert taken to Evin Prison, threatened with 10-year sentence

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 order, propagating Christianity and connecting with foreign entities”.

Simin Soheili, 40, was arrested on 30 January and transferred to Evin Prison, where she was informed of the charges against her. She was released on bail two weeks later, on 14 February, and has been left severely traumatised by her experience. 

Another Christian convert, Yasser Akbari, was arrested at the same time and also taken to Evin Prison, where he is still being detained. It remains unclear whether he has been formally charged.

Yasser has a teenage son with severe disabilities, who needs full-time care.

Many of Yasser’s contacts have been summoned for interrogation during his time in Evin Prison. 

Three Christians arrested at Yousef Nadarkhani’s church

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 detained by officers from the Ministry of Intelligence.

Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad was arrested on Sunday, 10 February, during a raid on the ‘Church of Iran’ group, and taken to an unknown location. Two weeks previously, on 29 January, fellow church members Hossein Kadivar and Khalil Dehghanpour were detained following another raid.

Their pastor, Yousef, and three other church members – Saheb (Zaman) Fadaee, Mohammad Ali Mosayebzadeh, and Mohammad Reza Omidi – are currently serving ten-year jail sentences for “acting against national security” by “promoting Zionist Christianity” and running “house-churches”. They were sentenced in July 2017 and taken to serve their sentences a year later, in July 2018, after violent raids on their homes, having received no warning, nor summons.

Yousef previously spent nearly three years in prison after he was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010. He was acquitted of the charge in September 2012.

In the latest raids on the non-Trinitarian group, Hossein and Khalil were arrested when officers from the Ministry of Intelligence scaled the wall of the property where the “house church” service was being held.

They arrested Hossein and Khalil, who were leading the service, and threatened all other attendees, confiscating their ID cards and mobile phones.

London-based Manoto TV, a Farsi-language station that broadcasts internationally, reported news of the arrests yesterday. 

In its report, Manoto TV spoke to Behnam Irani, a ‘Church of Iran’ pastor who served six years in prison for “acting against national security” before his release in 2016.

He explained two tactics used by the Iranian regime against Christians: firstly, refusing to enrol Christian schoolchildren – including the children of Pastor Yousef – unless they agree to take classes in Islamic studies and Quranic studies; secondly, sending arrested converts for “re-education” classes with a Muslim cleric – a similar practice, he noted, to the tactic used by the Chinese government in sending members of its Muslim minority in Xinjiang to “re-education” camps.  

Manoto TV also cited the recent report by Amnesty International, which called 2018 Iran’s “year of shame” for its crackdown on civil-rights activists. In its report, Amnesty cited Article18 as it noted that “at least 171 Christians were arrested in 2018 solely for peacefully practising their faith… Some received sentences of up to 15 years in prison”. 

The Iranian government recently announced plans to release 50,000 prisoners in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the revolution, but prisoners of conscience and political prisoners will not be included in the show of clemency.  

Article18 yesterday published a review of Iran’s treatment of its Christian minority in the 40 years since Ayatollah Khomeini came to power with the pledge of ensuring human rights and religious freedom for all.

In January, Article18 published its inaugural annual report, highlighting the “unprecedented” wave of arrests ahead of Christmas 2018 as the culmination of a year in which religious freedom continued to be violated in Iran.