Over 50 Christians in five cities arrested in new crackdown

Over 50 Christians in five cities arrested in new crackdown

More than 50 Christian converts have been arrested in a rash of new incidents across five Iranian cities over the past seven days, with fears the number could rise much higher as fresh reports keep coming in.

At least 51 of those arrested at their homes or house-churches – in the cities of Tehran, Karaj, Rasht, Orumiyeh and Aligoudarz – remain in detention on unknown charges, while others have been released on bail.

Article18 cannot at this time share any more details about the incidents, but after very few publicly reported arrests of Christians so far this year, the news marks a clear change in approach.

Mansour Borji, Article18’s advocacy director, commented: “The reason for this sudden surge in nationwide arrests of Christians is not clear at this stage. What is obvious is that Iran has begun a fresh crackdown on civil liberties, and the traditionally vulnerable groups, like Christians, are on the front line of those targeted.”

Mr Borji drew a parallel between the recent visible return of the morality police to the streets, saying that “overall there seems to be a renewed or more aggressive crackdown on groups the regime feels threatened by”.

“The relative withdrawal of the so-called ‘morality police’ forces from the streets in recent months was perhaps an attempt to restore peace after months of protests that were violently suppressed,” he said. “However, that approach seems now to have given way to a new wave of aggressive social policing, which could potentially reignite protests, as only within a day of visibly reintroducing the morality police the people are back on the streets.”

With just two months until the anniversary of the death of Mahsa Amini – the event that sparked the unparalleled protests – Mr Borji added that the return to a more forceful approach may be “to send out a message, both nationally and internationally, that they are not moved or deterred, though the reality may be completely different as recent admissions by IRGC commanders and senior officials show that elements of the government and core elites feared an ‘imminent collapse’ of the system, while warning against the resurgence of protests”.

Article18 will continue to share any updates regarding the latest incidents, as they come in.

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