Iran once again ranked among top 10 persecutors of Christians

Iran once again ranked among top 10 persecutors of Christians

The 2024 World Watch List by Open Doors International. Countries in red show places where Christians suffer “extreme” persecution, while in orange countries it is at “very high levels”.

Iran has once again been named among the top 10 worst persecutors of Christians.

Iran ranks in 9th place on the 2024 World Watch List, published today by Article18’s partner organisation, Open Doors International.

Last year Iran ranked in 8th place, but Iran’s overall “score” remained the same, meaning its one-place improvement on the list – a return to its 2022 ranking – was a reflection of worsening conditions in another country (namely Sudan), rather than any improvement for Christians inside Iran.

“There has been very little change in score in the WWL 2024 reporting period,” Open Doors explains. “Pressure has remained extreme in virtually all Spheres of Life, and violence [against Christians in Iran] has risen very slightly.

“Following the ‘Women, Life Freedom’ demonstrations, sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini at the hands of Iran’s Morality Police, the Iranian authorities have tightened their authoritarian grip on any perceived dissent.

“The authorities see Christianity as a Western attempt to undermine the Islamic order. Church leaders are being punished harshly, often with long prison sentences. And there has been growing involvement from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in conducting raids on house churches.”

The World Watch List has been produced since 1993, ranking the top 50 countries in which Christians are persecuted by assessing six criteria: pressure levels in private, family, community and national life, as well as in church communities, and how much violence Christians suffer.

Iran scores especially highly on pressure to church communities. 

“Most church services are monitored by the police, which leads to fear for attendees,” notes Open Doors. “Armenian and Assyrian Christians may conduct services in their own languages as long as they do not welcome Muslim-background Christians. Armenians and Assyrians also run some state-subsidized schools; however, the headteachers are generally Muslim. 

“Over the past few years, the government has intensified efforts to remove Persian-speaking Christians from Iran by shutting down house churches and arresting both leaders and members. Following the COVID-19 pandemic, all four remaining Persian-speaking churches were closed indefinitely and have not been allowed to reopen.”

The other countries in the top 10 this year are North Korea, Somalia, Libya, Eritrea, Yemen, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sudan and Afghanistan.

Open Doors says that 365 million Christians worldwide today face “high levels of persecution and discrimination for their faith”, up from 360 million in 2023.