Publication date: August 2021
Published by: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center
Number of Pages: 94

Living in the Shadows of Oppression: The Situation of Christian Converts in Iran

The “systematic” oppression of Christian converts in Iran is the focus of a new in-depth report by the US-based Iran Human Rights Documentation Center.

Available in both English and Persian, the report highlights the myriad ways in which converts to Christianity have been and continue to be oppressed in the Islamic Republic, in violation of both national and international law.

From charges of “apostasy”, leading in some cases to the death sentence, to the extrajudicial killing of church leaders, the report highlights how Christians from numerous denominations have been affected, and particularly those belonging to the burgeoning house-church movement.

The report begins and ends by analysing the Shia understanding of “apostasy”, noting that “although there are considerable disagreements and ambiguities regarding acts that could constitute apostasy”, Shia jurisprudence suggests it is a crime punishable by death.

And it is in this context, the report suggests, that the treatment of Christian converts in Shia Iran should be understood.

Beyond charges of “apostasy”, the report outlines the other charges levelled at converts, including “acting against national security”, or propagating so-called “Zionist Christianity”. It also provides numerous examples of Christian leaders, as well as regular house-church members, who have suffered under the regime’s campaign of “mass arrests and imprisonment”, while also detailing the known cases of extrajudicial killings of Christians since 1979.

The report provides examples of confiscations of Christian properties, and explains how this practice is tied in to the Islamic Republic’s efforts, “since its early days … to diminish Christians’ presence in the country and limit it to small groups of ethnic Christians”, as opposed to converts from Muslim backgrounds.

The final section of the report outlines the ways in which the Islamic Republic has violated its own constitution, as well as international law, before concluding: 

“Christian converts not only have been denied the right to practice their religion openly, freely, and without fear of repression, but they have also encountered the Iranian government’s repressive and discriminatory policies and practices. 

“Christian converts have been labeled as unrecognized or unofficial, their properties have been seized without compensation, and their due process rights have been violated. 

“Several pastors and Christian converts were murdered, many were sent behind bars, and many were forced to go into exile. 

“The Iranian governments’ actions in the prosecution of Christian converts are contrary to international human rights law and Iran’s Constitution.”

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