News / Middle East

Iran Arrests Dozens of Evangelical Christians

A Christian man and a cleric pray during a New Year mass at Saint Serkis church in central Tehran. New Year is celebrated by the Assyrian and Armenian minorities in Iran, where a majority of its citizens are Muslim, 01 Jan 2011
A Christian man and a cleric pray during a New Year mass at Saint Serkis church in central Tehran. New Year is celebrated by the Assyrian and Armenian minorities in Iran, where a majority of its citizens are Muslim, 01 Jan 2011

Iran has reportedly arrested dozens of Christians, many of them converts from Islam, in a crackdown that began around Christmas. An Iranian official is accusing Protestant evangelical groups of causing a cultural invasion.

Iranian opposition groups are reporting the arrests of dozens of evangelical Christians, many of whom are converts from Islam. Christian groups inside Iran say that the country’s Ministry of Islamic Guidance has also grilled dozens of Christians it accuses of proselytizing.

Armed security officers forcibly entered the homes of Christians, verbally and physically abused them, before handcuffing them and taking them for interrogation," reports the Cyprus-based group Middle East Concern.  It adds that some were released after intense questioning and forcibly coerced statements that they would no longer participate in Christian activities.

Seeking to convert Muslims to Christianity or other religions is considered a crime in Iran and many other Islamic countries. Christian missionaries are routinely expelled and sometimes jailed for distributing Bibles and other religious material.

The governor of Tehran province, Morteza Tamadon, confirmed the arrests several days ago, complaining that Protestant evangelicals were conducting an "enemy cultural invasion."  He likened Protestants to the Taliban, whom he referred to as "parasites."

Hadi Ghaemi of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran says that the names and photos of a number of those arrested have been published, and most appear to be young evangelical Christians who have converted from Islam.

Ghaemi says that the evangelical Christian movement has gained popularity in recent years, along with other non-Islamic religions, due to disaffection with Iran’s state-sponsored Shi’ism:

"The government in the name of religion has caused so much mistrust of many people from the official religion of the country. I am seeing a lot of people looking for alternatives to state-sanctioned religion. That's what they are really afraid of. They know that within the society there is a large movement of turning away from official religion and even within Shi'ism alternative approaches are coming up,” Ghaemi explained. “But they find it very threatening when people completely go to a different religion and I think it is because it's happening in large segments of society."

Ghaemi notes that the Tehran governor demonstrated a clear lack of understanding of evangelical Christianity, by calling it a British-inspired conspiracy. He adds that the Iranian government is using fear, intimidation, detention and prosecution to bring a halt to conversions.

Mohammed Javad Larijani, the Secretary General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights, complained recently that the West was "unfairly targeting Iran for human rights abuses. He claims that Iran tolerates other religions, so long as they are "not cults:

"The Jews are a minority, and they even have members in parliament. The Christians, they are a minority, they have a member in the parliament [and] Zoroastrians are a minority,” Larijani said. “Bahais are a cult. As far as these cults are not preventing followers from going out of the cult, they are tolerated… Any cult will be prevented by law. "

Some minority groups inside Iran, like Armenians, say that they are allowed to worship, provided that they do not seek to convert non-Christians.

Converts to Christianity from Islam, however, are often harassed and persecuted. Two evangelical Christian pastors, whom the government says converted from Islam, were arrested last June. One, Youssef  Nadarkhani  has been sentenced to death for apostasy and the other’s case is still pending.


You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

Studies point to possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More