Security officials have arrested eight converts to Christianity in Iran, bringing to at least 34 the total number of Christians arrested in the country so far this year, reports the London-based nonprofit Article 18 that advocates for persecuted Christians in the Muslim-majority nation and works for the protection and promotion of religious freedom there.
The group takes its name from the number of the article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guaranteeing the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Article 18, said the arrests occurred July 1 in the southern Persian Gulf port city of Bushehr, and that all the adherents, who included five members of one family, were sent into solitary confinement in an intelligence ministry site in the city.
Security officials who introduced themselves as agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence “stormed the Christians’ homes in a coordinated operation … confiscating Bibles, Christian literature, wooden crosses and pictures carrying Christian symbols, along with laptops, phones, all forms of identity cards and other personal belongings,” Article 18 said.
The officials also searched the offices of two Christians and confiscated computer hard drives and security camera recordings, the human rights group said in a July 3 article on its website, adding that the officers are “reported to have treated the Christians harshly, even though small children were present during the arrests.” Iranian authorities did not allow the arrested Christians, whose ages ranged from 27 to 61, access to lawyers.
This past May, Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi acknowledged his officers were bringing in Muslims who had converted to Christianity because conversions were “happening right before our eyes,” the human rights organization reported.
In April, Article 18 reported that 16 Christian converts from Bushehr, convicted for “propaganda activities against the regime through the formation of house churches,” lost appeals against their prison sentences.
Meanwhile, in the aftermath of the latest arrests of Christian converts, the Jerusalem Post quoted Alireza Nader, the CEO of a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy group for Iran, as saying that “Christianity is on the rise in Iran, along with other non-Islamic religions.”
Nader added, “As the regime faces more internal unrest, the more it’ll crack down on religious minorities it views as threatening its stranglehold on religion.”
In its 2020 annual report released last June, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, a bipartisan federal body within the U.S. State Department, listed Iran among 14 “countries of particular concern” for their “systematic, ongoing, and egregious” violations of religious freedom. Iran has made the list consistently since 1999.
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