A group of Christian organisations have sent a joint letter to United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights asking her to intervene on behalf of Persian-speaking Christians in Iran who are currently experiencing violations of the rights to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) and freedom of expression.
In the letter, ten signatories raise concerns about the forced closure of the majority of Persian-language churches in Iran, writing: “only four small ones remain, which are kept under tight surveillance by the authorities. These churches are also not allowed to accept visitors or take on any new members.”
The letter also details changes to Articles 499 and 500 of Iran’s Islamic Penal Code, which came into effect earlier this year and “provide even greater scope for the authorities to bring charges against members of unrecognised religious-minority groups.”
Highlighting that Persian-speaking Christians face excessive charges for gathering together even in their homes, and that many are being prevented from worshipping in their mother tongue, the signatories call on the High Commissioner to make representations to the Iranian government requesting clarification on where Persian-speaking Christians can gather to worship freely, the unconditional release of Christian prisoners of conscience, and an end to the ongoing crackdown on house-churches.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “This letter is an important reminder of the plight facing Christians in Iran, who continue to experience a wide range of violations of their right to freedom of religion or belief on a daily basis. We reiterate our call on Iran to enable full enjoyment of the right to freedom of religion or belief in full for all of its citizens, and we urge the government and the international community to take forward the recommendations made in the letter as a matter of urgency.”