Collaborative report finds persistent violations against Christians

A collaborative report by CSW, Article 18, Middle East Concern and Open Doors International, published on 25 January, finds that violations against Christians in Iran persisted throughout 2021 despite limited positive developments towards the end of the year.

The report highlights several trends in violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Iran, including an increased crackdown on Persian-speaking Christians by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and restrictions on Christian activities online.

The report finds that 59 Christians were arrested, 34 were detained, and 30 endured some form of imprisonment throughout 2021, and states that “there are many more cases that go unreported, either because no-one raises awareness — arresting authorities frequently issue threats to prevent publicity — or because those involved request confidentiality.”

In addition, at least 209 individuals were affected by judicial rulings in 2021, 35 of whom reported intense psychological torture.

Among its recommendations, the report calls on the government of Iran to fully uphold the right to FoRB for all citizens, to release all Christians detained on spurious charges, and to cease the criminalisation of house-church organisation and membership. It also urges the international community to “assist in holding Iran accountable for upholding its obligation to ensure and facilitate freedom of religion or belief for all its citizens by highlighting this principle during political and/ or economic discussions with, or concerning, Iran.”

CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “Once again, this report provides an important reminder of the continuing violations faced by Christians in Iran. We urge the Iranian government to take heed of its recommendations and to end what amounts to the criminalisation of the practice of a religion the Iranian constitution claims to recognise. We also call for the government to ensure that all citizens, including members of the Baha’i, Gonabadi Dervishe, Humanist and Sunni communities, are free to enjoy the full right to freedom of religion or belief as articulated in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.”