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Iran Escalates Attacks on Christians

ICC Note:

The National Review reports that the mass arrests of Christians in Iran since Christmas is “the largest targeted Iranian violence against Christians since the government assassination campaign against Protestant leaders in the mid-1990s, and perhaps since the earliest years of the revolution.”

By Paul Marshall

1/10/2011 Iran (National Review Online) – In the 21st century, life has become increasingly inhospitable for Christians and other minorities in the Middle East. But, even against this backdrop, the last few months have witnessed an alarming increase in violence. Most of the recent large attacks have been by Sunni terrorists in Iraq and Egypt, but now the Iranian government seems determined to match that record.

Beginning on December 26, security forces raided Christian homes in Tehran and elsewhere, abused and handcuffed their occupants, and dragged 25 people off to prison and interrogation. Amongst those taken were married couples, at least two of whom were forced to leave babies behind. Police raided another dozen houses but the occupants were not at home — the homes were ransacked, looted, and sealed, and their occupants ordered to turn themselves in to the authorities.

This is the largest targeted Iranian violence against Christians since the government assassination campaign against Protestant leaders in the mid-1990s, and perhaps since the earliest years of the revolution. It comes while the regime also attacks Iran’s ancient faith of Zoroastrianism, the leadership of Iran’s Baha’i community are already condemned to decade-long sentences, and there are renewed attacks on Iran’s Sufis, especially the Nimatullahi-Gonabadi Sufis, and on dissident Shia ayatollahs.

These arrests reveal a great deal about Iran’s rulers. First, they still takes religion utterly seriously: Even as they face internal political challenges and the bite of external economic sanctions, and while worms chew the innards of their nuclear program, they still resolutely divert resources to repressing peaceful religious rivals. With all due allowance to the ineradicable political constants of personal venality, partisan rivalry, state ambitions to regional hegemony, and realist drives for security, the Iranian regime remains committed to its perverted religious goals, and for them will sacrifice economic advantage and bourgeois comforts.

Second, they are weak. They are panicked by growing but peaceful and usually apolitical religious movements comprising a tiny percent of the population. Iran’s religious minorities are growing because many Muslims can no longer tolerate the regime’s version of Islam. The regime lacks confidence that it can appeal to or persuade people any longer, so it resorts instead to beating or killing them, or burying them in cells. Many such regimes can survive decades, but few have survived generations.

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