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05/26/2019 Iran (International Christian Concern) –  Iranian Intelligence agents, along with EIKO officials directly under the control of the Supreme Leader, raided an Assyrian Presbyterian Church in the northwestern city of Tabriz on May 9th. The agents changed the locks, tore down the cross, and ordered the church warden to leave. They made it clear that worship will no longer be allowed to continue in this church.

The raid did not come as a complete surprise to the Assyrian Christian community. Just days prior, intelligence officials prevented them from holding a joint worship service alongside Armenian Christians. The church was technically “confiscated” by the Revolutionary Guard in 2011 but they were allowed to continue using the building so long as Christian worship was conducted in the Assyrian language rather than Persian.

This church closure stands in direct contrast to Iran’s own laws. Assyrians and Armenians are a constitutionally protected religious minority who are allowed to practice their faith, albeit under heavy restrictions and surveillance. Persian Christians, all of whom are converts from Islam, are usually those who regularly experience raids and violent church closures. Iran is rated as a Tier 1 Country of Particular Concern by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.

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