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06/16/2022 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Last week, on June 7, an Iranian-Armenian pastor was sentenced to 10 years in an Iranian prison. After he was released, the court ordered that he be subject to a two-year term of exile in a remote southeast Iranian province and to a two-year ban from international travel and from political and social organizations. Iran’s intelligence services will monitor him after his release as well.

Two of the women, who are converts, were also each sentenced alongside the pastor to six years in prison for their service as leaders in house churches. In addition to the pastor and these two women, four other Christian converts were each sentenced to between one and four years imprisonment for merely being members of house churches, though their prison sentences could be exchanged for fine payments of between $800 and $1,250.

The judge in their case wrote, “The papers of this case file indicate that this person, who considers himself an Armenian [an ethnic group recognized as Christian in Iran] and has traveled abroad several times and attended a gathering in Turkey, having established a group to attract Muslims, and under cover of religious programs for prayer, has propagated Evangelical Christianity, and with illegal activities and unfounded claims has abused people’s inner weaknesses and attracted some of them to the membership of his group.”

Iran is technically a signatory of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which is intended to guarantee religious freedom—these cases show that this religious freedom does not actually exist in Iran. In Iran, the spread of Christianity is often labeled as propagandizing and, therefore, an “action against national security.” As a result, Christians face fines, imprisonment, and other forms of persecution.

Christians, human rights activists, and other prisoners jailed in Iran face the harsh reality of systemic human rights abuse. Recently on June 10, for example, Amnesty International reported that Iranian authorities planned to amputate the fingers of eight prisoners. These, and other torture punishments, are often utilized by the Iranian government. The nation’s Islamic Penal Code allows for various kinds of torture, which include flogging, binding, stoning, and even crucifixion.

Christians in Iran face some of the most severe persecution anywhere in the world. On top of the harsh legal consequences that threaten the nation’s Christian community, Christians also broadly face harassment and discrimination. They are routinely denied work, education, and other opportunities. The plight of Christians in Iran is dire, and their persecution must be exposed before change can come to Iran.

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