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07/26/2022 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Christians in Iran continue to face significant challenges on their right to freedom of religion or belief, as found in a recent report from the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). In part of the government’s ongoing efforts to stifle religious freedom, USCIRF found that Iranian authorities routinely spread misinformation to promote false narratives and justify their poor treatment of religious minorities. Among those targeted are Christian converts, often at the excuse of national security concerns and other arbitrary accusations.

According to the report, USCIRF found that “Iran’s misinformation campaign against Christian converts has persistently used vague national security accusations.” These baseless claims are primarily produced through Iran’s state-controlled media outlets, which are heavily regulated to ensure that all content aligns with the government’s interpretation of Ja’afri Shi’a Islam. By targeting Christians through this propaganda campaign, Iranian authorities are attempting to shape public opinion in a way that favors the government’s mistreatment of religious minorities.

The report also found that the Iranian government uses fabricated claims of national security as grounds for prosecuting Christians and other religious minorities. In 2021, more than 120 Christian converts were arrested, detained, or imprisoned for their faith. According to USCIRF, “While the Iranian judiciary uses national security charges to suppress Christian converts [and Bahá’ís], the propaganda campaign against the two groups implicitly admits that they are targeted for promoting their faiths rather than nefarious activities against the Iranian state.”

USCIRF’s report comes at a critical time, as the U.S. Department of State’s Country of Particular Concern (CPC) designations are anticipated to be released in the coming months. Since 1999, the State Department has designated Iran as a CPC for engaging in or tolerating “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom.” Along with Iran’s misinformation campaign are a number of other violations that garner this designation, such as its restrictions on public worship, torture of imprisoned Christians, and repression of female religious minorities. 

As the reality for Christians on the ground continues to deteriorate, the United States must do everything in its power to hold the Iranian government accountable for its violations of religious freedom. As reiterated in USCIRF’s report, the Iranian government’s discriminatory treatment of Christians violates the country’s international obligation to protect religious freedom, as it ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) in 1975. Without the continued pressure from the international community, the future for Christians in Iran bodes ill. 

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