A new report from the United Nations has shed new light on the extent of persecution faced by non-Muslims in Iran.
The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday that Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, detailed in a report last month the continued repression of religious freedoms in the Islamic Republic. The report included a shocking claim from an Iranian convert to Christianity named only as “Mr. Faraz” who said, “Individuals who visit Christian websites have a virus implanted on their computer.” TheBlaze is unable to verify his claim, and he did not provide further detail on the allegation.
Faraz said that early last year, Iranian authorities came to arrest him because of his affiliation with a Christian prayer group. Though they came for him, the Iranian security officials mistakenly arrested a different family member.
“In general, Christian religious practice is monitored and heavily regulated,” the U.N. report said. “For example, Muslim converts to Christianity cannot enter Armenian or Assyrian Churches, as all churchgoers must register with the Government.”
“Authorities often place cameras in churches. Christians, especially converts, are careful to use certain euphemistic language in communications,” the report further stated. “When ministers or other visible Christian figures are arrested, they are most often pressed to reveal foreign contacts or financial connections/benefactors.”
Christians are not alone in being persecuted, according to the report, which provided a count of those detained: “As of 3 January 2014, at least 307 members of religious minorities were in detention, of whom 136 were Baha’is, 90 Sunni Muslims, 50 Christians, 19 Dervish Muslims (four Dervish human rights lawyers were also reportedly detained), four were Yarasan, two were Zoroastrians, and six were from other groups.”
Of the 42 Christians arrested last year, most were convicted of participating in informal “home church” prayer services, associating with Christians outside Iran, or engaging in evangelical activity. The maximum sentence was 10 years in prison.
“The Christians most commonly prosecuted appear to be converts from Muslim backgrounds or those that proselytize or minister to Iranian Muslims. Iranian authorities at the highest levels have designated house churches and evangelical Christians as threats to national security,” the report said.
While the U.N. rapporteur acknowledged the “positive overtures” made by the Iranian government “aimed at advancing President Hassan Rouhani’s campaign pledges to strengthen human rights protections” including the proposal of a citizens’ rights charter and the release of 80 individuals from detention, he also stressed those moves “do not address fully the fundamental human rights concerns” raised by the U.N.
The draft citizen’s rights charter allowed for the holding of Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian religious services.
“But there is a yawning disconnect between Rouhani’s proclamation and the facts on the ground,” the Jerusalem Post noted.
Secretary General of Iran’s High Council for Human Rights Mohammad Javad Larijani accused the U.N. rapporteur of interfering in Iran’s internal affairs. He told the English-language Tehran Times, “The enemies’ ploy is a vicious circle, which changes according to the political situation.”
Larijani called the U.N.’s appointment of a special rapporteur to monitor Iran’s human rights situation “unjustified” and called the U.N. official a “media actor.”
Despite characterizations in the media of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani as “moderate” and efforts at outreach to Iran’s leadership by the Obama administration, the White House in October said it was “deeply concerned” over reports that four Christians in Iran had been sentenced to 80 lashes for drinking communion wine. The U.N. report also took note of that case.
“We remain deeply concerned about Iran’s continuing violations of religious freedom,” White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan told TheBlaze at the time.
“The government continues to disregard the rights of its citizens, including Christians, Bahais, Sufis, Jews and members of other minority religious groups,” Meehan said. “Members of religious minorities are frequently subject to harassment, arbitrary detention and death. We again call for the Iranian government to urgently release all prisoners of conscience, including those detained for practicing their religion.”