By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
TEHRAN (Worthy News) - At least scores of Christians were arrested, and dozens endured prison in Iran last year, but many cases go unreported, faith rights groups said Wednesday.
A collaborative report by Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Article 18, Middle East Concern and Open Doors International, said “violations against Christians in Iran persisted” throughout 2021.
Some, “59 Christians were arrested, 34 were detained, and 30 endured some form of imprisonment throughout 2021,” the report noted.
It states that “there are many more cases that go unreported. Either because no-one raises awareness — arresting authorities frequently issue threats to prevent publicity — or because those involved request confidentiality.”
All are held on charges linked to their faith in Christ and related activities, investigators say.
Many are Christian converts who abandoned Islam, seen by authorities as betraying Iran’s state religion.
The report sent to Worthy News on Wednesday suggested the reported crackdown was part of several trends “in violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) in Iran.”
The incidents also included “an increased crackdown on Persian-speaking Christians by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), and restrictions on Christian activities online.”
The IRGC, a special branch of the army, was established to protect the country's Islamic republic political system.
Non-Islamist groups, including devoted Christians, are often viewed by authorities as undermining those principles, Worthy News learned.
The report titled “Rights violations against Christians in Iran - Annual Report 2021” also noted limited positive developments towards the end of the year.
Some Christian converts were released after judges doubted whether house churches could be seen as threatening the security of the Islamic state, Worthy News reported earlier.
CSW’s Founder, President Mervyn Thomas, told Worthy Nees that the latest report provides “an important reminder of the continuing violations faced by Christians in Iran.”
He said the groups “urge the Iranian government to take heed of its recommendations. And to end what amounts to the criminalization of the practice of a religion the Iranian constitution claims to recognize.”
Thomas said that CSE also urged Iran’s Islamic leaders “to ensure that all citizens, including members of the Baha’i, Gonabadi Dervishe, Humanist and Sunni communities, are free to enjoy the full right to freedom of religion or belief.”
He noted those rights are “articulated in Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a signatory.”
There was no immediate reaction from Iran’s Islamic leadership to the report. However, authorities have defended actions against what they view as foreign interference in Iran’s religious affairs.
At least 800,000 Christians are living among Iran’s Muslim-majority population of more than 84 million people, according to Open Doors estimates, though other groups give higher figures.