Christian rights organizations have documented a significant increase in the number of arrests of Christians in Iran last year, raising concerns about religious freedom in the country.

According to Article 18’s annual report published on January 19, at least 166 Christians were arrested across the country in 2023, compared to 134 the previous year.

Arrests came in waves in 2023, with “just a handful reported prior to June, then over 100 within the next three months, before a further rash of arrests at Christmas,” says the report, which was released in collaboration with Open Doors, CSW and Middle East Concern.

“However, very few of those arrested agreed to publicise their cases, leading to an increasing number of faceless victims.”

“By the end of 2023, at least 17 of the Christians arrested during the summer had received prison sentences of between three months and five years, or non-custodial punishments such as fines, flogging, and in one case the community-service of digging graves,” the report says.

Bible distributors were particularly targeted, it says, with “over one-third of arrests targeting individuals in possession of multiple copies.”

At least nine Christians were pardoned and released from prison, “though the majority were already nearing the end of their sentences, which related to the peaceful practice of their faith and therefore should never have been issued in the first place.”

Source » iranwire