IHRDC’s latest report, “Living in the Shadows of Oppression,” details the situation of Christian converts currently living in Iran. Facing the government’s narrow definition of protected Christianity, converts are systematically denied their rights to practice their religion without fear of persecution and are often harassed and arrested for their religious beliefs.
Despite the provisions within the Iranian Constitution and Iran’s international obligations to protect the freedoms of thought, conscience, and religion, Christian converts, along with several other unrecognized religious minorities, are perceived as a threat to the government. A number of these converts have been arrested and convicted of crimes such as acting against national security or even of “spreading Zionism.”
Among the charges often levied against Christian converts, apostasy is common. Typically regarded by conservative Shi’a jurists (including Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic) as a conversion from Shi’a Islam to another religion, apostasy is a capital offence in Iran. Without a uniform definition of apostasy and its criminal elements, the legal framework within which apostasy cases are prosecuted is uncertain. For this reason, the penalties meted in these cases have ranged from prison sentences to the death penalty.
One such cleric has gone so far as to state that the punishment for apostasy is obligatory murder, which can be carried out without the order of a judge. The report details nine cases of extrajudicial murder of Christian church leaders which occurred over the last four decades. Under Iranian law, the perpetrators of extrajudicial murder of an apostate do not face the same punishment as in other murder cases, and the families of these victims have been denied justice.
Iranian Christian converts have likewise faced systematic discrimination in the form of church closures, harassment and intimidation by police forces, arbitrary arrest and torture, and the confiscation of property. Through witness testimony and detailed accounts of the waves of oppression leveled against this community over the last forty years, the report provides an in-depth analysis of Iran’s violations of its own laws, international covenants, and of the government’s failure to safeguard the rights of its citizens.
Source » iranhrdc