The ongoing protests against the Iranian government and the harsh blowback protestors are receiving from their regime have put Iran back into focus in the international news cycle. Yet, other human rights violations of the Iranian regime remain largely unreported, including the consistent and ongoing violations against Christians and Iran's other religious minorities.
Any Iranian Christian might become subject to harassment or arbitrary imprisonment by the government. Earlier this month, Iran sentenced a 65-year-old convert to Christianity to three years in prison for charges including "propaganda against the Islamic Republic" and "membership of a group hostile to the regime." For a judge in the Islamic Republic of Iran, what made these charges valid was because he had "promoted evangelical Christianity."
While this case might seem extreme, arbitrary imprisonment is a tool often used by the Iranian regime to harass and intimidate its Christian minority. And imprisonment isn't just a punishment for the Christian who is sentenced. The family members are also publicly humiliated by the sentence.
In 2009, Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh spent almost 9 months in one of Iran's most notorious facilitates for political prisoners, Evin prison. As Christian converts from a Muslim background, they were both passionate about sharing their faith with their fellow Iranians. Together, they handed out close to 20,000 copies of the New Testament in Iran. When the authorities finally caught up with them, they were charged with apostasy, blasphemy, anti-government activity.
Dabrina Bet Tamraz, an Assyrian Christian from Iran, has also experienced the fear and pain of imprisonment. Her father, Victor Bet Tamraz, was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2017 for "acting against national security by forming home churches, attending seminars abroad, and proselytizing Zionist Christianity." To escape international condemnation, regimes such as Iran often try to sell their policies of religious oppression as "national security measures." Yet, pastors of small Christian churches hardly pose a threat to national security. Whenever the opportunity arises, the international community should make it clear to Iran that this excuse doesn't give them a pass for their religious freedom violations.
On February 5th, 2020, Maryam Rostampour, Marziyeh Amirizadeh, and Dabrina Bet Tamraz will be joining Family Research Council to share their stories about dealing with persecution at the hands of the Iranian regime. Please join us as we hear their experience and learn how we can be praying and advocating for religious freedom in Iran. Click here to watch our live webcast or register to join us in person for this event.