by Nick Hallett 22 Mar 2014
The Iranian government views evangelical Christians as a threat to national security and has imprisoned some of them for up to 8 years, according to a UN report. The report on the human rights situation in Iran also says that things have not improved for the country's religious minorities since the election of President Hassan Rouhani last year.
Presenting his report to the UN Human Rights Council, Dr Ahmed Shaheed, Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, said that President Rouhani had yet to deliver on promises to end discriminatory practices and grant minority citizens more rights.
The report features a list of known religious prisoners in Iran, including their sentences and reasons for conviction.
Among Christians imprisoned are Rasoul Abdollahi, serving three years for "collusion against the government and evangelism", Farshid Fathi, serving six years for "propaganda against the system... Undermining national security..." and Jamshid Jabari, accused of "insulting Islam".
Numerous Christians are accused of being members of groups that "aim to disrupt national security" and spread "propaganda against the system".
The worst hit group, however, are members of the Baha'i faith. 136 Baha'is are currently imprisoned for a variety of offences, including plotting to undermine the government and collusion with hostile foreign groups.
Six have been imprisoned for four years for "membership of the deviant sect of Baha'ism, with the goal of taking action against the security of the country, in order to further the aims of the deviant sect and those of organizations outside the country."
Another Baha'i, Mr Adel Fanaiyan, is convicted of "Membership in a group; forming and mobilizing a group with intent to disturb the national security; propaganda against the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the interest of anti-regime groups and organizations by promoting the teachings and ideologies of the sect of Baha'ism...”
Dr Shaheed told the UN Human Rights Council: "Hundreds of individuals reportedly remain in some form of confinement for exercising their fundamental rights, including some 39 journalists and bloggers, 92 human rights defenders, 136 Baha'is, 90 Sunni Muslims, 50 Christians, and 19 Dervish Muslims," according to the Baha'i World News Service.
Christianity has been present in Iran for almost as long as the religion has existed, and longer than the state religion is Islam. Its followers have been heavily persecuted since the 1979 revolution brought the current regime to power.
The largest denomination is the Armenian Apostolic Church, whose followers make up the vast majority of the country's Christian population. Smaller denominations such as the Assyrian Church and Chaldean Catholic Church also have a following.