The US Commission on Religious freedom has stated in a report that the situation of religious freedom is deteriorating in Iran. The report which was released on Monday, May 2 stated: “Religious freedom conditions continued to deteriorate over the past year, particularly for religious minorities, especially Baha’is, Christian converts, and Sunni Muslims.”
“Over the past year, there were numerous incidents of Iranian authorities raiding church services, threatening church members, and arresting and imprisoning worshipers and church leaders, particularly Evangelical Christian converts. Since 2010, authorities arbitrarily arrested and detained more than 550 Christians throughout the country.”
As of February 2016, approximately 90 Christians were either in prison, detained, or awaiting trial because of their religious beliefs and activities. Some Christians were released from jail during the year, including two long-serving prisoners of conscience, Saeed Abedini (released in January 2016) and Farshid Fathi (released in December 2015),” the report stated.
This report went on to state that “During the reporting period, human rights groups inside Iran reported a significant increase in the number of physical assaults and beatings of Christians in prison. Some activists believe the assaults, which have been directed against converts who are leaders of underground house churches, are meant to intimidate others who may wish to convert to Christianity.”
“In December 2015, authorities raided a number of private Christmas services and arrested nearly a dozen church members in Tehran. In April 2015, a revolutionary court upheld a one-year prison sentence and two-year travel bans on 13 Christian converts arrested in 2013,” the report stated.
Accordingly, the USCIRF’ report pushed the Obama administration to “ensure that violations of freedom of religion or belief and related human rights are part of multilateral or bilateral discussions with the Iranian government whenever possible, and continue to work closely with European and other allies to apply pressure through a combination of advocacy, diplomacy, and targeted sanctions.”