CSW sources report that Iranian authorities in the city of Karaj summoned 11 Christian families for interrogation, where they were warned to stop their house-church meetings and not to visit each other at homes even for social purposes.
The interrogations appear to indicate a renewed crackdown on the Christian community. Earlier, in April 2020, two Christians from Karaj, Pastor Amin Khaki and Rokhsare Ghanbari (Mahrokh), were told not to return to prison to complete their sentences following their temporarily release amid concerns about the spread of COVID-19 in Iran. Ms Ghanbari’s case gained international attention when former US Vice President Mike Pence raised concerns on Twitter that she had been “punished” for exercising her freedom to worship.
The renewed targeting of Christians in Karaj comes as CSW, in collaboration with Article 18, Middle East Concern and Open Doors, publish their latest annual report on violations against Christians in Iran in 2020.
Among other findings, the report highlights that “During 2020, Iranian Christians, along with other religious minorities, continued to suffer multiple violations of their right to freedom of religion or belief. The COVID-19 crisis had little impact on the repressive measures taken against Christians and other religious minorities.” It also confirms the arrests of 115 Christians during 2020, 38 of whom were detained.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “The renewed crackdown on Christians in Karaj illustrates a continuing disregard for the right to freedom of religion or belief which must be raised with the Iranian government during bilateral and multilateral dialogues. We continue to call on the Iranian government to cease the targeting of religious minorities and to respect the right to freedom of religion or belief for people of all faiths and none in line with the country’s constitution.”