August 13, 2018 | The Jerusalem Post
Iran Sentences Couple for ‘Orientation Toward the Land of Christianity’
The Islamic regime in Tehran has sentenced an Iranian couple to a prison term for merely practicing Christianity.
Article 18, an organization that promotes religious freedom and supports Iran’s repressed Christians through documentation and advocacy, tweeted on Thursday that “A Christian couple have reported that a court in Boushehr has just sentenced them & 10 other Iranian Christians to one year in prison each for ‘Propagating against the Islamic Republic in favor of Christianity.’ This group of Christian converts were arrested on April 7th, 2015.”
Christian news website Mohabat News reported on Wednesday that the Iranian couple cited by Article 18, who were part of the group of converts, were charged with “orientation toward the land of Christianity.”
Jeff King, the president of Washington, DC-based International Christian Concern, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday that each member of the congregation was sentenced to a year in prison.
“Getting information on the arrests of Christians is incredibly challenging given the heavily censored nature of Iran,” King said. “But based on the cases we have been tracking, this is the first time this year that we’ve seen a jail sentence being given based on the charge of ‘inclination to the land of Christianity.’ This could be interpreted as a reference to Israel, the birthplace of Christianity and also a country that Iran has adopted a very aggressive stance towards.”
While Christianity is legally recognized in the Islamic Republic, the US State Department has classified Iran as a “country of particular concern” under the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 “for having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”
The Islamic Republic’s constitution, which is rooted in fundamentalist Sharia, states that Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians (excluding converts from Islam), can worship “within the limits of the law.”The World Christian Database statistic said there are an estimated 350,000 Christians in Iran.
Iran’s regime says 117,700 Christians live in the country. Iran has a population of more than 80.2 million people.
“Iran does not discriminate against or persecute any recognized religious minority,” said Alireza Miryousefi, head of press for the Iranian Mission to the UN. “Including the large Christian community inside Iran, who are free to worship in the many churches that can be found across Iran. In fact, as is the case with Iranian Jews, Iranian Christians are constitutionally guaranteed parliamentary representation. Major cities such as Tehran and Isfahan are home to large Christian communities with centuries-old churches.”
Benjamin Weinthal reports on human rights in the Middle East and is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @BenWeinthal.
Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter @FDD. FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.