Religious persecution and issues – Monthly Digest March



Christian convert baptised in Malaysia given prison sentence on return to Iran

Article 18 (26.03.2024) – A Christian convert who was baptised in a church in Malaysia has been sentenced to two years in prison in Iran for “acting against national security by connecting with ‘Zionist’ Christian organisations”.

Laleh Saati, who is 45 years old, returned to Iran in 2017, having grown frustrated at the time it was taking to process her asylum claim in Malaysia, and also to be reunited with her elderly parents.

According to Persian-language news site Human Rights in Iran, she was summoned and interrogated by intelligence agents on numerous occasions after returning.

Continue reading…


Stop persecuting peaceful religious gatherings in private homes’, UN rapporteur tells Iran

Article 18 – (05.03.2024) – UN Special Rapporteur Javaid Rehman has told the Islamic Republic of Iran to “end the criminalisation of the peaceful expression of faith” and “refrain from persecuting peaceful religious gatherings in private homes and other premises”.

“In many cases, members of ethnic and religious minorities have been arbitrarily arrested and detained in connection with a range of peaceful activities,” including “simply participating in religious or cultural activities”, Mr Rehman says in his final report to the UN Human Rights Council.

Continue reading…


House-church member charged with ‘making false religious claims’

Article 18 (04.03.2024) – A house-church member in a city near Tehran has been charged with “teaching activities that educate in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam, through making false religious claims”.

Hossein Sha’bani, who is 47 years old and known as Youhana, was informed of the charges at a prosecutor’s office in Karaj on 20 February.

He is the latest house-church member to be charged under Article 500 of the penal code, after it was controversially amended in 2021.

At least 14 Christians have since been sentenced under the amended law, including Alireza Nourmohammadi, who belongs to the same house-church as Youhana and who was recently re-arrested and also charged, alongside his brother, with “making false religious claims”.

Continue reading…



In Iran, Bahai minority faces persecution even after death

Iran Press Watch (22.03.2024) – A flattened patch of earth is all that remains of where the graves once stood –- evidence, Iran’s Bahais say, that their community is subjected to persecution even in death.

Beneath the ground in the Khavaran cemetery in the southeastern outskirts of Tehran lie the remains of at least 30 and potentially up to 45 recently-deceased Bahais, according to the Bahai International Community (BIC).

But their resting places are no longer marked by headstones, plaques and flowers, as they once were, because, said the BIC, this month Iranian authorities destroyed them and then levelled the site with a bulldozer.

The desecration of the graves represents a new attack against Iran’s biggest non-Muslim religious minority which has, according to its representatives, been subjected to systematic persecution and discrimination since the foundation of the Islamic republic in 1979.


Continue reading…


Baha’is face “extreme” and “persistent” persecution in Iran: UN special rapporteur releases final report

Iran Press Watch (22.03.2024) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, as well as a wave of UN Member States, highlighted the “extreme” persecution of Iran’s Baha’i community at the Human Rights Council in Geneva yesterday.


Delivering his final report(link is external) on 18 March, Javaid Rehman told Council members: “I am extremely distressed and shocked at the continuing, persistent persecution, arbitrary arrests, and harassment of members of the Baha’i community,” adding later that “tragically, the Baha’i minority is facing extreme persecution, targeting, and repression. … I’ve warned the authorities to immediately stop these crimes … for which they will be held accountable.”


The Special Rapporteur said in his report that Baha’is “continue to be the targets of discriminatory legislation and persistent persecution” because they are unrecognized by the Islamic Republic constitution.

Continue reading…


Baha’i Citizen Shabnam Tebyanian receives sentence and additional penalties

Iran Press Watch (22.03.2024) – Shabnam Tebyanian, a Baha’i citizen, has been sentenced by the Revolutionary Court of Semnan to six months imprisonment along with supplementary punishments. However, the prison term has been commuted to a fine.

Tebyanian was found guilty of “engaging in educational activities and propagating against Sharia Islam,” resulting in a two-year prohibition from affiliating with civil or political organizations and groups. Additionally, she has been mandated to attend “Cult Therapy” courses organized by the Islamic Development Organization.


The incident stems from Tebyanian’s arrest by security forces on August 21, 2023, in Semnan. During the arrest, her residence was searched, and some of her possessions were confiscated. She was subsequently released on bail in September 2023 pending further legal proceedings.


Continue reading…


Anisa Fanaian, a Baha’i citizen, sentenced to 16 years in prison

Iran Press Watch (11.03.2024) – Radio Farda has learned that the Semnan Revolutionary Court has sentenced Anisa Fanaian, a Baha’i citizen, to 16 years in prison.

Informed sources have informed Radio Farda that in the sentence handed down to this Baha’i citizen on Sunday, March 10, she was also deprived of social rights for 15 years, banned from membership in any political and social party and group for two years, and was sentenced to pay a fine and confiscation of property.

The first branch of the Semnan Revolutionary Court, headed by Ali Isari, has charged Anisa Fanaian with “forming a group with the aim of disrupting the country’s security”, “educational and propaganda activity”, and “propaganda against the regime”.

Continue reading…


Assault on Baha’i rights in Iran: Fabricated cases and persecution

Iran Press Watch (11.03.2024) – Iran deploys a sinister tactic against the Baha’i religious minority—fabricating legal cases and relentless summonses, creating a web of oppression.

Recent revelations expose the extent of government hostility, leaving Baha’is in constant uncertainty.


IranWire’s interviews with members of the community highlight the fear of arrests and hindrance in burying their dead, showcasing an ongoing assault on their rights.

Baha’is interviewed by IranWire express that they cannot plan for their lives and careers due to the uncertainty surrounding who will be summoned or arrested tomorrow, whose homes will be searched, or whose businesses will be shut down.

Continue reading…


US slams Iran for destroying graves of minority Baha’is

Iran Press watch (08.03.2024) – The United States has denounced the desecration of over 30 graves of the Baha’i religious minority in a Tehran cemetery, condemning the Islamic Republic’s persecution of the community.


“We condemn the destruction of 30 graves by authorities at the Khavaran Cemetery near Tehran this week. Baha’is in Iran continue to face violations of funeral and burial rights,” the State Department Office of International Religious Freedom said on March 7.


“We have also seen the regime dramatically increase Baha’i property seizures and use sham trials to subject Baha’is to extended prison sentences. We will continue to use all available tools to confront the regime’s human rights abuses,” it added.

Continue reading…


Unprecedented and inhumane: More than 30 Baha’i new graves razed by Iranian authorities

BIC (05.03.2024) – More than 30 new graves of deceased Baha’is at a Tehran mass grave have been razed by the Iranian authorities, with grave markers removed, and bulldozers used to flatten the resting places. The work had also been carried out to make it seem that the area did not contain any new graves.

Iran’s government has used this site to forcibly bury Baha’is for more than two years—without allowing families to be present or respecting Baha’i funeral practices. Desecrating grave sites has been a constant feature of the Iranian government’s 45-year campaign of systematic persecution of the Baha’is and follows years of harassment at the cemetery.

Continue reading…