IRAN: Religious persecution and issues – Monthly digest January
Son of murdered pastor releases film in response to Iran executions
Article 18 (23.01.2023) – The son of a murdered Iranian pastor has produced a short film in protest against state executions in Iran.
Joseph Hovsepian, whose father Haik was murdered in January 1994, posted the film, ‘We Will Win’, on his Instagram page following the first public executions of protesters last month.
In the film, a little girl looks outside her apartment window to see a rope being placed around a man’s neck.
Iran ranked eighteen hardest country to be christian
Article 18 (18.01.2023) – Iran has risen back to eighth place on an annual list of the countries where it is hardest to practise the Christian faith.
This marks a return to Iran’s 2021 ranking on the World Watch List, which is produced by Christian charity Open Doors International, after a year in ninth place.
For the past five years, Iran has oscillated between eighth and ninth place on the list.
This year, Iran has moved back above Afghanistan, which last year topped the list, even ahead of perennial “winner” North Korea.
Apostasy never codified in Iranian law ‘due to international pressure’
Article 18 (17.01.2023) – Iran refrained from codifying the “crime” of apostasy in its penal code due to fears of an international outcry, a retired judge involved in revising the text has admitted.
“At one time, I was in the process of approving the Islamic penal bill, and apostasy was supposed to be included in our criminal code, but it was left out for fear of international pressure,” Alireza Mirkamali said during a roundtable discussion organised by state media.
The comments, made late last year, were brought to light earlier today by VOA News.
Four Christians arrested in Gilan Province
csw.org.uk (04.01.2023) – Reports have emerged of the arrest of the wife of a leader from the Church of Iran denomination on 3 January in Rasht, the provincial capital of Gilan Province.
According to CSW’s sources, Anahita Khademi is being held in Lakan prison in Rasht. Her arrest follows that of her husband, Pastor Matthias (Abdulreza Ali) Haghnejad, in Anzali city in Gilan Province. The pastor was on prison furlough when he was arrested on the evening of 26 December while visiting the home of Amir Roshandal, who was also detained along with another Christian named Massoud Veis-Khani. All three were subsequently transferred to a prison in Rasht.
Iran’s supreme leader hints at loosening hijab rules after months of protests over young woman’s death
Nbc news (04.01.2023) – Iran’s supreme Leader on Wednesday hinted that the government may loosen the strict dress codes that were blamed for a young woman’s death and triggered nationwide demonstrations that have shaken the country’s clerical establishment.
“Women who do not have full hijab should not be considered as people outside of religion or against the Islamic Revolution,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the most powerful person in the country, said during a speech, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.
Amid hijab protests, Christianity expands foothold in Iran, two experts say
Washington times (04.01.2023) – Two expatriate Christians say a spiritual transformation is underway in Iran, fueled part by sustained protests over the Sept. 22 death of Mahsa Amini, the Kurdish-Iranian student who died in the custody of the Islamist regime’s “morality police” allegedly for improperly wearing the mandatory head covering for women known as the hijab.
“Spiritually speaking, there has been a revival going on in Iran,” said Hormoz Shariat, president of Dallas-based Iran Alive Ministries, which broadcasts Christian programming in the Islamic Republic.
Jailed Iranian Baha’i accused of communicating with foreign Media
Iran Press Watch (30.01.2023) – An Iranian prosecutor has accused a member of the country’s persecuted Baha’i religious minority of having established “extensive” contacts with Persian-language media outlets outside Iran and spreading “propaganda” against the Islamic Republic.
Payam Vali, who has been behind bars for more than four months, “has had extensive communications with enemy media,” a prosecutor at Branch 7 of the General Court in the city of Karaj said on January 27, citing the BBC’s Persian service, London-based Manoto TV, and the U.S.-based Human Rights Activist News Agency.
Hami Bahadori, Baha’i citizen, transferred to “Greater Tehran” prison
Iran Press Watch (26.01.2023) – Hami Bahadori, a Baha’i citizen living in Tehran, was transferred from Ward 209 (detention center of the Ministry of Intelligence known as Evin Prison) to the Greater Tehran Prison. He has been incarcerated since his arrest by security forces on October 22, 2022, and remanded to Evin prison.
According to HRANA news agency, the news organ of the Human Rights Activists in Iran, on Wednesday, January 18, 2023, Hami Bahadori (Baha’i citizen) was transferred to the Greater Tehran prison.
Baha’i couple arrested in Iran, faces security-related charges
Iranwire.org (26.01.2023) – Iranian judicial officials have charged a Baha’i couple with “acting against national security” and “communicating with enemy governments,” amid an intensified crackdown on members of the religious minority.
Pouya Amri and his wife Nafisa Sa’adatyar were arrested on January 21 by intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) at their house in the northern city of Gorgan, according to IranWire sources.
German lawmakers call for release of Baha’i jailed in Iran
Iran Press Watch (20.01.2023) – Two German lawmakers have joined together to politically sponsor a member of Iran’s persecuted Baha’i religious minority who has been imprisoned for nearly four months.
“We have accepted political sponsorship for Arash Zamani, and call on the Iranian government to release him immediately and without any pre-condition,” said Hamburg parliament members Ali Simsek and Ekkehard Wysocki.
Zamani is among dozens of Baha’is who have been arrested across Iran in recent weeks amid an intensified crackdown on the faith.
No charge, but still imprisoned: concerns raised over Baha’i man jailed in Iran
Iran Press watch (18.01.2023) – Five weeks after the arrest of Faraz Haghighatjo, a member of Iran’s persecuted Baha’i religious minority, his relatives still don’t know what he is being accused of.
The prosecutor in charge of Haghighatjo’s case has recently extended his detention, a source close to the family told IranWire, fueling concern that his interrogators have pressured him to confess to crimes he did not commit.
Iranian authorities routinely extract confessions from prisoners or their family members by force, which are then broadcast for propaganda purposes and used in court to convict people in unfair trials.
Iranian Baha’i violently arrested, taken to unknown location
Iranwire (12.01.2023) – Iranian authorities have arrested a member of the country’s persecuted Baha’i religious minority in the northern city of Qaemshahr, IranWire has learnt, amid an intensified crackdown on the faith.
The news about Matin Gorji’s arrest comes amid rising concerns over the fate of another jailed Baha’i, Pouya Sarraf, who has been in solitary confinement for more than two months.
Iran urged to free Baha’i poet “unjustly” sentenced to 10 years in rison
Iranwire (05.01.2023) – The Australian chapter of PEN International, a freedom of expression group, has strongly condemned the detention of award-winning Baha’i writer and poet Mahvash Sabet in Tehran’s Evin Prison, where she is being held in solitary confinement, and the 10-year prison sentence handed down against her.
Sabet, aged 69, was arrested in July and, on December 10, according to the Baha’i International Community, was sentenced to a decade in prison along with Fariba Kamalabadi, another member of Iran’s persecuted Baha’i religious minority.