Religious persecution and issues – Monthly digest May



We use money that could feed hungry Muslims to restore Christian churches’ – tourism minister

Article 18 (26.05.2023) – In the week of the 10th anniversary of the forced closure of the largest Persian-speaking church in Iran, the Islamic Republic’s Minister of Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism has had the temerity to claim that “the people of the world should know” that despite economic problems, the Iranian government still takes money that could be used to feed its hungry Muslim citizens to pay for the restoration of Christian churches.

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Bishop Guli calls for safe legal route for Iranians fleeing persecution for faith

 Article 18 (23.05.2023) – British-Iranian bishop Guli Francis-Dehqani has called on the UK government to consider offering a “safe-route scheme” for Iranians fleeing persecution on account of their faith.

In an oral question at the UK House of Lords this afternoon, Bishop Guli cited Article18’s annual report as she referenced the “increasing involvement” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) “in the crackdown against peaceful Christian activities in Iran”.

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Parkinson’s sufferer and wife acquitted, released from prison

Article 18 (10.05.2023) – A 64-year-old Christian convert with advanced Parkinson’s disease and his wife have been acquitted and released from their combined 10-year prison sentence.

Homayoun Zhaveh, whose health has deteriorated while in prison, and his wife Sara Ahmadi had been detained in the respective men’s and women’s wings of Tehran’s Evin Prison since August last year, serving sentences of two and eight years in prison, respectively, for their involvement in a house-church.

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Christians among minority groups targeted with spyware

Article 18 (05.05.2023) – Intelligence officers belonging to the Law Enforcement Command of the Islamic Republic of Iran, or FARAJA, are using spyware to monitor members of minority groups, including Christians, according to new research.

Since March 2020, at least 487 devices have been infected with “BouldSpy”, which has the capability to extract data including photographs, screenshots of conversations, and recordings of video calls from applications including WhatsApp and Telegram, according to researchers at US-based Lookout Threat Intelligence.

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USCIRF report focuses on ‘sharply deteriorated religious freedom’ in Iran

The “sharply deteriorated religious-freedom conditions” in Iran are the focus of the cover and introduction to the latest annual report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

 The cover of the report, which was published yesterday, features a photograph of Mahsa Amini, alongside the names of scores of Iranians imprisoned on account of their religious beliefs, including a dozen Christians.

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 US Commission on International Religious Freedom 2023 annual report

 Article 18 (02.05.2023) – The “sharply deteriorated religious-freedom conditions” in Iran are the focus of the cover and introduction to the latest annual report by the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.

 The cover of the report, which was published yesterday, features a photograph of Mahsa Amini, alongside the names of scores of Iranians imprisoned on account of their religious beliefs, including a dozen Christians.

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Religious Freedom Commission calls out violations in Iran, China, elsewhere

Real clear politics (02.05.2023) – It’s an image of contrasts, courage, and confrontation: A faceless Iranian woman protester holds Catholic rosary beads against the backdrop of a poster featuring Mahsa Amini, a young woman who died last year while being held by the country’s morality police. Her alleged crime: standing up to the country’s theocratic regime by violating laws requiring women to wear head coverings in public.

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Armed Houthis attack peaceful Baha’i gathering, arresting at least 17, in fresh crackdown

Iran Press watch (27.05.2023) – Houthi gunmen have staged a violent raid on a peaceful gathering of Baha’is in Sanaa, Yemen, on 25 May, detaining and forcibly disappearing at least 17 people, including five women. The raid leaves the Yemeni Baha’is reeling from the latest blow to a severely persecuted religious community in that country. The Baha’i International Community (BIC) calls for the immediate release of those detained.

A video of the latest attack was captured by Baha’is joining the gathering via Zoom.

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 Authorities must end the persecution of Mahvash Sabet and ensure access to adequate medical care pending her release

 Iran Press Watch (25.05.2023) – PEN International and the undersigned PEN Centres are outraged to learn that writer and poet Mahvash Sabet was brutally tortured during her interrogation in August 2022 at Evin prison, resulting in both her kneecaps being broken. PEN International and the undersigned PEN Centres are gravely concerned about Mahvash Sabet’s health and well-being and strongly condemn the persistent and deliberate medical negligence against writers and other prisoners of conscience in Iran.

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Jailed Baha’i condemns injustice from behind bars

Iran Press Watch (26.04.2023) – In a chilling audio message obtained by IranWire, Payam Vali, a Baha’i citizen currently imprisoned in Ghezelhasar, has exposed new details on the severe oppression and discrimination faced by Baha’i citizens in Iran.

The audio file includes Vali’s condemnation of the recent verdict by Branch 12 of the Alborz Province Court of Appeal, which sentenced him to six years in prison, demonstrating the discrimination and injustice faced by Baha’is and their families.

During the audio message, Vali questions the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, discusses the Ministry of Intelligence’s alarming practice of publishing “baseless allegations of Baha’i espionage without providing any evidence or justification for the suppression of Baha’i citizens.”

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Does Iran persecute Bahá’ís? See for yourself.

 Iran Press Watch (23.05.2023) – I first learned of it last week, right here on FāVS News. Cassy Benefield wrote, “Religious Persecution Explained in New Report about Countries with Worst Religious Freedoms.” That report was published May 1 by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). It defines religious freedom clearly: “Freedom of religion or belief ensures individual autonomy to have, change, reject, interpret, and manifest religion or belief according to one’s own conscience, which is at the core of other interconnected human rights.”

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 Baha’i Enayatollah Naeimi receives 15-year prison sentence (15.05.2023) – Enayatollah Naeimi, a Baha’i citizen, has been sentenced to 15 years in prison, with 10 years to be enforced, by the Isfahan Revolutionary Court. He was also fined and subjected to social deprivation.

The verdict was issued by Judge Morteza Barai, who found Naeimi guilty of “forming groups to act against national security” for which he received 10 years, and “propaganda against the regime,” for which he received five years. The evidence presented for these charges included Naeimi’s involvement with the Baha’i group “Yaran e Iran” or “Friends of Iran,” as well as his association with Baha’i communities in Israel

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 The Arrest of Milad Mastouri, a Baha’i Citizen of Kerman

Iran Press watch (10.05.2023) – On the morning of Sunday, April 30, 2023, Milad Mastouri, a Baha’i citizen living in Kerman was taken into custody when answering a summons to appear at the Intelligence Agency.

Mr. Mastouri was subjected to three hours of interrogation prior to his formal arrest.

Previously, on April 11, 2023, Kerman Security Agents had performed a search of Milad Mastouri’s house in Kerman.


From prison to prison; the story of Ardeshir Fanaian, a Baha’i Citizen

Iran Press watch (05.05.2023) – From prison to prison is the story of the abuses endured by Ardeshir Fanaian, a Baha’i citizen who was born in prison, is currently in prison, and while in prison his father died, and his only child was born.

Ardeshir Fanaian, a 35-year-old Baha’i citizen, is a husband and a young father whose life is tied to words such as “prison” and “imprisonment”. Ardeshir was born in Semnan prison in 1988, and 31 years later, in May 2019, he was arrested and imprisoned in the same city. Despite being granted amnesty, he is still incarcerated behind bars, away from his family, due to the obstruction of the city’s Intelligence Department.

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