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Christians Arrested In Iran

In Iran, the government continues to persecute Iranian citizens because of their religious beliefs.

Just days after news broke that the regime had arrested the top leaders of Iran’s Baha’i community, there are reports that the regime is cracking down on Iranian Christians who are converts from Islam.

On May 11th in the southern city of Shiraz, authorities raided the home of Christian convert Mojataba Hussein, and confiscated his family’s books, CD’s and computers. Mr. Hussein, along with his father, brother and sister were arrested. Although his father and siblings were released later that day, Mr. Hussein remains behind bars. His family does not know where he is being held, and requests for a visit have been denied. According to reports, police told the family that Mr. Hussein is "not cooperating" with authorities, so he must remain in custody.

Amnesty International reports that in April a man and a pregnant woman, also believed to be Christian converts, were arrested in the city of Amol, north of Tehran. And on May 13th in Shiraz, two Christian converts, Mahmoud Matin and a man known only by his first name – Arash were arrested by police as they walked in a city park.

Amnesty International says that these five Iranian Christians "appear to have been detained solely on account of their religious beliefs, in which case they are prisoners of conscience." Amnesty International says all are being held incommunicado and are in danger of torture.

The treatment of these five detained Christians in Iran corresponds to the findings published by the U.S. State Department in its latest International Religious Freedom report. As the State Department notes, although Christians are recognized by the Iranian government as one of the country’s so- called "protected" religious minorities, in practice, they are persecuted. Iranian Christians, particularly evangelicals, are subject to harassment and surveillance, and an official prohibition on proselytizing is rigidly enforced. Christian churches have been closed, and Christian converts from Islam are arrested. If convicted of "apostasy," they can be sentenced to death.

Article eighteen of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Iran has ratified, says that "everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion: this right includes the freedom to change his religion or belief."

When will the Iranian government allow Iranians their rights under the law, including the right to worship as they choose? As President George Bush says, "Religious freedom belongs not to any one nation, but to the world."