Summer 2016 saw a marked increase in the mistreatment of Christian converts in Iran. That’s why 19 Iranian and European human rights groups have urged the international community to use new opportunities for trade with Iran to hold the government to account over its abusive treatment of Christian converts.
Between May and August 2016 the arrests of 79 Christians were reported, according to the human rights groups. The majority of those arrested were interrogated and detained for periods ranging from a few days to months. Some of these 79 Christians remain in detention without formal charge. Since many arrests go unreported, the true number of Christians arrested by the authorities is likely to be significantly higher.
The human rights groups noted that the EU’s strategy for relations with Iran “disappointingly includes very little mention of human rights”. They urged governments to “explore avenues beyond dialogue alone” to ensure that human rights violators are held accountable and that trade and diplomatic relations do not contribute to further abuses.
Cases of particular concern include the continued incarceration of Maryam Naghash Zargaran (also known as ‘Nasim’), who suffers with poor health; the ongoing detention of three converts arrested on 26 August 2016 in Tehran province; and the recent sentencing of three other converts to 80 lashes each for drinking Communion wine. These three men are appealing their sentence, but are also charged with acting against the national security along with Youcef Nadarkhani (the leader who was previously sentenced to death for apostasy in 2012). Their next hearing is scheduled for 14 December.