MORE ARRESTS MADE IN IRAN AFTER PROTESTS
Iranian police arrested several people they claim were “instigators” behind last week’s anti-government protests in the city of Behbahan in the southwest of the country. The government’s handling of Iran’s deepening economic and coronavirus crises has contributed to growing public unrest. Iran’s rulers have tried to prevent a revival of last November’s anti-government protests in which hundreds of people were killed. The security clampdown comes as Iranians become bolder in voicing their opposition to government oppression. On 15 July, Iranians from various political, economic and cultural backgrounds — lawyers, teachers, footballers, artists, students, activists — joined together in an unprecedented ‘Twitter storm’ (more than 4.5 million tweets worldwide), sharing the hashtag #DoNotExecute to protest the judiciary’s upholding of the death sentences of three men arrested after last year’s nationwide protests. The imminent executions are viewed by many as a warning by the government against dissent, however, it is interesting to note that similar conditions led to the Shah’s overthrow in [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini’s revolution in 1979. Iran’s ruling Guardian Council seems to be aware it is losing its grip on the masses, but they appear to continually default to further repression.
From a Christian perspective, Iranian believers are regularly targeted by Iran’s security apparatus. In July 2019, Iranian authorities arrested eight Christian converts in the south-eastern Persian Gulf city of Bushehr (one was subsequently released due to her age). In April 2020, the seven remaining believers were convicted of ‘propaganda against the state’ (Article 500 of the penal code). In June, a house-church in western Tehran’s Yaftabad district was raided and all 30 believers present were taken to intelligence headquarters. It is believed that the raids were co-ordinated with the help of an informant, who had infiltrated the group and gained their trust. Under amendments passed in May, to Articles 499 and 500 of the Islamic Penal Code, those found guilty of ‘deviant psychological manipulation’ or ‘propaganda contrary to Islam’, whether in the ‘real or virtual sphere’, can now be labelled as ‘sects’ and punished with imprisonment, flogging, fines, or even the death penalty. Previously, Iran avoided using religious language in its persecution of Christians, as it attracted criticism of Iran’s human rights. Instead, Iran charged Christians with non-religious national security offences. This has now changed, and there will likely be an escalation in the persecution of Christians.
Pray with us for the following:
- For Iran’s leadership to soften their stance towards their people, and respond to their cries constructively, not with the ‘rod’
- For the Iranian Church to continue to grow in the face of persecution
- For imprisoned believers