By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
TEHRAN (Worthy News) – Iran has detained scores of Christians ahead of the first anniversary of the death in custody of a young Kurdish woman, Christians said as more details on the crackdown emerged Friday.
Most of those arrested were converts from Islam, but there were also some Assyrian-Chaldeans baptized as children being
detained over seven weeks in June and July across the country, explained activists.
Well-informed Article18, an advocacy group campaigning for Iranian Christians and religious freedom, initially reported 50 arrests by mid-July in five cities.
Yet its latest update, the group indicated at least 69 people were detained, 10 of which – four men and six women – are still held by the authorities
The arrests happened between June 1 and 17 July in the cities Tehran, Karaj, Rasht, Orumiyeh, Aligoudarz, Isfahan, Shiraz, Semnan, Garmsar, Varamin, and Eslamshahr, Christians said.
In Tehran, the capital, and other cities, those detained were reportedly forced to sign statements pledging to refrain from Christian activities or undergo Islamic re-education in exchange for their release.
“Some say that after their release, they were summoned for further questioning or were ordered to leave Iran,” said Catholic news agency Asia News.
It quoted one Christian saying he lost his job “at the request of intelligence agents.” For those granted bail, families had to pay between $8,000 and $40,000, Christians added.
Most of those arrested are converts from Islam, but at least two are Iranian-Armenians, who were born into Christian families, according to sources familiar with their situation.
The arrests of Christians coincide with a new crackdown on Iran’s Baha’i community, which, along with Christian converts, is a religious minority not recognized by the Islamic Republic,
In fact, “in recent months, scores [of Baha’is] have been arrested, tried and jailed on religiously grounded charges and targeted on the basis of their faith,” said the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, noted that the Iranian authorities had begun “a fresh crackdown on civil liberties.” in remarks seen by Worthy News, he added that the “traditionally vulnerable groups, such as Christians, are on the frontline of those targeted.”
Borji suggested that the return of a more forceful approach by authorities towards Cheustians and a renewed crackdown by the so-called “morality police” comes at a sensitive moment.
He said that Iran may want to “send out a message, both nationally and internationally,” ahead of the anniversary of the death in custody of Mahsa Amini “that they [the authorities] are not moved or deterred.”
Amini died on September 16 while in police custody for allegedly not wearing the mandatory headscarf properly, prompting massive protests.
A crackdown by security forces that followed saw more than 530 people killed and over 22,000 arrested.
Besides targeting Christians and other faith minorities, the Islamic country’s theocracy is pushing to make businesses the new battleground for wearing the headscarf.
With uncovered women a common sight on Tehran streets, authorities have begun raiding companies where women employees or customers have been seen without the headscarf or hijab.
Iran’s parliament is reportedly preparing legislation increasing punishments on uncovered women and the businesses they visit.
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