The Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) has disbanded a vast network of individuals belonging to “deviant religious groups,” according to the semi-official Mehr News Agency, (MNA) on July 25.
MNA was silent on the exact number of people detained by the IRGC’s intelligence unit but added that they were arrested in the cities of Tehran, Rey, and Pardis.
“The detainees, under the cover of propagating Evangelical Church and promoting home churches, were damaging Abrahamic religions, misleading people, and disturbing people’s peace of mind through public and social media,” MNA wrote. “Books of different sects, guidebooks on the systems of networking, communicating with foreigners, and devastating the ‘true’ religion of Islam, as well as other religions, were among the evidence and documents confiscated by the IRGC agents.”
Describing the IRGC intelligence operations in Tehran, Rey, and Pardis as “a complicated and sophisticated chain,” MNA reported that the suspects and evidence were handed over to the justice department.
Kianoush Alipour spokesperson of Article 18, a group defending the rights of Iranian Christians, told Radio Farda that there is no independent news from Iran about this round of arrests. “it is possible that the published photos are from the past…but Iranian authorities are concerned about the spread of Christianity in Iran. For this reason, we see more pressure by IRGC on Christians in Iran, especially Persian speaking churches”.
Iran has a long history of confronting religious minorities, particularly newly converted Christians.
Traditional ethnic churches, such as the Armenian Apostolic Church are tolerated.
International human rights organizations, including the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) in tandem with global institutes supporting freedom of faith, have repeatedly raised concerns over suppressing people’s right to freely choose their faith and ideology in Iran.
Last week, CHRI protested against the recent sentencing of Christian converts to long-term imprisonment in Iran.
In its July 20 statement, CHRI also said, “Christians are recognized as an official religious minority in Iran’s constitution, but the state continues to persecute members of the faith, especially converts.”