IRAN — The upsurge in violence in the Middle East has led to claims that Iran has been active behind the scenes in supporting the Hamas group that attacked Israel.
A new report also accuses Iran of putting pressure on Christians to keep away from the country’s hijab protests. It warns that Christians who are arrested could face sexual assault in prison, as Andrew Boyd of Release International reports.
Iran has been accused internationally of being broadly complicit in the attacks by Hamas against Israel. Iran denies that, but is said to provide financial and material support for the Islamist terror group. According to news reports, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said he kisses the hands of those who planned the attack, while denying playing a part in it.
Iran has its own internal conflict, as citizens protest the enforced wearing of the hijab by Iran’s morality police. Christians in the country are coming under pressure to boycott those protests. Those who take part have been arrested and some face sexual assault in prison, according to a report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
Since the freedom protests began, Iran has detained some 20,000 demonstrators and killed at least 530. According to Yusuf Commissioner Suzy Gelman, Christians report they are getting pressure from the government not to participate in the protests.
If they do and are arrested, they are sexually assaulted in prison. Yusuf say a Christian woman who was detained during the hijab protests was held at Evin prison. Her interrogator told her, “You thought, because you are a Christian, you can do whatever you want and remove the hijab.” He then sexually assaulted her. Over the summer, Iran detained almost 120 Christians in raids across 11 cities.
Many have been jailed because of their involvement in the underground house church movement. Christian leaders and pastors have faced torture and imprisonment and their families harassed. Many have fled the country. Iran has banned church services in the Farsi language and speaking about the Christian faith. Christians who do so can be accused of inciting violence. They have also been whipped for taking communion wine.
Despite the oppression, some say there could now be a million Christians in Iran. The church is thought to be one of the fastest growing in the world. UK-based Relief International has launched an appeal for Christians in Iran and around the world who have been driven from their homes to avoid persecution.
About Release International
Release International is a Christian ministry working through local church partners in around 30 countries across the world, helping persecuted Christians prayerfully, pastorally and practically. The ministry was founded in 1968, inspired by the testimony and ministry of Pastor Richard Wurmbrand. Following the demise of Communism in Eastern Europe and the increase in the persecution of Christians elsewhere in the world, the Ministry broadened its activities and changed its name to Release International.