Iranian Christians paid almost £1 million in bail fees over the last year, according to a new report co-authored by Open Doors and other religious-freedom organisations.
For many of those arrested, the charges against them were simply that they had attended church. Christians in Iran are being hit with outrageous fees to stay out of prison – with some even having to surrender deeds for their homes in order to foot the bill.
Dr David Landrum, director of advocacy at Open Doors UK and Ireland, says that extreme rights violations against Christians in Iran didn’t let up with the coronavirus pandemic.
“At least 115 Iranian Christians were arrested on grounds of religious activities or their Christian identity in 2020,” he said. “Simply going to a house church is treated as a threat to national security. Christians – particularly converts from Islam – continued to be targeted for their faith. This repression stops Christians in Iran living a normal life, free from fear.”
In one case, fees for four Christians came to seven billion tomans, about £159,500 each – the most ever demanded for an Iranian Christian’s bail. The minimum annual salary in Iran is about £1,000.
The judge reportedly told them: “Your actions are worthy of death! Who set this low bail amount for you [it was 800 million tomans previously], so you could be free to roam about on the streets?”
Overall, in 2020, Christians detained over national security allegations had to pay a total of £868,169 to be granted bail.
Image: Street scene in Iran, pre-Covid-19
Prison or fines are far from the only ways that Christians are persecuted in Iran. Two Christian converts, Sam Khosravi and wife Maryam Falahi, recently lost custody of their daughter, Lydia, who they had adopted from an orphanage in 2019 when she was just three months old – because the couple are Christians.
“We have looked after our daughter for nearly two years,” they said. “Even the judge admitted an ‘intense emotional tie’ has been established between us. After taking her away, based on their own assessment, Lydia will face an ‘uncertain future’, yet they insist on separating us from one another.
“This will have an immense emotional toll on all of us, and most importantly, on Lydia.”
In another case of harsh persecution, Article18 reported that two Christians, Youhan Omidi and Saheb Fadaie, were ‘flogged with 80 lashes each this last year – for the crime of drinking communion wine’.
Please continue to pray for our persecuted sisters and brothers in Iran – and pray for the work of Open Doors as they support believers through local partners with online leadership training and discipleship, and advocacy.
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