The Problem

100,000 million Christians face persecution simply for following Jesus 
The Problem


Leader: Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
How many Christians?: 1.2 million (under 1.4% of the population)
World Watch List Rank: 8

“When we were in solitary confinement, the only thing that strengthened us was prayer.”
Ali, who was imprisoned for his faith and later had to flee the country

Where is it?

Quick facts

    • Iran is governed by strict Islamic laws.
    • In Iran Muslims are not meant to shake hands with Christians, touch them, or eat their food.
    • Muslims converting to Islam can face the death penalty.
    • Christians are monitored by the secret police. Homes and secret house church meetings can be raided.
    • Those arrested face intimidation, physical and mental abuse as well as threats of execution.
    • Christians who try to speak to Muslims about Jesus can be imprisoned, face physical abuse and harassment.
    • There are encouraging signs that religious freedom may be increasing – towards the end of 2021 a judge ruled that being a member of a house church could not be punished as a crime against the national interest.

    The basics

    Converts from Islam to Christianity are most at risk of persecution, especially from the government and to a lesser extent from society and their own families.

    The government sees the growth of the church in Iran as an attempt by Western countries to undermine Islam and the Islamic regime of Iran. House groups made up of converts from Muslim backgrounds are often raided, and both their leaders and members have been arrested, prosecuted and given long prison sentences for ‘crimes against national security’.

    Despite most house church members being women, more men are arrested, prosecuted, sentenced by the government, and often imprisoned for many years. This especially affects male pastors. This not only impacts churches, but also families. Sometimes the strain and emotional pain caused by separation leads to divorce and child trauma. The child of one pastor could not address him as ‘Dad’ upon his release, instead calling him ‘Sir’.

    In Iran, women have little individual legal protection, making the situation particularly precarious for Christian women detained for their faith. They are at risk of sexual harassment by the authorities during interrogation and imprisonment. Since Iranian women are not free to travel on their own, fleeing a dangerous situation and finding sheltered accommodation is difficult.

    Meet Ali

    Ali grew up in a Muslim family. He was in the grips of a drug addiction when he met Jesus in a dream. After speaking to various people, he eventually chose to risk everything to follow Christ – and so did his wife, Zahra. That’s when persecution began. “In Iran, when someone becomes a Christian, their family becomes defensive,” he explains. “The family rejects the person. If someone like me becomes a Christian, I am seen as defiled. My life is considered filthy by them.”

    Ali and Zahra lost all their friends and were disowned by their families. When their new faith became more widely known, Ali lost his job. But as everyone and everything fell away, their love for Jesus only grew. They joined the ministry team of a network of underground house churches – and that’s why, like many house church leaders, they were arrested.

    Once imprisoned, the couple lived in separate cells and endured days of interrogation. “They asked questions about other believers,” says Ali. “Their goal was to identify underground churches. They wanted to infiltrate the churches.” And it wasn’t just verbal abuse. “During the interrogation I was beaten a lot. Since I was blindfolded, I couldn’t tell where the punches would land.”

    Even after being release, Ali and Zahra faced constant harassment. Ali was fired from every job he got, and his sons weren’t allowed to go to school. “Every day was suffering and torture,” he says. In the end, the family had to flee Iran – the country and home that they love. But their faith has remained strong. “It doesn’t matter where we are from,” Ali adds. “The only thing that matters is that we are part of the same Body. When we were in solitary confinement, the only thing that strengthened us was prayer. Only God can go to those dark places.”

    After just under a month in prison, Hamed was released to spend the remaining nine months of his sentence with an electronic tag.


    Mojtaba from Iran was imprisoned for leading a house church. In this video, he shares how God used his imprisonment to help share the gospel with the least and the lost.

    After four years’ imprisonment for ‘violating national security’, Iranian Christian Maryam Naghash Zargaran was released from Tehran’s Evin prison in August 2017. Open Doors held a worldwide letter-writing campaign for her during her time in prison; unfortunately, most of the letters were withheld from her. Now released, she is finally able to read your encouraging words!

    How is Open Doors helping?

    Open Doors partners support the church in Iran with online ministry presence, Christian multimedia initiatives and advocacy.

    Pray this…

    Father God, thank You that Your church keeps growing in Iran despite extreme attempts to suppress it. Continue setting hearts free through the gospel. Please protect our brothers and sisters and their rights, so that they do not have to flee the country, but can stay and build a strong, mature Iranian church. We ask that communities and families will come to see Iranian Christians as genuine, not a product of the Western world, and be moved by their faith, courage and love. Amen.

    Latest news and articles on Iran…

    Click the Iran tag below for a list of the latest articles and news on the country…

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.