Guest / Limited Access /

An Iranian christian fled his country last September after authorities in Tehran lashed him for leaving Islam and evangelizing Muslims. Identified only as Hooman, upon his release he escaped to Turkey with his Muslim wife.

"He had been whipped, and the authorities were going to deal with him in an even more severe manner," says Abe Ghaffari, executive director of Iranian Christians International (ICI). "He was persecuted by vigilantes as well. A motorcycle rider stabbed him and tried to kill him."

Apparently the vigilante was a member of the terrorist group Hezbollah, Ghaffari says, "but in Iran they are like local enforcers."

Since coming into office in 1997, the presumably reform-minded President Mohammad Khatami has shown no ability to rein in conservative clergy's persecution of religious minorities. Islamic leaders in government take their cues from the conservative Ayatollah Ali Hoseini-Khamenei, Iran's "supreme leader."

Religious conservatives on Iran's Expediency Council, which coordinates institutions of the Shi'a Islam state, have vetoed reformist legislation. Furthermore, Ghaffari says, in February's parliamentary elections, Islamic clergy in the government disqualified 2,000 mainly reformist candidates.

"So, although Iranian Christians have been continually persecuted," Ghaffari says, "we expect that it will get worse."

In a country of 67.7 million people, 99 percent are Muslim, though reportedly they are growing more resentful of conservative clerics. There are some 220,000 Christians (more than half Orthodox, and perhaps as many as 15,000 Protestant), according to Operation World.

The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) notes that discrimination against non-Muslims prevails in education, government, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedThe Real History of the Crusades
Subscriber Access Only
The Real History of the Crusades
A series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics? Think again.
TrendingMore Martyrs: ISIS Executes Dozens of Ethiopian Christians in Libya
More Martyrs: ISIS Executes Dozens of Ethiopian Christians in Libya
Propaganda video released the same day Justin Welby arrives in Cairo to honor the previous 21 victims.
Editor's PickGetting Brutally Honest with God
Getting Brutally Honest with God
The psalms of lament invite us to voice our frustrations—and provide a reason to hope.
Comments
Christianity Today
Out-of-Control Clerics
hide thisJuly July

In the Magazine

July 2004

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.