Iran Tightening Its Grip on Persecuted Christian Community as U.S. Imposes New Sanctions

The hardline Iranian regime is responding to a new wave of sanctions imposed by the United States by increasing its grip on the nation’s oppressed Christian community, activists are warning.

Citing human rights experts with knowledge of the situation facing Christians in Iran, Benjamin Weinthal, a fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote a recent article highlighting how the economic sanctions re-imposed on Iran by the U.S. last week has “inadvertently led to a crackdown on its persecuted Christian community.”

With the Iranian ayatollahs looking to “consolidate their power” as the economic sanctions will further stoke unrest across the country, that has left Christians to face some of the “worst” persecution at the hands of the government.

Over the last few weeks, Weinthal noted, the plight of Iran’s Christian community “has become significantly worse” because the Iranian regime is using its judicial powers to persecute converts.

“Today, some of the worst persecution against Christians is meted out by the regime in Iran,” Peter Kohanloo, the president of the U.S.-based Iranian American Majority advocacy group, told Weinthal. “The new round of sanctions is putting the ruling mullahs under pressure, and they are lashing out by arresting evangelical converts.”

Last week, an organization that advocates on behalf of persecuted Iranian Christians, announced that about 12 Christian converts who were arrested in April 2015 were sentenced to one year in prison for “propagating against the Islamic Republic in favour of Christianity.”

Jeff King, president of the Washington-based International Christian Concern, told Weinthal that based on the Iranian cases his organization has followed, “this is the first time this year that we’ve seen a jail sentence being given based on the charge of ‘inclination to the land of Christianity.'”

“Poor economic conditions combined with the harshness of their Islamic rule has led to massive unrest that has defined the country for months,” King said. “There are many reports that this has contributed to the government’s ever-increasing dependence on hardline Islamic ayatollahs, who naturally see Christianity as a threat to their power. For this reason, it’s not surprising that we’re seeing an increase in Christian persecution.”

Iran currently ranks as the 10th worst nation in the world when it comes to Christian persecution, according to Open Doors USA’s World Watch List.

The Trump administration’s decision to reinstate the sanctions against Iran come after Trump decided to pull the U.S. out of the international Iranian nuclear agreement finalized under President Barack Obama. In January 2016, Obama lifted 37-year-old sanctions against the Islamic Republic after it was reported that Tehran was complying with the deal.

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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith