Authorities detain members of ‘house’ churches in southern Iran

Members of four house churches have been arrested in Iran, according to Iranian media reports.

According to the semi-official Fars news agency, the authorities have “discovered” four underground churches in the cities of Kavar and Shiraz in southern Iran and arrested members affiliated with the churches.

Even though Iran’s constitution grants “protected” religious minority status to its Christians, in practice, the rights of the community are not always preserved.

Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights in Iran, recently estimated that based on his investigation, “over 300 Christians have been arbitrarily arrested and detained throughout the country since June 2010.”

“Churches continue to report undue pressure to report membership, in what appears to be an effort to pressure and sometimes even detain converts,” he added.

In September, authorities released Youcef Nadarkhani, a death row Christian pastor accused of apostasy, from jail after he had endured three years of jail time. Naderkhani had been sentenced to death for “apostasy” and “converting to Christianity” by Branch 11 of Gilan Province’s Appeals Court in August 2010. In June 28, 2011, Iran’s Supreme Court overturned the ruling, on condition that the pastor repent, something he refused to do.

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