Frequently, Shiite Islamic preachers and leaders can be heard stating that Islam recognized “People of the Book,” which refers to Christians and Jews. This assertion sounds as if Islam gives Christian and Jews the same level of status and respect as their Muslim counterparts.
That argument was recently confirmed when the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hassan Rouhani, claimed that “Christians have the same rights as others do.” With that confirmation, it might be easy to assume that Christians are relatively safe in Iran. But are they?
In speeches, and on paper, these words probably give the impression that Christians are not only welcome in Iran, but given equal rights and protections. However, the everyday experiences of Christians in Iran, tell a very different story.
Violence and persecution against Christians have, under the sharia law of Iran, increased significantly. One recent case documents the traumatic experiences of Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi, ethnic Assyrian Christians, along with Amin Afshar Naderi and Hadi Asgari, who converted to Christianity from Islam. Each were sentenced by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran to a combined total of 45 years in prison. Despite Iran’s claims that they have equal rights and protections, they may never see freedom again.