A crackdown on Christians in northern Iran has resulted in 50 converts being arrested across five cities.
Iranian state security services have initiated a series of arrests and detentions targeting the Christian community.
As it stands, at least 51 individuals remain in detention across Tehran, Karaj, Rasht, Orumiyeh and Aligoudarz.
Iran has long-been an unsafe country for Christians, with converts regularly accused of propaganda against the state, or being “anti-state”; charges that can result in a decade behind bars.
However, the recent arrests suggest a new approach to Christian eradication in the middle eastern nation.
Kiaa Aalipour, spokesperson for Article 18, an advocacy group for Iran's Christian minority and partner to Open Doors, reports, "Police are entering family homes and seizing parents in front of their children. There are indications the number detained may be as high as 70.”
Henrietta Blyth, Chief Executive of Open Doors, a charity focused on Christian religious persecution, says: “It’s not clear what the motive is for this sudden surge in arrests of Christians. This seems to be part of a wider crackdown on civil liberties.”
All those arrested so far had converted from Shia Islam. Christianity is often viewed as a way for the West to of undermine Islam in Iran.
Kiaa Aalipour suggests that this clampdown could be linked to the upcoming anniversary of Mahsa Amini's death in September. "Our workers in Iran think this is a 'warning shot', telling citizens 'Don’t try anything as the anniversary approaches because we will get tough.'"
Iran currently ranks at number 8 on Open Doors' annual World Watch List, an annual ranking of Christian persecution globally.