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Fears for Christians in Iran after hardliner Raisi wins election

by Donna Birrell

There’s concern over the future for Christians in Iran after the hardliner, Ebrahim Raisi, won the country’s presidential election. 

Many Christians chose to boycott the voting saying Raisi would be bad news for Iran's minority Christians, who are already facing extreme persecution.    

Mr Raisi is Iran's top judge and holds ultra-conservative views. He is under US sanctions and has been linked to past executions of political prisoners. 

Speaking ahead of the election, Mansour Borji, advocacy director for the charity, Article18 which promotes religious freedom in Iran said : 

“When Raisi gets into power there will be more oppression, more persecution of Christians and a greater crackdown on civil liberties.   

 “The state appears to have grown more indifferent to international standards of human rights and religious freedom in particular. To remain in power it has also become indifferent to Iranian society in general. It is not playing its fake game of democracy anymore.”  

 Outgoing President Hassan Rouhani had promised to address the demands of Christians and other religious minorities ahead of elections. However, throughout his tenure, they have continued to face organised and structured religious persecution and discrimination.   

Iran’s President is the second-highest ranking official in the country, after the supreme leader. The Guardian Council, which imposes the laws around elections, limits presidential candidates to Shiite Muslims - excluding minorities such as Sunni Muslims, Christians, Jews, and Baha’is.   

Mansour Borji says : 

“Friday prayer leaders who are appointed by the supreme leader were frequently quoted in the last few weeks saying 'if you are not voting you are not Muslim' which essentially makes you an apostate if you are not taking part in the election.   

 “Persecution of Christians and other minority groups has been intensifying under Rouhani and it will only get far worse under Raisi. Christians see no reason to engage in a vote where there are no real options for them or the greater good of society.  

 “As the Regime continues to lose its legitimacy among the people of Iran, it will turn to more authoritarian rule and Christians are in the firing line.”  


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