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Minorities At Risk Project: Home    

Chronology for Christians in Iran

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Date(s) Item
Sep 3, 1990 A radical Iranian magazine urges Muslims to attack Israel and "crusader" Christian countries.
Dec 20, 1990 The Assemblies of God, a Christian evangelical church accuses Iran of hanging one of its ministers, Reverend Hussein Soudmand, after 2 months of torture. He was hanged in the Iranian holy city of Mashud on charges of apostasy, opening and operating a Christian book store and opening and operating an illegal Christian Church. He was also accused of spying. Soudmand was a convert from Islam.
Aug 30, 1991 According to IRNA (the Iranian News Association) Iraqi refugees in Iran from the Gulf war include 728 Christians.
Nov 1993 Amnesty international accuses Iran of engaging in the torture, long term imprisonment, unfair trial and execution of real or imagined political opponents including Iranian Christians. They also accuse Iran of attacks upon Iranians living outside of Iran. Iran denies the report and Christian associations in Iran denounce Amnesty International.
Jan 1994 Iran denies reports that Mehdi Debadj, an Iranian who converted to Islam 50 years ago, is to be executed. According to the reports, Debadj was arrested in 1983 and held in prison for 10 years without a trial. He was brought to trial late in 1993 and convicted of the "crime" of apostasy and sentenced to death. Iran claims that Debadj had been charged with "religious espionage" but will not be executed. Debadj is later released due to the international publicity surrounding his case, including official denouncements of his treatment by France and the US. Debadj is a minister in the Assemblies of God church.
1994 Several UN and human rights reports allege a fierce campaign against Iran's Christian minority with churches shut down and members imprisoned and tortured.
Jan 26, 1994 A Washington based human rights group reports that Halk Houspian Mehr, an Iranian Christian Bishop, disappeared on his way to the Tehran airport after breaking his silence on the alleged ill-treatment of Iranian Christians including the closure, by Iranian authorities, of churches belonging to Protestant Christian denominations in several parts of Iran in recent months as well as other forms of harassment. Mehr was also instrumental in the international publicity that helped to gain the release of Mehdi Debadj (see previous event for details).
Jan 31, 1994 Halk Houspian Mehr's body turns up murdered in an Iranian morgue.
Jul 4, 1994 Pourtes Ouvertes (Open Doors), a Christian human rights group, reports that Tateos Michaelian, an Iranian Presbyterian preacher who was acting chairman of the Council of Protestant Ministers in Iran, was murdered and accuses the Iranian government of being responsible. Iran denies the charges. The group also reports that 2 other protestant preachers, whom it did not identify, had been detained and that and Iranian Christian who had returned home after living in the US had disappeared.
Jul 5, 1994 The Iranian government reports that the body of Mehdi Debadj (see January, 1994) has been found murdered in a forest near Tehran. They deny responsibility for his murder.
Jul 6, 1994 Iranian police arrest a young woman whom they say is suspected in the murders of Tateos Michaelian and Halk Houspian Mehr. They claim that she is a member of the Moujahiden Khalq opposition party and was acting on behalf of that organization. They later claim that she confessed to these murders and admitted to planning further murders of Christians as part of a Moujahiden Khalq plot to incite racial violence in Iran. The Moujahiden Khalq accuses Iran of carrying out the executions.
Jul 6, 1994 Pourtes Ouvertes says that 5 other Iranian Christians are missing.
Jul 15, 1994 3 more are arrested in the killings of Tateos Michaelian and Halk Houspian Mehr. The Iranian government and the Moujahiden Khalq continue to blame each other for the murders.
Aug 1, 1994 The New York Times reports that Iran is engaging in what it calls "the fiercest campaign since the 1979 revolution" against Iranian Christians. Scores of young Christians in Iran and many converts from Islam have recently been tortured and imprisoned especially in the cities of Gergan and Kermanshah. Also, many pastors have been expelled from their parishes or are under surveillance. These efforts seem to be focused upon Iran's evangelical Churches because of their open efforts to convert Iranian Muslims to Christianity. The Armenian church, which does not engage in such activities, seems to be enduring no more than the usual level of harassment. Iran claims that these arrests are because many Christians are engaging in illegal political activities under the guise of religion.
Oct 4, 1995 Iran convicted three women on charges of terrorism for the murder of two Christian clerics. (UPI)
Mar 10, 1996 Reformers gain a majority of seats in the first round polls. (ABC CLIO)
Apr 21, 1996 Conservative parliamentarians in Iran's Islamic Consultative Assembly lost seats in the run off elections held on April 19. (ABC CLIO)
May 23, 1997 Khatami, a moderate was elected president with 69% of the vote. Khatami promised in the campaign to reduce censorship and support a diversity of attitudes. (ABC CLIO)
Sep 24, 1997 Human Rights Watch urged Khatami to end widespread persecution of Christians and others. The group reported that persecution was particularly bad for Protestant groups of Christians. (Inter Press Service)
Jan 24, 1998 Christians were reported to suffer detention, torture and death for their faith in a report prepared for President Clinton by the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad. (AP)
Jun 3, 1998 A church was closed by the authorities and its leaders were arrested and killed. (Daily Telegraph)
Oct 25, 1998 Conservatives dominated the election to the council of experts when many of the reformist candidates were disqualified. (ABC CLIO)
Mar 8, 1999 Moderates won in the first local elections in 20 years. (ABC CLIO)
Apr 20, 2004 Iranian Azeris clashed with Armenians who were protesting the Armenian genocide (and Turkey's refusal to acknowledge it) in front of the Turkish embassy in Tehran. (BBC Monitoring Trans Caucasus Unit, 4/21/2004, "Agency reports clashes between ethnic Azeris, Armenians in Iran")
Apr 24, 2005 In Tehran, fighting broke out between Armenians demonstrating to commemorate the genocide and Azeris, who were holding a counterdemonstration. (RFE/RL. 5/3/2005. "Ethnic Azeris, Armenians clash in Tehran." Iran Report. 8:18.)


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Information current as of July 16, 2010