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Iran's Christians Say Officials Are Pressuring Them To Stay Out Of Protests

By RFE/RL's Radio Farda November 21, 2022

A senior member of the Iranian Christian community says that security officials are pressuring religious minorities to remain silent and not participate in anti-government protests.

The semiofficial ISNA news agency quoted Yonathan Betkolia, the head of Assyrian Society of Tehran, as saying that the intelligence and security authorities of the Islamic republic have asked the representatives of Christians, bishops, and Assyrian priests to prevent the participation of Christian and Assyrian citizens in nationwide protests sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

With the protests in Iran now in their third month, Iranian authorities have blamed the West for the demonstrations and vowed to crack down even harder on protesters.

While Betkolia previously has publicly agreed that foreign provocations are the cause of the protests, it is the first time he has acknowledged some Iranian Christians are supporting anti-government policies.

Betkolia, a five-term member of the Iranian parliament, has been criticized many times by Iranian Christians for being close to the authorities of the Islamic republic.

In an earlier statement, the Council of United Iranian Churches condemned the "systematic suppression of women and human rights violations in Iran" and demanded "freedom, justice and equal rights for all Iranians."

The council also stated that "like many people of our country who protested in the streets with unparalleled courage after Mahsa's death, we oppose the imposition of the mandatory hijab (head scarf) on the people of Iran, who have religious, ethnic, cultural and ideological diversity. We know that they are a definite violation of human rights.

The protests, which are demanding more freedoms and women's rights, pose the biggest threat to the Islamic government since the 1979 revolution.

Several thousand have been arrested, including many protesters, as well as journalists, lawyers, activists, digital rights defenders, and others.

Written by Ardeshir Tayebi based on an original story in Persian by RFE/RL's Radio Farda.

Source: https://www.rferl.org/a/iran-christians-protests- official-pressure/32141690.html

Copyright (c) 2022. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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