Iran releases jailed Christians but convictions continue

TEHRAN, Iran — Convictions of Christians continue in Iran, even as several believers have been released due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Roughly 85,000 people in Iran have been released from prison due to the pandemic, sources said. However, the release of Christians as part of the regime’s efforts to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus was pragmatic and not an indication of a change of policy by the Iranian government, rights advocates said.

The novel coronavirus hit Iran hard economically, and released Christian converts experience an additional layer of suffering, as it is harder for those targeted by the government to find jobs, according to a Middle East specialist at Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

They and potential employers are often harassed, eventually forcing them to leave the country. The recent releases are largely image control by the Iranian government, he added.

Iran was ranked No. 9 on Christian support organization Open Doors’ 2020 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.