During a meeting with the country’s religious minorities, Iran’s Supreme Leader Seyyed Ali Khamenei said non-Muslims have never been harassed in his Islamic Republic, because the Koran suggests followers of other religions should be treated with fairness and justice.
“Muslims in Europe and America face death threats. There is a great propaganda campaign against them, and their places of worship are under constant attack,” he said. “Such treatment of non-Muslims is nonexistent in the history of our Islamic regime. Even our hotheaded conservative youth do not allow themselves to attack a non-Muslim.”
Critics found Khamenei’s comments ironic because a significant number of religious minorities have been sentenced and executed in Iran since the start of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. According to local media reports, even those religious minorities that are recognized by Iran’s constitution have been harassed, marginalized and persecuted since the start of the revolution. That is exactly why mass migration started to take place among the country’s religious minorities, including Christians and Jews.
A couple of years ago, Karen Khanlarian, former representative of Armenian Iranians in the parliament, raised questions about the declining number of Christians in the country.
“The Armenian community is shrinking in the country. Our population is now down to 60-70 thousand,” Khanlarian had said. “We have had a slight drop in the number of Armenians leaving the country in the past few years, but this trend still continues amongst our community. The most popular destinations are Western Europe, the United States and Canada.”
When the Islamic Revolution started in 1979, there were approximately 180,000 Armenian Iranians in the country but currently, 60 percent of that population does not stay in Iran. A similar decline has been observed in the country’s Jewish population as well.
Ahmad Shaheed, United Nation’s Special Rapporteur for Iran, wrote in a report, “At least 307 religious minorities are being held in Iran's prisons for their faith, including 136 Bahais, 19 Dervishes, 50 Christians, 90 Sunni Muslims, and two Zoroastrians.”
Additionally, Open Doors USA ranked Iran among the top ten countries where Christians are persecuted the most in the world in its World Watch List last year. While Iran ranked 9th on the list in 2013, it went up to the 7th spot in 2014.
Photo Credits: Islamic Invitation Turkey