Christian converts from Islam no longer have the choice of keeping their faith secret in Iran after the Islamic Republic removed the “other religions” option from the new application form for the national ID card.
The National Census Bureau has narrowed the choices available to new applicants to only the four religions recognised under the Iranian constitution: Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Zoroastrianism.
This means that Muslim-born converts to Christianity, who may have preferred not to make public their faith in order to avoid hostility or persecution from their family, employers or the authorities, now have to reveal they are Christian, or lie about their faith and tick the box that says Muslim.
A Barnabas Fund contact said the ID cards, which are compulsory for every citizen aged 15 and above, are a necessary part of daily life in Iran and are required to access basic government services or to make bank transactions. The holder’s religion is not shown on the card, but information given on the application form is easily accessed by the state’s computer network.
The contact said the rule change was in line with the government’s strategy of harassing converts (and other non-recognised religious groups) and pressurising them to emigrate. She said, “Converts are frequently arrested and then released to drive them to leave the country – and, in some cases, officials have openly suggested converts leave. Because so many leave, it means that many leaders of convert groups have little theological and Biblical education.”
The removal of the “other religions” option will further marginalise other religious groups including Bahais, Hindus and Yarsan.
From Barnabas Fund contacts and other sources