The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) is urging the U.S. State Department to list Iran as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its ongoing violations of religious freedom.
In its 2022 annual report titled Religious Propaganda in Iran, the USCIRF highlights efforts by Iran's government to spread false information and encourage a negative opinion about Christianity and other religious faiths.
Targeting religious minorities over alleged betrayal toward Iran is just one element of the Islamic Republic's nationalist propaganda.
USCIRF released a new report on Iranian propaganda against religious minorities.https://t.co/5obz4MUncL
— USCIRF (@USCIRF) July 22, 2022
According to the report, disinformation is spread by the Iranian government by using media outlets, which strive to ensure that all content supports the government's interpretation of Ja'afri Shi'a Islam.
Among those targeted are Christian converts, who are described as belonging to an "Evangelical Zionist cult."
For example, a January 2021 news article recounted that members of a "Zionist network" across several regions were arrested. It alleged that the purpose of the network was "creating moral depravity" and "promoting religious conversion." In the previous two years, "networks connected to the Christian movement" had involved "widespread security efforts" in the country, the article continued.
USCIRF Commissioner Sharon Kleinbaum told CBN News that propaganda against Christian converts can have a harmful effect.
"These accusations invoke geo-political conflicts and painful historical events for Iran's public, which may turn many people against Iran's Christian community and make Iranian Christians less safe," Kleinbaum explained.
The report also reveals that the Iranian government uses fake claims of national security as a reason to prosecute Christians and other religious minorities.
In addition to Christian converts, the USCIRF report highlights tactics that Iran's government uses against Jews, Sunni Muslims, Gonabadi Sufis, and Baha'is.
"While the Iranian judiciary uses national security charges to suppress Christian converts (and Baha'is), the propaganda campaign against the two groups implicitly admits that they are targeted for promoting their faiths rather than nefarious activities against the Iranian state," according to the USCIRF.
The report also points out that "the Iranian government provides false narratives regarding alleged ties between religious minorities inside Iran and foreign states and non-state entities, and it makes baseless allegations about threats posed by religious minorities to Iran's security and territorial integrity."
Open Doors USA, a watchdog group that monitors religious freedom abuses in over 60 countries, lists Iran as the ninth-worst country in the world for Christian persecution in its 2022 World Watch List.