The government is committed to expanding the influence of Shia Islam.


World Watch List Rank World Watch List Score
10 85/100
Leader Population
President Hassan Rouhani 81 million | 800,000 Christians
Main Religion Government
Islam Republic
WWL Rank in 2017 Persecution Level
8 Extreme Persecution

In contrast to the neighboring Arab countries in the Persian Gulf, the main threat for Christians comes from the government in Iran. The Iranian regime defines Iran as an Islamic State based on Shia Islam and they actively try to expand the influence of Shia Islam. Christians and other minorities are seen as a serious threat.
Although some reports mention pressure from families and communities on converts from Islam to Christianity, Iranian society is much less fanatic than their leadership. This is partly the result of the widespread influence of more moderate and mystical Sufi Islam, as well as the pride of the Iranian people about the pre-Islamic Persian culture.


Taher had tried everything to stop his wife and children from believing in Jesus. He banned them from going to church, beat them, said he would report them to the secret police, and even threatened to kill them. But they refused to give up their faith, and ran away.

One night Jesus appeared to Taher in a dream. He hugged him and said: "I will clean you from all your sins, you are free. I will give you rest. Believe in me."

He went to the church that his family had attended, but people were afraid; they knew what he had done to his family and thought he must be a government spy. "How can I help you?" asked one of the leaders. He answered: "I want to give my life to Christ, but I don't know how."

Islam is the official religion of Iran and all laws there must match the requirements of Sharia (Islamic law). Only Armenians and Assyrians are allowed to be Christians, and even they are treated as second class citizens. Those who try to reach out to Muslims have reported imprisonment, physical abuse and harassment.A Muslim who leaves Islam is considered an 'apostate' and is at risk of the death penalty. Muslims are not even meant to shake hands with Christians, touch them or eat their food. Muslim-background believers often meet in house churches, but these are frequently monitored by secret police and raided.

Over the WWL 2018 reporting period, there were at least 52 arrests. Many Christians (especially converts) have been prosecuted and sentenced to long terms in jail. Others are still awaiting trial. Their families face public humiliation during this time.


Open Doors supports the church in the Middle East through the following activities:

  • Bible and Christian literature distribution
  • Training (eg discipleship training, trauma training)
  • Supporting Christian multimedia initiatives for the region
  • Advocacy.


“I never prayed for my release” – A former Iranian house church leader

05th Apr 2018

Found in Stories

God works in mysterious ways —that’s what former Iranian house church leader Mojtaba Hosseini found out when he was in prison for his faith. He…

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  • That the power of God will give strength and resilience to believers who have been disowned by their Muslim families
  • Ask the Lord to stir government leaders to change strict laws, allowing for freedom of religion
  • That the Holy Spirit will give Christians in prison a genuine love for their guards and fellow prisoners.




  • Pray for those that are suffering by reading the latest prayer requests from persecuted Christians around the world.
  • Advocate for persecuted Christians by signing the Hope for Middle East Petition.
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