World Watch List Rank 9
World Watch List Score 85/100
Leader Supreme Leader Sayyid Ali Hoseini Khamenei
Population 82.8 million I 800,000
Main Religion Islam
Government Islamic Republic
WWL Rank in 2019 9
Persecution Level Extreme Persecution

The Iranian government suppresses Christianity out of fear it might threaten or replace the Islamic way of life. Under Sharia (Islamic) law, Christians who evangelise to Muslims can be thrown in prison or have their churches closed down. Converts from Islam also face the death penalty.

Believers often have to practice their faith in secret and are isolated from other Christians. Church leaders can be arrested and given long prison sentences. Many Christians are forced to flee the country due to the harsh restrictions on church life and other faith-based channels.

Christian media is monitored by the government and believers using such websites or channels are tracked down. In the workplace, Christians are harassed, discriminated against, and find it difficult to keep a job. Christian business owners also struggle to find and keep clients.

Despite all of these things, the church in Iran continues to grow.


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.


  • 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.




Two Iranian Christians sent to prison for ‘spreading propaganda against the regime’

23rd May 2019

Found in Stories

Iran is said to be one of the fastest growing communities of Muslim background believers in the world.

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A Light Which Cannot Be Extinguished: God’s Presence is Real in Iran

13th May 2019

Found in Stories

Iran is said to be one of the fastest growing communities of Muslim background believers in the world.

Read More

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

05th Apr 2019

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…

Read More


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