Iran (MNN) — Iran is one of the world’s most formidable persecutors of Christians. More about that here. Earlier this week, Article18 released a message from Evin Prison. In it, Christian prisoner of conscience Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh says he bears no grudge against those who sentenced him to 10 years in prison, but questions how Christian practices can be considered an “action against national security.”
A new draft law threatens to silence voices throughout Iran.
“There is a new bill waiting to be approved by the conservative-led Iranian parliament, which will transfer control of the internet away from the government to Iranian armed forces,” Heart4Iran’s Mike Ansari says.
“They are also imposing near-complete internet blackouts, as we saw during the recent riots across southwestern Iran.”
The government already maintains tight control over the internet, but this new legislation takes it even further. See our full Iran coverage here.
“Iranian intelligence is asking social media platforms like Facebook to register with the Iranian government so they could have oversight and control over the user data. Currently, most Iranians use VPN or proxy servers to access Iran-banned platforms like Youtube or Facebook. This new law will criminalize the sale and distribution of these servers,” Ansari says.
“In essence, Iran is creating its own internal ‘halal’ internet and implementing Chinese technology to filter and censor its citizens.”
As described here, several steps remain before the bill can become law:
A small group of MPs working behind closed doors … will review the bill for the next two months. After the two-month period, the reviewed bill will be referred to a Parliament open session … then it will be sent to the Guardian Council to be ratified … Given the Guardian Council’s track record in approving legislation that impinge on human rights and objecting to more progressive one, it is largely expected that the bill will be well received by the Council.
If enacted, implementation of this bill threatens everyday Iranians, as well as at-risk religious communities. “It’s not only a matter of violation of human rights and freedom of expression – Iranians are going to incur a financial loss as well. During COVID, thousands of Iranian businesses have migrated unto popular online platforms like Instagram,” Ansari says.
“These businesses are seriously concerned about this bill and believe its implementation would further cripple the Iranian economy.”
Following Christ in Iran always carries risk, but learning and fellowshipping with other believers online allows small safety measures – or, at the very least, makes it much easier for Christians to connect. More about that here. “Any blockage of social media inside Iran will adversely affect the efforts of our ministry partners,” Ansari says.
“A vast number of Iranian Millennials and Gen Z are online, using popular social media platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, Instagram and Facebook, and many of these Iranians are engaging with Mohabat TV on these platforms daily,” he continues.
“Mohabat TV’s heavy presence on social media platforms is helping shape many underground or house church groups. That’s because Mohabat TV is composed of over 100 ministry partners who have part or all of their programs hosted AND distributed on Mohabat TV.”
Ask God to make way for the light of Christ to keep shining in Iran. Use the prompts listed alongside this article to guide further intercession.
Header image is a representative stock photo courtesy of Bermix Studio/Unsplash.