Abdorrahman Boroumand Center

for Human Rights in Iran

Omid, a memorial in defense of human rights in Iran
One Person’s Story

Abbas Amiri


Age: 63
Nationality: Iran
Religion: Christianity
Civil Status: Married


Date of Killing: July 30, 2008
Location of Killing: Esfahan, Esfahan Province, Iran
Mode of Killing: Extrajudicial killing

About this Case

Mr. Amiri ran his house church in Malek Shahr area in Esfahan.

Information regarding the death of Mr. Abbas Amiri was published on the websites of Aasoo – Shahed Alavi (February 01, 2019), The Iranian Bible School and Radio Zamaneh (October 29, 2013), Voice of America (June 23, 2012), and Melliun (January 07, 2009).

Mr. Amiri was married and along with his wife, Ms. Sakineh Rahnama, was a Christian convert. After converting to Christianity, they used to secretly run a house church in their house in Malek Shahr area in Isfahan.


While Christianity counts among the three Abrahamic religions officially recognized in Iran, the status carved out for Christians by the Constitution and civil and penal code is markedly inferior. In practice, religious tolerance applies only to ethnic groups who are historically Christian, i.e. Armenians and Assyrians, and not to believers or converts from Muslim backgrounds (UN 1992). The Iranian government has implemented policies that demarcate, monitor, and aggressively suppress Christian civic presence.

The Constitution bars Christians from becoming President, members of the Guardian Council, Army Commanders, School Principals, and from holding senior government positions (UN 1998, IFHR). They are prohibited from running in General Parliamentary elections, and the three seats allocated to Christians in Parliament are exclusively for Armenian, Assyrian, and Chaldean representatives (IFHR).

Civil and criminal statutes explicitly disadvantage Christian parties. They are entitled to less compensation in car-accident settlements and cannot inherit property from Muslims (UN 1998, IFHR). Several offenses punishable by lashings for Muslims are for Christians punishable by death.

The activities of Christian churches and peoples have long been subject to Ministry of Culture surveillance. A law purporting to flag sellers of non-halal foods requires Christian shop owners to display signs reading “designated for religious minorities;” in practice, this signage has been enforced on all Christian businesses as a deterrent to Muslim patrons (UN 1998). Christians have reported denials of academic admissions and business permits on religious grounds (Suuntaus). By the mid-90s all but two Protestant churches had closed under various government pressures, including demands to provide congregants’ names and personal information (Suuntaus, HRW 1995).

Since the revolution, hundreds of Christians have been detained arbitrarily. Many are sentenced to various prison terms and others are released with the specter of charges and investigations against them that are left open indefinitely. Multiple sources who have been arrested or detained reported being threatened by judicial or security officers with apostasy charges, execution, or assassination. With apostasy left unaddressed in penal code, judges defer to the Shar’ia, leaving Christian converts vulnerable to death sentences (ICHRI); it is also left to the personal discretion of judges whether the murder of a Christian by a Muslim even constitutes a crime (IFHR). The state has historically displayed a lack of due diligence in resolving the cases of Christians who die in suspect circumstances, which further exacerbates the precarity of Christians’ social and legal status.

While the Iranian government does not publicize official data on the size of Iran’s Christian population, available sources reflect the consensus that conversions from Islam have been steadily on the rise since the revolution, and that Iranians with Christian leanings could now number as high as 1 million, or 1.5 percent of the population (IJRF, Gamaan, MS). The regime thus continues to invest significantly in the surveillance of Christian activities (IJRF). Scores of Christians have fled Iran and taken refuge in other countries (ICHRI, IJRF, ABC Research). 

The 1990s marked a period of religious crackdowns that staggered, among others, Christian communities. Amid the overall increase in executions, corporal punishments, raids, and press restrictions, scores of Christian converts were imprisoned and tortured (HRW 1996, 1993). In an effort to curb growing public interest in Christianity, Iran placed caps on church attendance, shut down Iran’s main Persian-language bible publisher, prohibited sermons in Persian, confiscated all Christian books, closed all Christian bookstores, and dissolved the Iranian Bible society (Suuntaus, UN 1993). 

The authorities’ heightened reactivity also brought Christian leaders into the crosshairs of the “chain murders,” a string of assassinations during the 1990s of secular intellectual and political dissidents and religious minorities (IW) and other undesirable individuals. Of the seven suspicious deaths of Christian leaders since the revolution, five occurred between 1990 and 1996 (FN). 

Mr. Abbas Amiri’s Death

"Mr. Amiri died in the hospital on July 30, 2008, from the injuries resulting from the beatings by the security and information officers."

According to the available information, while several Christians were praying in the house church at Ms. Rahnama, and Mr. Amiri’s house on July 27, 2008, security officers attacked the church and arrested 6 women, 8 men, and 2 children. On the same night, security officers harshly beat Ms. Rahnama and her husband. Mr. Amiri went into coma due to severe injuries on his chest and due to old age, and died in the ICU of Shariati hospital in Esfahan on July 30, 2008 at 16:30 hrs.

Four days later, his wife, Ms. Rahnema also died of cardiac arrest due to injuries caused by the beatings from security officers and the pressure from the death of her husband on August 03, 2008.

Officials’ Reaction

According to the available information, when officers were handing over his body to his family, they warned them that they were not allowed to share news of his death, nor have a memorial service with black mourning banners at their house, or they would be treated harshly. 

Familys’ Reaction

Mr. Amiri’s family transferred his body to his birth town in Masjed Soleiman on Thursday, August 01, 2008 and buried him there. Although security agents were prohibiting people to enter the cemetery, his burial was held in the presence of some friends and relatives but without any religious ceremony.

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