By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Iranian security forces have destroyed a 200-year-old Christian cemetery in southeastern Iran after they earlier used bulldozers to remove an historical church in the area, Iranian Christians said in comments monitored by BosNewsLife Thursday, April 26.
The cemetery attack, discovered this month in Kerman province, is no isolated incident. Iranian Christians said that “all the crosses have been taken out of the ground” at another historical British cemetery in the southwestern port city of Bushehr, near the site where Iran develops a controversial nuclear facility.
The burial ground had also been used by the Christian Armenian minority of Bushehr but now seems to approach “complete destruction”, said Iranian Christians with close knowledge about the situation.
There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials on the situation in Busher.
Christian news agency Mohabat News said however it had obtained comments from Mohammad Mehdi Afzali, public relations chief of Iran’s Cultural Heritage organization, in which he admitted that the “destruction” of the Kerman cemetery.
Afzali reportedly said the removal of graves was part of attempts by his group and local authorities to “release lands” in the areas of Ghal’e-Dokhtar and Ghal’e Ardeshir around a historical castle in eastern hills.
The official reportedly denied the remarks in an interview with the pro-government news service IRNA.
Mohabat News, which includes rights activists and Iranian Christians, said that “Prior to this report, a historical church building in Kerman, which was registered as a national monument” in 2009, “was brought down by bulldozers.”
Rights activists have suggested that the reported destruction of Christian sites and raids on churches is part of a wider attempt by authorities of this Islamic nation to discourage devoted Christans and pressure new converts to return to Islam.
Several Christians have been jailed in Iran, though authorities claim they are “criminals” who violate the laws of the land.