The head of Iranian justice granted Sunday to Christian prisoners 10 days of freedom to spend the holidays with the families, in a rare gesture towards the minority community.
Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei has called on authorities across the country to issue the waiver, according to the justice website Mizan Online.
“The decision is to mark the New Year 2022 and the anniversary of the birth of Jesus Christ,” the website said.
Mizan Online did not specify how many Christian prisoners will benefit from the leave, or when the 10-day period will begin.
He said, however, that inmates convicted of security breaches, organized crime, kidnappings, armed robberies and those sentenced to death would be exempt.
According to local media, Christians make up just 1% of Iran’s total population of 83 million, the majority of whom are Shia Muslims.
Most Christians in Iran are Armenians, who celebrate Christmas on January 6, Epiphany Day.
At this time of year, some stores in Tehran and major cities were putting up decorations, including Christmas trees, while people dressed as Santa Claus stood outside the stores.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei often grants amnesty to prisoners or reduces their sentences to mark Muslim holidays.
But it is rare for the Iranian authorities to announce such measures concerning members of the Christian minority in the Islamic Republic.
This year Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi visited the home of the family of an Armenian Christian “martyr” in Tehran who died in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war on Christmas Eve, the news agency reported. IRNA official press.