Persecution Continues as Iran Detains Another Christian Convert

Another Iranian convert to Christianity has been arrested in the city of Dezful, southwest of the country, an Iranian Christian rights advocate group has confirmed in an interview with Radio Farda.

“Security agents detained Mohammad Ali Torabi at his office in ‘Qal’a Sayyed’ district of Dezful, on Tuesday, October 10 and took him to an unknown location. His family has no information on his whereabouts, so far,” the spokesman of Article 18, Kiarash Alipour says.

According to Mohabbat News, a website that covers news on Iranian Christians, the person responsible for Serenity Message Church and two other Muslims recently converted to Christianity were also arrested along with Mohammad Ali Torabi, but, were freed after being interrogated.

Meanwhile, Mohabbat News has reported that two more Christian converts, Mehrdad Houshmand and Sara Ne’mati were also summoned by the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Security apparatus on Monday, October 9, in Tehran. The two were put behind bars after a lengthy interrogation.

Several Iranians, converted to evangelical church, have been arrested in recent months in Iran. In many cases, the detainees were accused of “action against national security” through “launching home churches” and “participating at Christian ceremonies” there.

“Christians are recognized as an official religious minority in Iran’s constitution, but the state continues to persecute members of the faith, especially converts,” the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) said in a statement, raising concern over the sentencing of Christian converts to long-term imprisonment.

There are no recent official statistics available on the number of Christians in Iran, but 117,704 were counted in a 2011 state census. Those who said were Christians in an official census mostly belong to recognized and tolerated traditional ethnic churches, such as Armenian churches.

In 2010, the World Christian Database (WCD) recorded 270,057 Christians in Iran. Some Christian organizations argue the number is much higher. While calling on Iranian authorities to immediately halt the “disturbing trend of arrests and imprisonment of Christians,” CHRI noted that according to Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Iran ratified in 1975, “everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”

Last year, in a joint statement, 19 human rights organizations called on the international community to press Iran to end the persecution of newly converted Iranian Christians. At least five church leaders have been murdered and hundreds more have been either interrogated or incarcerated in Iran since the Islamic Revolution in 1979.