IRAN: Monthly Digest – Religious persecution and issues in January
Arrested Christian convert held incommunicado in unknown location, parents ‘very worried’
Article 18 (22.01.2024) – A Christian convert arrested last week remains in detention in an unknown location, according to a report by an Iranian Christian news site.
Iman Golzar was arrested at his home in Dezful, western Iran, at midnight on 16 January by plainclothes agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, who showed no warrant and confiscated his computer and CCTV cameras, according to Mohabat News.
Iman was then reportedly taken away to an unknown location, with no news of him since, despite the efforts of his parents, who are deaf, to discover his whereabouts and condition.
Iran once again ranked among top 10 persecutors of Christians
Article 18 (17.01.2024) – Iran has once again been named among the top 10 worst persecutors of Christians.
Iran ranks in 9th place on the 2024 World Watch List, published today by Article18’s partner organisation, Open Doors International.
Last year Iran ranked in 8th place, but Iran’s overall “score” remained the same, meaning its one-place improvement on the list – a return to its 2022 ranking – was a reflection of worsening conditions in another country (namely Sudan), rather than any improvement for Christians inside Iran.
Christian convert, 60, summoned to begin prison sentence for house-church leadership
Article 18 (05.01.2024) – A 60-year-old Iranian Christian convert has been summoned to begin her six-year prison sentence for “acting against national security by promoting ‘Zionist’ Christianity” through leadership of a house-church.
Mina Khajavi, who was arrested back in 2020, was sentenced in 2022 alongside fellow Christian convert Malihe Nazari, who also received a six-year sentence, and Iranian-Armenian pastor Joseph Shahbazian, who was sentenced to 10 years.
Mina shortly after the accident.
However, while Joseph and Malihe began serving their sentences a few months later, Mina was viewed as being unfit to serve her sentence, after she was run over by a car.
Four Christian converts including Afghan refugee remain detained three weeks after arrest
Article 18 (03.01.2024) – Four Christian converts, including an Afghan refugee, remain in detention over three weeks after their arrest in Shahriar, west of Tehran, Siroos Khosravi.
The arrests followed an 11 December raid by 30 intelligence agents on a house-church gathering, where around 25 men, women and children had gathered to pray and worship together and to plan their Christmas celebration.
The agents read out the names of three of the individuals present, two of whom – a woman in her early thirties and a 70-year-old man – were arrested on the spot, while the third, a man named Siroos Khosravi, was arrested three days later after answering a summons for further questioning.
Christian convert still in custody after Christmas Eve arrest
Article 18 (03.01.2024) – A Christian convert previously forced to attend “re-education” sessions with an Islamic cleric remains detained following his arrest during a Christmas Eve raid on his home in Dezful, western Iran.
Esmaeil Narimanpour’s home was searched and his Christian books confiscated during the 6pm raid, though the arresting agents did not have a warrant.
Esmaeil was able to call his family briefly on Christmas Day to tell them that he was being held in Ahvaz, 150km south of Dezful.
BIC Geneva: Iranian thought leaders call for an end to the “historical shame” of Bahá’í persecution
News Baha’i (17.01.2024 ) – A group of more than 150 Iranian human rights advocates and social and political activists have signed a powerful public statement (in Persian with English translation) condemning the “new wave of arrests against Bahá’ís and their deprivation of basic human and civil rights.”
Joining countless others in echoing the spirit of the Our Story Is One campaign, the group has urged their compatriots to “raise their voices” in solidarity with Iran’s Bahá’í community.
Two Baha’is in Shiraz summoned to prison
Iran Press Watch (16.01.2024) – Two Baha’i citizens, Mina Karami and Soroush Iqani, face imminent imprisonment as the Iranian government escalates its crackdown on the religious minority.
According to HRANA human rights website, on January 15 Mina Karami, a Baha’i citizen in Shiraz, received a summons from Branch 1 of the General and Revolutionary Prosecutor’s Office in the city.
The summons instructed Karami to appear before judicial authorities on February 1 to start a five-year prison sentence she had received during a previous trial.
In September 2022, Karami was convicted by Branch 1 of the Shiraz Revolutionary Court on charges of “deviant educational and propaganda activities contrary to Islamic Sharia law.”
Baha’i homes raided in Tabriz
Iran Press Watch (12.01.2024) – In a coordinated operation on January 9, agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence raided the homes of several Baha’i families in Tabriz, marking a fresh escalation in the government’s pressure campaign against the religious minority.
IranWire obtained a report detailing the raids, which targeted at least six Baha’i households.
Agents confiscated religious texts, photos, and personal belongings, including computers and mobile phones.
No official charges or justification for the searches were provided, and the families were reportedly threatened.
Baha’i mother and sons sentenced to jail in Iran
Iranwire (11.01.2024) – – A revolutionary court in the Iranian city of Bojnurd has sentenced a Baha’i family to a combined total of four years and eight months in prison, a human rights website reported.
Shayan Senaei has been sentenced to a two-year and two-month prison term, along with a 50 million tomans ($1,000) fine. His brother, Faran Senaei, received a two-year and six-month prison sentence, while their mother, Sholeh Shahidi, has also been fined 50 million tomans, as reported by HRANA.
The court also mandated a 10-year ban from using specific social public services and the confiscation of personal assets owned by the individuals.
Iranian Court sends 63-year-old Baha’i to seven-year imprisonment
Iran Press Watch (08.01.2024) – The Khorasan Razavi Court of Appeal has confirmed an eight-year prison sentence handed down against Sirus Zabihi Moghadam, a 63-year-old Bahai citizen residing in Mashhad.
The initial ruling was issued by the Mashhad Revolutionary Court on November 24 last year.
According to the verdict, Zabihi was sentenced to seven years in prison for “forming and being a member of opposition groups [accused of] forming Baha’i organizations with the intention of disrupting national security.”
He was also sentenced to an additional year for “propaganda against the system.”
Farmers displaced and farmlands seized as Iran’s government intensifies Baha’i religious persecution
BIC – (04.01.2024) Farmlands, rice paddies and walnut orchards belonging to Baha’i families in the village of Ahmadabad, a lush and fertile agricultural community in Mazandaran province, were forcibly seized this week by Iranian officials who claimed the lands on behalf of the Iranian government.
No compensation or official documents justifying the seizures were provided by the agents who conducted the raid.
The raid is the latest incident in a rising pattern of persecution against the Baha’is across Iran—and the third recent example of religiously-motivated property seizures against Baha’i farmers in Mazandaran province.
Government seizes Baha’i lands in Sari County
Iran Press Watch (03.01.2024) – On January 1, 2024, police agents and forest rangers carried out the confiscation of approximately 60 hectares of Baha’i-owned land in the Ahmadabad Village, adjacent to Sari in Mazandaran Province.
Acting on the orders of the Sari Prosecutor, the agents blocked access to the village and took possession of the lands. Ahmadabad Village is predominantly inhabited by Baha’is, and according to a resident who spoke to HRANA, the police have cordoned off the confiscated lands with barbed wire. Of these lands, 25 are already under wheat cultivation, a practice maintained by Baha’is for decades.