Religious persecution and issues – Monthly Digest December



‘Christmas is always a reminder of our arrest and imprisonment’

Article 18 (22.12.2023) – Four Iranian Christians who were arrested at Christmas time or spent the festive season in prison have shared with Article18 how Iranian Christians celebrate Jesus’ birth with a mixture of joy and trepidation.

“We used to celebrate most of the New Year and Christmas days in fear and worry,” recalls Pastor Farhad Sabokrooh, who was arrested in 2011 during a Christmas gathering for the church he and his wife led in their home in Ahvaz, western Iran.

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Armenian Christian remains in Evin Prison four months after arrest

Article 18 (13.12.2023) – An Armenian citizen, who was one of over 100 Christians arrested in Iran this summer, remains detained in Evin Prison more than four months later.

Hakop Gochumyan, 35, was visiting Iran with his wife Elissa, who is an Iranian-Armenian, and their two children, when they were arrested on 15 August in Pardis, just outside Tehran.

The couple and their children, who are aged seven and 10, were having dinner at a friend’s home, when a dozen plainclothes agents of the Ministry of Intelligence raided the property.

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Two house-church members detained in unknown location after coordinated arrests

Article 18 (12.12.2023) – A former prisoner of conscience and his brother remain in detention in an unknown location after four house-church members were arrested yesterday during coordinated raids by intelligence agents on their homes and shops near Tehran.

The name of the detainees cannot be divulged at this stage, but their arrest was reported to be violent.

The former prisoner’s son was also arrested during a simultaneous raid on his shop in Karaj, but he was released later that day, as was Milad Goodarzi, another former prisoner of conscience who had been arrested during a concurrent raid on his home.

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House-church leader returns to prison after first home visit since sudden transfer

Article 18 (05.12.2023) – A house-church leader serving a six-year sentence for “propagating Christianity” has returned to a prison on the other side of the country from his wife and daughter, after a first visit home since his sudden transfer five months ago.

Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, known as Matthias, was transferred without warning – or the chance to say goodbye to wife Anahita and daughter Hannah – back in July, and had to pay for his travel expenses to return home to Anzali, which is in north Iran, 1,000 miles from Minab Prison in the far south.

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UN General Assembly Resolution calls for Iranian government to stop persecuting Baha’is

Iran Press Watch (23.12.2023) – The latest and 36th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution expressing serious concern over a broad range of human rights violations including the situation of Baha’is in Iran and other religious minorities, and calling on the Iranian government to “eliminate” all forms of religious discrimination and persecution, passed today at a plenary session of the UN’s General Assembly.

The resolution, which had already been adopted at the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee last month, was endorsed and adopted today with 78 votes in favor, with 30 against and 68 abstentions.

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Shiva Khalili taken into custody and transported to prison

Iran Press Watch (22.12.2023) – Shiva Khalili, a Baha’i adherent residing in Babol (Mazandaran province), has been taken into custody and transported to Babol central prison in order to undergo the one-year imprisonment verdict.

According to a report received by the Hengaw Organization for Human Rights, on Wednesday, December 20, 2023, the Baha’i adherent Shiva Khalili was taken into custody and transported to Babol Central Prison after she was summoned by the Branch of Execution of Sentences of Babol Court.

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Baha’i Citizen Nafisa Sa’adat Yar receives prison sentence and social deprivations

Iran Press Watch (22.12.2023) – As of the ruling issued on November 20, 2023, Sa’adat Yar is facing a one-year sentence for “spreading propaganda against the regime” and an additional four years of social deprivations.

Nafisa Sa’adat Yar and her husband, Pouya Amri, were apprehended by security forces in January 2023, later securing their release on a bail of 500 million Tomans (approximately 10,000 Dollars) in August of the same year. Unfortunately, both faced employment termination following pressure from security institutions.

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Baha’i woman arrested in Iran’s Shiraz

Iran Press Watch (20.12.2023 ) – Security agents detained a Baha’i woman in the streets of Shiraz on December 18, as the authorities intensified their crackdown on members of the religious minority.

The officers took Yekta Fohandej to her home, searched it, and confiscated numerous personal belongings of the woman and her husband, including religious books and photographs.

There were no other details available about the case.

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Iranian Baha’i sentenced to four years in prison

Iran Press Watch (20.12.2023) – An Iranian court has sentenced a Baha’i citizen, Hourieh Mohseni, to three years’ imprisonment and an additional year of suspended time.

The First Branch of the Revolutionary Court of the northeastern city of Mashhad alleged that Mohseni was a member of “a social action and development group that aimed to promote Baha’ism with the intention of disrupting national security.”

It further accused her of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic in favor of the Baha’i faith.”

The court hearing was conducted without the presence of either the defendant or her legal counsel.

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Jailed Baha’i and war veteran denied basic needs in prison

Iran Press Watch (15.12.2023) – Behrouz Farzandi, 57, a former prisoner of war during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and a member of the persecuted Baha’i religious minority who is currently in jail, has been barred from shopping at the prison store for over 60 days and thus unable to obtain basic and essential items for his daily needs.

Access to the store is managed through a shopping card – which prison authorities have withheld from Farzandi.

The shopping card, typically issued for up to three days by the relevant bank, has been withheld from Farzandi despite multiple requests by him and his family over the past two months.

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Fariba Kamalabadi and Mahvash Sabet started a three-day hunger strike in protest of the government’s devastating treatment of Baha’is in Iran.

Iran Press Watch (14.12.2023) – In protest against the government’s devastating treatment of Baha’is in Iran, we are going on a three-day hunger strike for the 9th, 10th, and 11th of December 2003, and we desire the rights of the Baha’is of Iran to be recognized.

In February 2007, while seven members of Yaran Iran underwent severe interrogation over the period several months in cells 209 of Evin Prison, a letter signed by the Attorney General of Iran (Mr. Ghurban Ali Dori Najafabadi) was provided to them. The content of the letter and demands of the officials were as follows:

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Iranian Baha’is targeted by “brutal” new tactics – including denial of marriage licenses (13.11.2023) – A recent statement by the Baha’i International Community has confirmed that the Iranian government is using “brutal” new repressive and coercive measures against Iran’s Baha’is.

The tactics have aimed to instill fear and deprive Baha’is of peace and security in their daily lives, ultimately stripping them of any semblance of citizenship rights in Iran, the statement said.

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Three Baha’i Citizens receive prison sentences and social sanctions in Sari

Hrana – (04.12.2023) – As per the verdicts issued on November 28, 2023, Saha Sabeti has been sentenced to 33 months in prison for charges of”membership in groups acting against national security” and “engaging in educational activities and propaganda against Islamic Sharia.” Additionally, she faces a fine and a 13-year prohibition from participating in educational and cultural pursuits.

Behrooz Rahmani has been fined and sentenced to a ten-year ban on educational and cultural activities for similar charges. Likewise, Alizadeh Rooshankoohi, found guilty of “engaging in educational activities and propaganda against Islamic Sharia,” has received a parallel punishment to Behrooz Rahmani.

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