IRAN: Religious persecution and issues – Monthly Digest May



Monthly visits cancelled for pastor imprisoned 1,000 miles from family


Article 18 – (16.05.2024) – A pastor serving a six-year sentence in a prison 1,000 miles from his wife and daughter has been told he will no longer be permitted to return home to visit them each month.


Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad, who is known as Matthias, has been serving a six-year sentence for “propagating Christianity” since his previous acquittal was overturned in January 2022.

Initially, the pastor, who belongs to the “Church of Iran” denomination, was held in the prison in his home city of Anzali, in north Iran, but in July 2023 he was without warning transferred to a prison in Minab, in the far south of Iran.


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Imprisoned Christian convert needs psychological care, mother says


Article 18 (10.05.2024) – A Christian convert and former asylum-seeker serving a two-year sentence in Evin Prison for “connecting with ‘Zionist’ Christian organisations” is struggling with her mental health and in need of professional help, her mother says.


According to the Persian-language site Human Rights in Iran, Laleh Saati’s mother recently visited her prison and observed that her daughter was struggling with the pressure she has been placed under since being detained three months ago, and needs psychological support.


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Iranian authorities again charge active House Church member (03.05.2024) – On March 11, Iranian authorities charged house church member Shabeddin “Shahab” Shahi with “propaganda against the Islamic regime.” Shahi recently appeared at a Revolutionary Court in Karaj and is awaiting a second and final hearing at the sixth branch of the court.


Shahi served four months in prison in 2019 on the same charge. Authorities re-arrested him in December 2023, along with fellow house church members Milad Goodarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi. Goodarzi and Nourmohammadi, as well as Nourmohammadi’s brother, Amir Nourmohammadi, have previously served time in prison for their Christian faith.


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Christian convert released on $10,000 bail after four months’ detention


Article 18 (03.05.2024) – A Christian convert arrested on Christmas Eve has been released on bail equivalent to more than $10,000 after over four months in detention.


Esmaeil Narimanpour, 37, who was previously forced to undergo religious “re-education” with a Muslim cleric, was released on bail of 700 million tomans on Tuesday, 30 April.

According to Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News, Esmaeil has been charged with “acting against national security by communicating with Christian ‘Zionist’ organisations”.


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Iran has third most religious prisoners of conscience, report finds


Article 18 (02.05.2024) – The US Commission on International Religious Freedom has once again recommended that Iran be re-designated a “Country of Particular Concern” for “engaging in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom”.


In its latest annual report, published yesterday, the independent advisory body to the US State Department notes that the religious freedom conditions in Iran remain “extremely poor”.

According to USCIRF, Iran has the third most religious prisoners of conscience, behind only China and Russia.

Of the more than 2,200 religious prisoners documented in USCIRF’s FoRB Victims List in 2023, Iran accounted for 347 (15%).


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Two Baha’is detained in Rasht

Iran Press Watch (30.05.2024) – On May 28, 2024, IRGC Intelligence agents arrested Nazila Khanipour and her son Vesal Heravi, both Baha’i residents of Rasht, and took them to an undisclosed location.


A source close to the family confirmed the arrests to HRANA. The agents raided Khanipour’s home, searched the premises, confiscated personal items, and detained her without presenting an arrest warrant. Concurrently, Heravi was arrested at his workplace. He managed to make a brief phone call to his family.


Previously, Khanipour had been arrested, and Heravi was expelled from the university by order of intelligence agencies.


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Baha’i Sepideh Rashidi detained in Ahvaz by IRGC Intelligence (28.05.2024) – iRGC intelligence officials have detained Baha’i citizen Sepideh Rashidi (Derakhshan) in Ahvaz, subsequently transferring her to an undisclosed location. This action has significantly heightened her family’s concerns due to the absence of information about her current condition.


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Fifteen Baha’i women receive total of 75 years in prison

Iran Press Watch (21.05.2024) – The Isfahan Revolutionary Court has sentenced 15 Baha’i women from Baharestan, Isfahan County, to a total of 75 years in prison along with other penalties.


The sentenced individuals are Mojgan Pourshafe Ardestani, Nasrin Khademi, Azita Rezvani-Khah, Shola Ashouri, Mojdeh Bahamin, Bashra Motahar, Sara Shakib, Samira Shakib, Roya Azad Khosh, Noushin Hemmat, Shurangiz Bahamin, Sanaz Rasteh, Maryam Khorsandi, Firoozeh Rastinejad, and Farkhandeh Rezvan Pay.


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Semnan’s Baha’i cemetery vandalized

Iran Press Watch (13.05.2024) – Unknown individuals attacked the Baha’i cemetery in central Semnan amid ongoing disruptions by authorities regarding the burial of the dead of the persecuted religious minority.

According to an informed source speaking to IranWire, over the past two months, there have been instances where the Semnan Baha’i community visited the cemetery to pay respects and found curses and obscenities directed at the Baha’i religion and its founder written on the walls of the washroom.

Despite efforts to remove these writings, they reappeared upon subsequent visits.

This vandalism occurred despite the cemetery’s remote location in the mountains, far from public access.


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Baha’i women under attack in Iran: Authorities escalate arrests and summonses

Iran Press Watch (07.05.2024) – A surge in attacks on Baha’i women across Iran has seen dozens of women summoned to court in recent weeks, facing baseless criminal charges and years in prison, separating them from their families and exposing them to the cruelty and violence of the Iranian judicial system. Sixty-five of 85 Baha’is summoned to court or prison since early March—more than three-quarters—have been women.


The Baha’i community has seen a rise in attacks against women since last year—after the 2022 uprising in support of the rights of women in Iran. Baha’i women currently comprise two-thirds of all Baha’i prisoners in Iran. A significant number of Baha’is, notably women, were arrested in the months after the protests, with some being held without due process and their whereabouts unknown.


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