Four Iranian converts to Christianity have been arrested in the city of Karaj, Alborz province, less than two weeks before Christmas, reports say.
In an interview with Radio Farda, Article 18 spokesman, Kiarash A’lipour confirmed the news, adding, “Milad Goudarzi, Amin Khaki, Alireza Nour-Mohammadi and Shehabuddin Shahi were all arrested by security forces on Tuesday, December 12, in Karaj”.
According to 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.”
Meanwhile, a website that exclusively reflects the news concerning Iranians converted to Christianity, Mohabat News reported, “The security forces raided six houses in Karaj where the converts used as a home church”.
While a Christian ceremony was held, the security forced stormed into the houses, detained four and dragged them away, Mohabat News reported.
Furthermore, the security forces raided two shops belonging to two of the detainees, confiscated shoes and purses and sealed off one of the shops.
The shops were sealed off for “overcharging”, “profiteering” and “breaking guild regulations”. Moreover, a Bible and a laptop (notebook) computer were also confiscated during the security operations.
One of the shops, located in Fardiss neighborhood in Karaj is owned by one of the detainees, Milad Goudarzi.
On Tuesday, the government’s official news agency, IRNA reported that “Elements of a devious Christian cult who were promoting it and attempting to disrupt the market and economic order have been arrested”.
IRNA did not elaborate what it meant by “disrupting market and economic order.
One of the detainees, Amin Khaki was earlier detained along six of his fellow Christians in 2013 and recently freed after serving his term in a prison in Ahvaz, capital of Khouzestan province, southwestern Iran.
Many Muslims who converted to Christianity have been arrested in recent years, days before Christmas.
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.
According to Christian and human rights organizations, “In less than two months, since June 2017, Judge Mashallah Ahmadzadeh of Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran has issued long prison sentences to at least 11 Christian converts and the former leader of the Assyrian Pentecostal Church in Iran.”
On July 6, Ahmadzadeh sentenced four Protestant Christian converts to 10 years in prison each in a trial completely lacking due process, according to Mansour Borji, the advocacy director of Article 18, a London-based organization that defends Christians in Iran.
“Charges against these Christians is legally unfounded, and their conviction to 10 years’ imprisonment is violating the obvious right of freedom of opinion,” Borji told Radio Farda. “So many Christians in Iran are accused of merely attending Mass and prayer gatherings even in the privacy of their homes. They are all waiting for the Revolutionary Courts’ verdict against them.”
There are no recent official statistics available on the number of Christians in Iran, but 117,704 were counted in a 2011 state census, CHRI maintained. Those who said were Christians in an official census mostly belong to recognized and tolerated traditional ethnic churches, such as Armenian churches.
But evangelical or other new Christian movements, which are spreading covertly among Muslims, are treated harshly by the Islamic Republic.
In 2010, the World Christian Database (WCD) recorded 270,057 Christians in Iran. Some Christian organizations argue the number is much higher.
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.
Publishing the Persian version of the Bible in Iran is forbidden, while several churches have been forced to shut down.