Two sisters among four converts arrested in Ahvaz

Two sisters among four converts arrested in Ahvaz

Clockwise from top-left: Shokoufeh Zanganeh; her sister Shima; Abdollah Yousefi; and Farzad Behzadi (Middle East Concern)

Four Christian converts, including two sisters, have been arrested and detained in the western city of Ahvaz.

Shima Zanganeh, 27, and her sister Shoukoufeh, 30, Farzad Behzadi, 30, and Abdollah Yousefi, 34, were arrested in a series of raids by plainclothes Revolutionary Guards on their homes and workplaces on the morning of 2 December. 

Many of their personal items were confiscated, including books, phones and computers.

The two sisters were assaulted during their interrogation, while the families of the two men were verbally abused when they went to the Intelligence Office to ask about their loved ones.

For the first few days, it was unclear where any of the four were being held, but after a few days’ detention Shima called her family to let them know that she and her sister were being held at the Amanieh Intelligence Office in Ahvaz.

Farzad then called his sister to tell her to bring two Bibles he had hidden in his room to the Intelligence Office.

On 12 December the sisters were brought before Branch 12 of the Revolutionary Court in Ahvaz, where they were charged with charged with “action against Iran’s national security through evangelism” and their bail was set at 500 million tomans (nearly $45,000) each. They were then transferred to Sepidar Prison.

The Zanganeh family have attempted to pay their bail amount on several occasions, but each time court officials have told them “the judge is not in today”.  

Farzad and Abdollah are being held in a prison in Mollasani, just to the north of Ahvaz. It is not yet clear what charges they are facing.

64-year-old convert released on bail after two weeks in solitary confinement

64-year-old convert released on bail after two weeks in solitary confinement

Sixty-four-year-old Jamshid Derakhshan has been released on bail after two weeks in solitary confinement in Karaj’s Rajaei-Shahr Prison.

Jamshid was interrogated multiple times during his incarceration and told he had been arrested for “spreading evangelical and Zionist Christianity”. “Zionist Christianity” is a term used by the Iranian regime to describe evangelical Christianity as a whole.

He was also accused of links with Israel and of playing a role in the “rapid expansion of Christianity in Iran”.

Since his conversion to Christianity 30 years ago, Jamshid, whose bail was set at 40 million tomans (around $8,500), has been summoned to court three times and fired from his job as an aviation officer.

He was arrested on 30 November at a “house church” gathering in Hashtgerd, but his family received no news of his arrest until he called them from the prison two weeks later, on 12 December, to tell them he was soon to be released on bail.

64-year-old convert who disappeared two weeks ago is in prison

64-year-old convert who disappeared two weeks ago is in prison

A 64-year-old convert to Christianity who failed to come home from a visit to a “house church” in Hashtgerd on 30 November has spent the last two weeks in Karaj’s Rajaie-Shahr Prison.

Jamshid Derakhshan, who has been a Christian for 30 years, called home on 12 December to tell his family he will soon be released on bail. 

Before his call, his family had had no knowledge of his whereabouts since his disappearance. Attempts to find out information from government agencies proved fruitless.

Article18 understands that his family are concerned for his health, as he suffers from a stomach illness, and that after his conversion to Christianity he was fired from a job with a government organisation.

114 Christians arrested in one week

114 Christians arrested in one week

At least 114 Christians have been arrested in the past week following a series of raids in nine different cities across Iran.

Most of those arrested were released after a few hours, but only after they had written down details of their Christian activities and been ordered to have no more contact with other Christians.

Their mobile devices were confiscated and they were told they would soon hear from Ministry of Intelligence.

Those suspected of being leaders of “house churches” remain in detention.

These latest arrests mean that in total at least 142 Christians have been arrested in the past month.

The government-sanctioned Mehr news agency reported that some of those arrested were foreign nationals who had assumed Iranian identities, as reported by Radio Farda.

Mehr said the Christians, referred to as “Zionists”, had close links with Israel and desired to weaken Islam and especially the Islamic Republic of Iran.