Converts cleared of any crime must now attend ‘re-education’ classes

Converts cleared of any crime must now attend ‘re-education’ classes

Left to right: Mohammad Ali (Davoud) Torabi, Mohammad Kayidgap, Esmaeil Narimanpour, and Alireza Varak-Shah, four of the eight Christian converts cleared of any criminal offence.

A group of Christian converts cleared of any wrongdoing in November are now being forced to undertake “re-education” classes in the Islamic faith.

The Christians, from the western city of Dezful, were called by intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) late on Friday night and told they must come to see them the next morning.

Some of the Christians – 10 in all, including the eight who were cleared in November of any crime – went as instructed, at 10am on Saturday, despite their lawyer telling them it was against the law to be summoned over the phone.

“I told my clients not to go, and to say, ‘We have a lawyer, so summon us legally,’” Iman Soleimani explained. “But they were anxious and worried.”

Those who didn’t attend the meeting were then called and asked why they hadn’t.

The Christians were then informed that, as they had been “misled”, 10 sessions with Islamic clerics would soon be arranged, to “guide them back onto the right path”.

A growing trend

As highlighted in Article18’s latest annual report, published last week, the IRGC is increasingly involved in the harassment and prosecution of Christians.

In 2021, Revolutionary Guards were responsible for 12 of the 38 documented incidents of arrests of Christians or raids on their homes or house-churches. 

And one of those 12 incidents involved this group of Christians in Dezful, for whom the IRGC was responsible for their initial arrest, the threats made against them, the charges brought, the confiscation of their property, and now these compulsory “re-education” classes. 

And, as in the confiscation of their property, once again the IRGC is acting outside the bounds of the law by refusing to accept the ruling of the prosecutor of the Civil and Revolutionary Court of Dezful, who just two months ago ruled that the Christians had done nothing illegal and therefore could not be charged.

They “merely converted to a different religion”, and “didn’t carry out any propaganda against other groups”, the prosecutor stated, adding that “apostasy” from Islam was something that could be punished under Islamic law (Sharia) “and in the hereafter”, but was “not criminalised in the laws of Iran”.

Despite this, the Christians must now endure 10 compulsory sessions with Islamic clerics, who will attempt to revert them to Islam in what is a clear breach of their rights under the international covenants to which Iran is a signatory.

Such so-called “re-education” sessions have become much more common in recent years, even appearing in the list of “corrective punishments” on official court papers, and will be the subject of an upcoming Article18 report.

Quoting the contents of this article in part is permitted. However, no part of it may be used for any fundraising appeal, or for any publication where donations are requested.