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.

Meanwhile, Farzad, after reportedly being threatened and beaten, 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.

Recently, Iranian state-sponsored media reported the arrest of a number of citizens, including foreigners, on charges of “affiliation with the Zionist Christianity movement”, and the confiscation of evangelical books and CDs from the detainees, alleging that they sought to “conquer Iran,” and that “documents in this regard, as well as insults to Islam, Shiites, and the Shiite Ahl al-Bayt [Muhammad’s family], have been uncovered.”

One of these media outlets, affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, claimed “the detained gang members … were directly led by the Zionist regime [Israel], while promoting and propagating Christianity in different parts of Iran. They also attracted a lot of people to evangelical Christianity.”

Dozens of Christians – possibly in excess of 100 – have been arrested in various parts of Iran in recent weeks, though exact figures are not yet known.