Iranian who converted 40 years ago arrested in Shiraz

Iranian who converted 40 years ago arrested in Shiraz

An Iranian who converted to Christianity nearly 40 years ago was arrested in Shiraz on Friday morning by plainclothes officers claiming to be from the Ministry of Intelligence.

Esmaeil Maghrebinezhad, 64, has been regularly harassed by Iran’s security forces since his conversion in the early 1980s. Sources close to him told Article18 that around ten years after his conversion, an attempt was made on his life, which he only narrowly survived.

After his arrest on Friday, Esmaeil was taken by the officers to his home, where they conducted a search of the property and confiscated many of his personal belongings, including his laptop, mobile phone, Christian books and daily notebook. 

The officials said that they had a search warrant for his premises, but did not allow Esmaeil to see it.

After he had been taken away, family members attempted to contact the authorities to find out where he had been taken. They were told that Esmaeil was not being held in any of their detention centres, so they should register him as a missing person.

Esmaeil has since contacted his family, but only to report that he does not know where he is being held, nor on what charges.

His late wife, Mahvash, also converted to Christianity in 1999, but when she died, in 2013, Esmaeil was prevented from burying her in a Christian cemetery, despite a letter from the head of the Anglican Church in Iran, Bishop Azad Marshall, stating that Mahvash was a “committed member of the Anglican Church in Iran, who had been baptised and confirmed”.

Instead, her body was taken to a Muslim cemetery, where she was buried following a Muslim ceremony in the presence of security guards, with only five family members allowed to attend.

Mahvash had also been interrogated on numerous occasions during the first years after her husband’s conversion. She was also fired from her job.

Earlier this month, Article18 published its inaugural annual report, noting the “unprecedented” wave of arrests of Christians that took place at the end of 2018 – a pattern that appears to be continuing into 2019. In one week alone, 114 Christians were arrested in raids on “house churches” in ten different cities.

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.