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Four Christian converts arrested in Dezful, others interrogated

Four Christian converts arrested in Dezful, others interrogated

Left to right: Alireza Varak-Shah, Hojjat Lotfi Khalaf, Mohammad Ali (Davoud) Torabi, and Esmaeil Narimanpour. (MEC)

Four Christian converts have been arrested and others summoned for interrogation by intelligence agents in the southwestern city of Dezful.

Hojjat Lotfi Khalaf, Esmaeil Narimanpour, Alireza Varak-Shah, and Mohammad Ali Torabi, also known as Davoud, were arrested on Monday, 19 April.

The following day – yesterday – a number of other converts were summoned for interrogation, though precisely how many is not yet known.

Esmaeil and Hojjat were arrested during morning raids on their homes, while Davoud was detained after intelligence agents came to his shop, then took him with them to search his home.

The details of Alireza’s arrest are as yet unknown. 

According to Mohabat News, only Davoud, who has been arrested before for his Christian activities, was permitted to call home to let his family know he was safe.

Davoud was detained for over a month following his last arrest, in October 2017, before being released on bail of 200 million tomans (around $60,000). 

It was also reported at that time that Davoud and another Christian convert arrested alongside him, Abdul Ali Pourmand, had been forced to sign two blank pieces of paper, raising concerns these could be used as evidence they had confessed their crimes or renounced their faith.

Abdul Ali also told his family from prison that he had been ordered to take part in Islamic prayers but refused.

Though Christianity is a recognised minority religion in Iran’s constitution, converts to Christianity are not recognised as Christians and are therefore not permitted any of the rights afforded Christians, such as worshipping in a church building or partaking in Christian rituals such as Holy Communion. (Last year two Christian converts were flogged for doing the latter.)

Because they have no access to church buildings, converts instead meet together in their homes, known as “house-churches”, but these are routinely raided by intelligence agents and the attendees arrested on charges of membership of “hostile” groups acting “against national security”.

Over a dozen Iranian Christians are currently serving prison sentences on such charges, while two others who completed their prison sentences are now in enforced exile, and many more await the outcome of court cases related only to their Christian faith and activities.