Eight converts to Christianity, including five members of one family, were arrested in the southwestern city of Bushehr on Monday, 1 July.
The arresting officers introduced themselves as agents from the Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS).
They stormed the Christians’ homes in a coordinated operation at around 9am, confiscating Bibles, Christian literature, wooden crosses and pictures carrying Christian symbols, along with laptops, phones, all forms of identity cards, bank cards and other personal belongings.
Arresting agents also searched the work offices of at least two Christians and confiscated computer hard drives and security-camera recordings.
The officers are reported to have treated the Christians harshly, even though small children were present during the arrests.
Article18’s sources confirmed the names of the arrested Christians as Sam Khosravi, 36, and his wife Maryam Falahi, 35; Sam’s brother Sasan, 35, and his wife Marjan Falahi, 33; Sam and Sasan’s mother, Khatoon Fatolahzadeh, 61; Pooriya Peyma, 27, and his wife Fatemeh Talebi, 27; and Habib Heydari, 38.
Khatoon Fatolahzadeh, whose arrest came after six cars carrying security officials turned up outside her home, was released the same day due to her age.
Article18 understands that the rest of the Christians remain detained, with no access to lawyers, and are being held in solitary confinement in the MOIS office in Bushehr.
These latest arrests bring the number of Christians arrested in Iran this year to at least 34: eight in Bushehr, nine in Rasht, 12 in Amol, two in Ahvaz, and one each in Hamedan, Shiraz and Isfahan. For security reasons, it has not yet been possible for Article18 to report fully on each incident.
In May, Iran’s Intelligence Minister, Mahmoud Alavi, openly admitted to summoning Christian converts for questioning, saying mass conversions were “happening right before our eyes”.
Speaking in London yesterday, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Javaid Rahman, branded the treatment of Christian converts in Iran as “very disturbing”, saying it was something he was “personally concerned about”, and pledging that in the coming years he will “look into the issue very seriously”.
This isn’t the first incident to have affected Christians in Bushehr. In April, Article18 reported that 16 other converts from Bushehr lost their appeals against prison sentences for “propaganda activities against the regime through the formation of house churches”.