Five Iranian converts to Christianity submitted themselves to the central detention centre in Karaj on Saturday to begin their jail sentences for “propaganda against the state”.
Manoto News broadcast footage of the Christians, four of whom have young children, waving goodbye to their loved ones.
Amin Khaki, Milad Goodarzi, Yaghoob Nateghi, Shahebedin Shahi and Alireza Nourmohamadi – all members of the non-Trinitarian “Church of Iran” – were arrested during raids on their homes and workplaces in December 2017.
They were released in early 2018 after each posting bail of 30 million tomans (around $7,000).
In March 2019, Milad, Yaghoob, Shahebedin and Alireza were sentenced to four months in prison; Amin, who has already spent a year in prison for his religious activities, was given 14 months.
Their appeals were rejected last month.
Converts to Christianity continue to be targeted in Iran. Just last week, eight converts were arrested in the south-western city of Bushehr. Article18 reported that this took the number of arrests to 34 so far this year. Article18 is now aware of three further arrests – two in Tehran and another in Bushehr – taking the total to at least 37.
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”.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, Javaid Rahman, last week called the treatment of converts in Iran “very disturbing”, and pledged to “look into the issue very seriously”.