FATEMEH BAKHTERI

Fatemeh BakhteriFatemeh Bakhteri (37) is a convert from Islam who was arrested in a raid on a house church meeting in her home in Rasht, northern Iran, in May 2017. In August 2019, she began serving a one-year sentence in Tehran’s Evin prison for “spreading propaganda against the regime”, to be followed by a two-year ban on all social activities involving more than two people. Another convert, Saheb Fadaie, was arrested at the same house church meeting and is also in Evin prison.

Fatemeh Bakhteri was first summoned for interrogation in 2016 and was threatened with re-arrest if she continued to meet with other converts. She continued to attend house church meetings, however, as she did not see anything illegal in gathering with others to worship.

On 25 May 2017, Fatemeh was hosting a house church meeting at her home in Rasht when the authorities raided it and arrested her and Saheb Fadaie. They belong to the Church of Iran group led by Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.

Fatemeh was threatened and ridiculed for her Christian faith. Security agents harassed her for over a year prior to her sentencing, and she was summoned for interrogation on at least one occasion.

On 22 September 2018, the lawyer representing Fatemeh and her co-defendant Saheb Fadaie was informed of the decision reached at a court hearing earlier in the month that they had been sentenced to twelve and 18 months respectively in prison for “spreading propaganda against the regime”. The verdict stated that believing in the Bible’s authority and Jesus as Lord are attacks against Islam.

Fatemeh’s sentence includes a two-year ban on all social activities involving more than two people following her release. On 23 July 2019, Article18 reported that for Fatemeh the prospect of a jail sentence is not as hard as the two-year ban on social activities, which effectively cuts her off from gathering with other Christians.

Saheb was also sentenced to two years’ internal exile in Nehbandan, near the border with Afghanistan, but he is already serving a separate ten-year prison sentence for “establishing a house church” and “promoting Zionist Christianity” and is in Evin prison along with three other members of their Rasht church, including Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani.

At Fatemeh and Saheb’s appeal hearing in Tehran in January 2019, the presiding judges pressurised them to renounce their faith. When they refused, the judges told them to expect their verdict in a few days. They had to wait until May, when they were notified that their sentences had been upheld.

Through the summer, Fatemeh had to live with the knowledge that she might be summoned at any time to begin her sentence. Eventually she received a summons, and on 31 August 2019 she presented herself at Evin prison to begin serving her sentence. Fatemeh’s friends reported that she was not afraid as she went to prison.

Family

Fatemeh is married. She and her husband live in the city of Rasht in northern Iran.

Timeline

2016 Fatemeh was first summoned for interrogation and threatened with re-arrest if she continued to meet with other converts. She continued to attend house church meetings, however, as she did not see anything illegal in gathering with others to worship.

25 May 2017 Fatemeh was hosting a house church meeting at her home in Rasht when the authorities arrested her and another convert, Saheb Fadaie.

22 September 2018 The lawyer representing Fatemeh and her co-defendant Saheb Fadaie was informed of the decision reached at a court hearing earlier in the month that they had been sentenced to twelve and 18 months respectively in prison for “spreading propaganda against the regime”. The verdict stated that believing in the Bible’s authority and Jesus as Lord are attacks against Islam. Fatemeh’s sentence includes a two-year ban on all social activities involving more than two people following her release, which effectively cuts her off from gathering with other Christians.

15 January 2019 At Fatemeh and Saheb’s appeal hearing in Tehran, the presiding judges pressurised them to renounce their faith. When they refused, the judges told them to expect their verdict in a few days.

18 May 2019 Fatemeh and Saheb were notified that their sentences had been upheld. Through the summer, Fatemeh had to live with the knowledge that she might be summoned at any time to begin her sentence.

31 August 2019 Fatemeh presented herself at Tehran’s Evin Prison to begin serving her sentence.

Read more about the persecution of Christians in Iran.

(Article 18/Middle East Concern)