IRAN: Parents of Christian detained in unknown location “very worried”

Iman GolzarChristian convert Iman Golzar (pictured), who was arrested at his home in Dezful, western Iran at midnight on 16 January, remains in detention in an unknown location.

Plainclothes agents from the Ministry of Intelligence who arrested Iman showed no warrant and confiscated his computer and CCTV cameras before taking him away.

There has been no news of him since, despite the efforts of his parents, who are deaf, to find out where he is being detained. Iranian Christian news site Mohabat News reports that his parents are “very worried about him” but that they were warned that if they did not stop asking questions about Iman they would be “dealt with”.

Dezful convert Esmaeil Narimanpour in detention since Christmas

Esmaeil NarimanipourAnother Christian convert from Dezful, Esmaeil Narimanpour (pictured) remains in detention since a raid on his home at 6 pm on Christmas Eve. The arresting agents searched Esmaeil’s home and confiscated his Christian books, though they did not have a warrant.

Esmaeil was able to call his family briefly on Christmas Day to tell them that he was being held in Ahvaz, 150km south of Dezful but when his wife and brother went to follow up on his case they were questioned and detained for several hours.

Esmaeil was one of a group of eight converts from Dezful cleared of “propaganda” charges in 2021 but forced to attend Islamic “re-education” classes in 2022. The eight converts had been detained for two days in April 2021 because of their house-church activities and summoned three months later to answer charges of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran”.

In a significant ruling in November 2021, the prosecutor of the Civil and Revolutionary Court of Dezful ruled that the eight Christians had done nothing illegal and therefore could not be charged. He said that their change of religion was not a punishable offence according to the laws of Iran and stated that they “merely converted to a different religion” and “didn’t carry out any propaganda against other groups”, adding that while apostasy from Islam is something that can be punished under Sharia law “and in the hereafter”, it has “not been criminalised in the laws of Iran” and therefore the men could not be charged.

More Christmas arrests

Article 18 reports that least three other Christians were arrested over the Christmas period in separate incidents in the cities of Ahvaz and Izeh, but is not at liberty to provide any more information at this stage.

In addition, four converts including an Afghan refugee were arrested on 11 December after a raid carried out by thirty intelligence agents on a house-church gathering of 25 Christians in Shahriar, 30 km west of Tehran.

Article18’s director Mansour Borji commented: “We are outraged that Christians in Iran have yet again been arrested during the Christmas season, when the Iranian government has continued its pattern of intimidation and crackdown on Christians during this holy season. We’re particularly concerned for the safety and well-being of those detained, and especially for the Afghan refugee, who is even more vulnerable.”

Convert brothers detained and conditionally released

Alireza and Amir NourmohammadiMeanwhile, brothers Alireza and Amir Nourmohammadi have been released on bail following their arrest in December but still face prosecution on charges of engaging in “deviant educational or propaganda activities contrary to the holy Islamic law by making false claims in religious fields”.

Intelligence agents arrested the brothers along with Milad Goodarzi (who like them is a convert) in coordinated raids in Karaj, near Tehran, on 11 December. Milad was released after questioning, but Alireza and Amir were detained until 10 January.

Alireza and Milad were previously arrested in December 2017 and  sentenced to four months’ imprisonment for “propaganda against the regime”, while in June 2021 they and another convert, Amin Khaki, were each sentenced to five years in prison for “engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam.” Their sentences were reduced to three years on appeal and they were granted early release as part of an amnesty in March 2023.

(Article 18, Middle East Concern, Mohabat News)

Photos: Mohabat News, Article 18, Middle East Concern