Mahrokh Kanbari (64) was imprisoned from October 2019 to March 2020 in Iran for “propaganda against the system”. A convert from Islam, she was arrested in a raid on her home in Karaj in December 2018 and imprisoned in October 2019. She was given temporary release in March 2020 and was unconditionally released from the rest of her sentence in April 2020.
LATEST NEWS (January 2022) Mahrokh was summoned to face the same charge of “propaganda against the system” again.
Mahrokh Kanbari’s full name is Rokhsareh, but she prefers to be known as Mahrokh. She was arrested on 20 December 2018 when three intelligence agents raided a small Christian gathering at her home in Karaj. They arrested four visiting Christian converts as well, women from different church groups whose names were not made public.
The agents searched Mahrokh’s home and confiscated belongings including her phone, Bibles and other Christian materials. They took her to their offices, where she was detained for ten days’ intense interrogation from morning until evening before being conditionally released on bail.
In January 2019, Mahrokh was brought before the prosecutor to answer charges of “acting against national security”. She was forced to visit an Islamic cleric to receive religious instruction and direction to reconvert to Islam.
In July, Mahrokh was tried and sentenced to a year in prison for “propaganda against the system”, and in October she was summoned to Shahid Kachuooei Prison in Karaj to begin serving her sentence. Charges of “acting against national security” and “propaganda against the system” are common against Christian converts from Islam.
Before going to prison, Mahrokh recorded a short video message in which she said Ministry of Intelligence agents arrested her “for the crime of believing in Jesus Christ”. She added: “I hope the persecution and imprisonment I endure glorify the name of Jesus Christ.”
Mahrokh became a Christian over 15 years ago and is known for always being ready and willing to give time and energy to help those in need. When her pastor was in prison, she took his wife to visit twice a month over a three-year period. Mahrokh is thankful for the blessings of fellowship with another Christian woman in the prison and the opportunity to weave carpets in the prison workshop. She loves going out and about and enjoys picnics, so when she was granted five days’ leave from prison in January 2020, she and her husband Ali went to the forest.
Mahrokh’s case has attracted international attention. On 2 August 2019, United States Vice President Mike Pence tweeted: “I am appalled to hear reports that Iran’s despotic rulers have punished yet another Christian woman for exercising her freedom to worship. Iran must free Mahrokh Kanbari today. Whether Sunni, Sufi, Baha’i, Jewish or Christian, America will stand up for people of faith in Iran like Mahrokh.”
Mahrokh had served four months of her sentence when she was given temporary release in March 2020 as part of the authorities’ efforts to combat the spread of Covid-19 in Iran’s overcrowded prisons, and in April 2020 the prison authorities informed her that she was unconditionally released from the remainder of her sentence.
Mahrokh’s husband Fathalli is elderly and has health issues that make it difficult for him to cope without her. They have two adult sons, not Christians, and had a third son, a Christian, who died.
20 December 2018 Mahrokh was arrested during a raid on a small Christian gathering at her home. Belongings were confiscated and she was detained for ten days’ intense interrogation before being released on bail.
January 2019 Mahrokh was brought before the prosecutor to answer charges of “acting against national security”. She was forced to visit an Islamic cleric to receive religious instruction and direction to reconvert to Islam.
27 July 2019 Mahrokh was tried at a hearing of Karaj Islamic Revolutionary Court. Commenting on the court hearing, Mahrokh’s friends said the judge was very rude and tried to humiliate her after she disagreed with him.
29 July 2019 Mahrokh was was notified of her sentence of one year in prison for “propaganda against the system”.
13 October 2019 Following a failed appeal, Mahrokh was summoned to Shahid Kachooei Prison in Karaj to begin serving her sentence.
10 January 2020 Mahrokh was allowed out of prison for five days. She and Ali went to spend time in the forest.
2 March 2020 Mahrokh was given temporary release of 36 days on bail, as part of the authorities’ efforts to combat the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Iran’s overcrowded prisons.
24 March 2020 It was announced that Mahrokh’s release period was being extended to 19 April.
2 April 2020 Mahrokh was informed by prison authorities that she was unconditionally released from the remainder of her one year prison sentence.
January 2022 Mahrokh was summoned to face the same charge of “propaganda against the system” again.
(Article 18/International Christian Concern/Middle East Concern)