Mahrokh Kanbari (65) is serving a one-year prison sentence 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.
Mahrokh Kanbari’s full name is Rokhsareh, but she prefers to be known as Mahrokh. She was arrested when three intelligence agents raided a small Christian gathering at her home in Karaj on 20 December 2018. 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.”
Her case has attracted international attention. On 2 August, 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 has a husband and children.
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 Mahrokh was summoned to Shahid Kachooei Prison in Karaj to begin serving her sentence.
(Article 18/International Christian Concern/Middle East Concern)