Abdol-Ali Pourmand (Mohabat News)

An Iranian convert to Christianity has been arrested in the western city of Dezful, the fourth such convert arrested in the city in recent weeks.

Abdol-Ali Pourmand was arrested on Saturday (21 October) after a raid on his home two days before, during which materials including Bibles and Christian CDs were confiscated.

His arrest follows that of fellow convert Mohammed Ali Torabi, still detained after almost two weeks, and two others who were later released.

Pourmand, married for just two months, told his wife by telephone that he would soon be released, but Torabi’s family received similar news and he has not yet been freed. Both Pourmand and Torabi have been transferred to Ahvaz, the provincial capital, 150km south of Dezful.

Mohabat News reports that all four converts were “beaten in prison and threatened that if they don’t renounce their faith in Christ and turn away from their Christian faith, they will be forced to leave the country or be beaten to death”.

Kiaa Aalipour from advocacy organisation Article 18 told World Watch Monitor: “Article 25 of the Charter on Citizens’ Rights, which was revealed early in Rouhani’s presidency in November 2013, states that ‘Citizens have freedom of thought. Inquisition is prohibited, and no-one can be persecuted merely for his or her beliefs’. Article 99 states: ‘Holding and attending religious rituals of the religions identified in the Constitution (Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism) is permitted.’

“The Charter was widely seen as a major step by Rouhani’s administration to improve the situation of human rights in Iran. However, Rouhani’s early promises have not been implemented. During his term, there has been continuing systematic persecution and discrimination against Christians and other religious minorities in Iran.

“Many Christians from a Muslim background and even recognised Christians [such as ethnic Armenians and Assyrians] have been arrested and received heavy and lengthy jail sentences. Furthermore, there are continuing concerns about the health of prisoners of conscience in Iran. In many cases, the prison authorities refuse to let them receive adequate medical treatment.”