Five more Iranian converts to Christianity have been arrested in recent weeks, three of whom are still being detained.
Church leader Mohammed Ali Torabi, 39, was arrested on 10 October in the western city of Dezful, and is being held in an unknown location. Two other converts were arrested alongside him but later released, according to advocacy group Article 18.
Meanwhile, Mehrdad Houshmand and his wife Sarah were arrested, interrogated and then detained in the capital, Tehran, for participating in a Christian funeral service, including “reading prayers based on Christian teachings”.
Kiaa Aalipour from Article 18 told World Watch Monitor the Iranian government “sees Christian converts as a constant threat to the Islamic identity of the Islamic Republic of Iran”.
“The Iranian regime is very fearful of the growth of Christianity in Iran,” he said. “If more and more Iranians convert to Christianity, the legitimacy of the Iranian regime, which is based on an Islamic theocracy, will be totally lost.”
Christians are thought to make up only around 1 per cent (around 800,000) of Iran’s roughly 80 million people, although precise numbers are difficult to determine. The country is eighth on the Open Doors 2017 World Watch List of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian. At least 193 Christians were arrested or imprisoned in Iran in 2016 – many of them converts. In recent months, more than a dozen Christians have been sentenced to at least ten years in prison for “acting against national security”.