World Watch Monitor

At least seven Iranian Christian converts have been arrested in Iran in the last two weeks, including two sisters who allegedly have been beaten.

Shima Zanganeh, 27, and her sister, Shokoufeh, 30, were arrested by Intelligence Service officials in their homes in Ahvaz, capital of Iran’s western Khuzestan province, on 2nd December, reports Mohabat News.

They were taken to Amanayeh security offices in Ahvaz and then transferred to Sepidar Prison in Ahvaz on Wednesday, 12th December.

The sisters appeared in court last week and were granted conditional release on a bail of 500 million tomans (approximately $US50,000) each.

The family was able to raise the necessary funds, but at each court appearance to secure the sisters’ release, they have been told “the judge is not in today”, the news service said.

It said a reason for the delay could be that authorities want the wounds and bruises of the beatings to fade away before releasing the women.

Prison authorities had informed the Zanganeh family that the sisters were beaten during one of the interrogation sessions and the sisters confirmed this in a later phone call.

On the same day the Zanganeh sisters were arrested, security authorities also raided the homes of Farzad Behzadizadeh, 30, and Abdollah Yousefi, 34, and confiscated Christian books, phones and computers, according to Mohabat.

Behzadizadeh was first apprehended while at work in a customer-support centre for Tejarat Bank and Yousefi was arrested at his home.

After their homes were searched they were both taken in for interrogation and are currently held at a prison in Mollasani, 43 kilometres north of Ahvaz.

Meanwhile, on 6th December, intelligence agents arrested Amir Taleipour, 39, and his wife Mahnaz Harati, 36, at their home in Mashhad, northeast Iran, in front of their seven-year-old daughter, according to Middle East Concern.

The couple have been held in detention and have not been allowed to contact their family or to access legal assistance. Their family is taking care of their daughter.

On 30th November, 64-year-old Jamshid Derakhshan from Karaj, 36km west of Tehran, did not return from a visit to a house church in Hashtgerd city and nothing was heard from him, reports Mohabat.

Until last week Wednesday, 12th December, when he called his family to say he was being held in Rajaee Shahr prison and would be released soon. His family, however, is worried about his health as he suffers from a stomach illness.

Derakhshan has been a convert for 30 years and was fired from his job with a government agency because of his Christian faith, according to Mohabat.

Christian leaders in Iran have said that pressure on Christians increases every year around Christmas but that this year it is particularly severe.

World Watch Monitor reported earlier this month of the arrest of a “staggering” number of Christians in the past weeks – 114 in one week – as part of the government’s attempt to “warn” Christians against proselytising during Christmas.