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Iranian Catholic Converts Arrested in Northwestern Iran

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Iranhumanrights.org - Two Iranian Catholic converts have been arrested in their home by the Revolutionary Guards in West Azerbaijan Province, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.

"At 7 a.m. on February 20 (2017), two plainclothes intelligence agents of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) entered the home of Christian converts Anoohe Rezabakhsh and her son Sohail (Augustin) Zargarzadeh in Oroumiyeh (city) without prior notice and searched the premises and took away personal items such as religious and holy books," Mansour Borji, the spokesperson for the Alliance of Iranian Churches known as Hamgam, told CHRI on March 3, 2017.

Borji added that both mother and son had converted to Catholicism from Islam.

No information was available on Anoohe Rezabakhsh's background, but her son is a university student in his fourth year of undergraduate studies in psychology and is personally interested in religious studies, Borji, who is based in London, told CHRI.

In August 2016, the Intelligence Ministry arrested a Christian and four Christian converts near Tehran, CHRI reported at the time.

Ramil Bet Tamraz, Amin Afshar Naderi, Hadi Asgari, Amir Saman Dashti and Mohammad Dehnavi remain in Evin Prison in Tehran, Borji told CHRI.

Ramil Bet Tamraz, the son of Victor Bet Tamraz, the former leader of Iran's Assyrian Pentecostal Church, was arrested on Christmas Eve in 2014 with two other people and accused of illegally printing and distributing Bibles for missionary activities. Amin Afshar Naderi was also arrested that night, according to Borji.

Both men were later released on bail.

Despite President Hassan Rouhani's pledges during his election campaign in 2013 that "all ethnicities, all religions, even religious minorities, must feel justice," the targeting of Christian converts has continued unabated under his administration.