Iran: Christian converts charged with ‘engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to Islam’

May 14, 2021

The persecution of Amin Khaki, Milad Goodarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi is not unique. The Iranian government often targets converts to Christianity as apostates, which is a criminal offense in Iran. However, in this case they were charged with “engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam.” That charge comes close to criminalizing the very practice of the Christian faith, or of any faith that is contrary to Islam.

The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, continues to request that the government of Iran grant full religious freedom to all of its citizens, not interfering with their freedom of worship in any way, and immediately clear these seven converts.

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“Christian converts charged under Iran’s newly amended ‘propaganda’ law,” Article 18, May 12, 2021:

Three Christian converts in Fardis, near Tehran, have become the first known examples of Christians being charged under the contentious recent amendments to the Iranian penal code.

Amin Khaki, Milad Goodarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi, who have already spent time in prison for their Christian activities, have been charged in the past two weeks with “engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam” – wording lifted directly from the newly amended Article 500 of the penal code.

They were each forced to submit bail of 250 million tomans (around $12,000) and told they must report weekly to the intelligence branch of Iran’s police force for the next six months.

The fresh charges against Amin, Milad and Alireza follow coordinated raids by intelligence agents on their homes, and on the homes of nine other Christian families in Fardis, in November 2020.

None of the Christians were arrested at that time, but many of their personal belongings were confiscated – including phones, laptops, Bibles, Christian literature and anything else to do with Christianity.

The Christian items have not been returned.

Then in the space of two weeks in January and February 2021, a member of each family was summoned for interrogation and ordered to sign commitments to refrain from meeting together – either in person or online.

As Article18 noted at the time, Iranian Christians are routinely asked during interrogations to sign commitments to refrain from gathering together in house-churches, but this was the first known example of intelligence officials demanding they sign a commitment to have no further social engagements together at all, including online.

And once again, it was a direct result of the newly amended Article 500, which prohibits “psychological manipulation” or so-called “mind control” by members of “sects” – in the “real or virtual sphere”, i.e. in person or online.

When the Christians refused to sign the commitments, they were threatened with long prison sentences and told it would be better for them if they left the country.

And while only Amin, Milad and Alireza have so far been officially charged, the other Christians have also been threatened with imprisonment or other ramifications, such as employment restrictions….