The Iranian government targets converts to Christianity because it considers them to be apostate and threats to the state. 

The U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a “country of particular concern” for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“‘They tortured me with their threats,’” Article 18, March 4, 2022:

Ehsan Khoshgoo was a university student when he was arrested at a Tehran house-church gathering in November 2015.

When he was released on bail six weeks later, he was told he could no longer study at the university and that if he went back there, he would be arrested and sent back to prison.

By the start of the next academic year, Ehsan had fled the country.

A year later, he was sentenced in absentia to five years in prison.

Why? Because Ehsan had converted to Christianity as a teenager and joined a house-church, where, he explains, “we would meet each week to pray and praise together, and share testimonies with each other”.

For this, Ehsan and two of his friends were charged with “acting against national security through participation in house-church meetings, and connection to Christian ministries abroad”.

The charge sheet even named two of the foreign organisations Ehsan was supposedly connected to: a missionary organisation and theological college.

Ehsan says he was actually “too busy” to enrol at the theological college because of his university studies and work at an estate agency, but that “they wrote similar things on the charge sheet of many Christians, and only some were actually studying at the college”.

Why it should be problematic to study Christian theology in the first place is another question, but in Ehsan’s case this aspect of his official charge simply wasn’t true.

Ehsan was informed of the charges against him the day after his arrest, when he was taken from his solitary cell to the interrogator’s office at Tehran’s Evin Prison.

Ehsan was kept in solitary confinement for the first two weeks after his arrest, and only allowed out of the cell to be taken, blindfolded, for interrogation.

In those two weeks, Ehsan estimates that he was interrogated 12 times – each time for “between one and two and a half hours”.

“I had two interrogators,” he explains. “One of them, called Haj Agha Hosseini, was in charge, and he was also there at the time of our arrest. He spoke very insultingly and harshly. But alongside him there was another interrogator who spoke more kindly.”

Good cop. Bad cop.

During the interrogations, Ehsan was given a sheet of paper with a list of questions on it, such as: “What are the names of the people in charge of your meetings? Which organisation are you cooperating with? And who supports you?”

“Since I had visited Turkey twice to attend Christian seminars, I was also asked about those trips and why I had attended those seminars and what I had done there,” he adds.

Ehsan says that while he wasn’t physically beaten, “they tortured me with their threats”….