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Iran: ‘If you won’t recant your faith, you’re no longer my sister!’

The Iranian government targets converts to Christianity such as Arina because it considers them to be apostate and threats to the state. That is why some converts have been charged with offenses such as “propaganda against the Islamic Republic by promoting evangelical Christianity.” Iranian authorities regard preaching the Christian Faith as propaganda against the state.

Iranian law grants some limited freedoms to the Christians, but they are generally not considered applicable to converts from Islam to Christianity, who are all too often considered enemies of the state, as we see in this case. 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 ChristianPersecution.com coverage of Iran, see here.

“‘If you won’t recant your faith, you’re no longer my sister!,’” Article 18, August 13, 2021:

When Arina’s brother came to visit her in prison, he told her that if she refused to give up her Christian faith, he would no longer consider her his sister.

Like her interrogators before him, Arina’s brother told her she had been “deceived” into converting to Christianity and said he felt guilty for not supporting her enough through her divorce.

Arina replied: “I have been a Christian for three years now, and I am active in the church. My faith isn’t an emotional reaction to what I’ve been through. I have come to faith as a result of personal research, and I’m not willing to give it up.”

Arina, whose full name is Fatemeh Zarei, was one of half a dozen Christian women arrested during a raid on a house-church leader’s meeting in Shahinshahr, near Isfahan, in February 2013.

It was around 8.30pm when the agents arrived. By 10pm, they were ushering Arina out of the apartment, into her own car.

Two agents accompanied her, while another followed in a separate car.

Throughout the 45-minute drive to her home in Isfahan, Arina says “they humiliated and insulted me as much as they could, and said such nasty things to me”.

But what really worried Arina was the thought of her elderly mother, whom Arina cared for and helped to get ready for bed.

During the raid, Arina says she “begged the agents and their supervisor many times” to let her phone her mother, while “at the same time my mother kept calling, and the phone rang continuously”.

Eventually, she was allowed to answer, and told her mother she was “still at work and wouldn’t be home until later”.

But now Arina was on her way home, she says she was “very worried that their presence in our home would cause my mother to have a stroke through shock and anxiety, so I did everything to warn them about this danger, but it was useless and they insisted on coming with me to my home anyway”.

Arina was somehow able to shield her mother from the reality of the raid, leaving the agents to search the property while she put her to bed. But she says she remained scared that at any moment her mother might wake up, particularly after the agents discovered that the family received some governmental aid because one of her brothers had been killed in the Iran-Iraq War.

“Seeing our Martyrs Foundation card, one agent was filled with anger and rage,” Arina explains. “He raised his voice, and began to swear and say inappropriate things. He was very angry to discover I belonged to a martyr’s family, and that I had become a Christian. I warned him to keep his voice down so my mother wouldn’t wake up.”

Finally, after searching her home for more than an hour, the agents told her: “You’ll be our guest for a few days, so collect your clothes and personal things, and bring them with you.”

Arina asked where they were taking her.

“Dastgerd Prison,” came the reply.

At the prison, Arina and her friends were interrogated through the night. The raid had begun at 8.30pm. It wasn’t until 8.30am the next morning that the Christians were finally allowed to go back to their cells to get some sleep.

Arina recalls how an interrogator put a piece of paper in front of her and told her to answer the questions on it.

“One of the questions was about religion,” she says. “I left this part blank, but the interrogator kept coming and leaning over my head and insisting that I write something there. Finally I wrote: ‘Christianity, but Christianity is not a religion but a way to reach God.’

“When the interrogator saw this answer, he kicked me in the thigh so hard that my chair was knocked over, and I fell against the wall….

Read more here.

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