March 17, 2017
In a very unusual move, two Iranian converts to Roman Catholicism have been arrested in their home in Urumiyeh by the Pasdaran, the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI) has learned.
The Islamic Republic has generally not touched the very small number of Roman Catholics in Iran—in part, because the church does not proselytize and, in part, because the Islamic Republic works closely with the Vatican to fight off Western liberals’ efforts to accept such things as homosexuality and same-sex marriage.
It wasn’t clear why the Pasdaran struck at these two converts. Some suspected the Pasdaran wanted to undermine cooperation with the sole major Western institution that works closely with Iran. But others speculated the Pasdaran in Urumiyeh didn’t understand Tehran’s working relationship with the Vatican and just acted against apostates.
Mansour Borji, the spokesperson for the Alliance of Iranian Churches known as Hamgam, told CHRI, “At 7 a.m. on February 20, two plainclothes intelligence agents of the Pasdaran entered the home of Christian converts Anousheh Rezabakhsh and her son Sohail (Augustine) Zargarzadeh in Urumiyeh [city] without prior notice and searched the premises and took away personal items such as religious books.”
Borji said both mother and son had converted to Catholicism from Islam, which is a crime in Iran.
No information was available on the mother’s background, but her son is a university senior majoring in psychology and is personally interested in religious studies, Borji, who is based in London, told CHRI.
The regime has arrested many converts over the years, but most are converts to evangelical churches that are actively seeking converts, efforts the regime wishes to crush. Most Christians in Iran are Armenians. Their churches do not seek members outside their ethnic group, so they run into no conflict with the regime.