Iran arrests Christian convert activist after criticizing regime's 'soft repression'

Iran flag in Tehran
Iran flag in Tehran | Getty Images

Concerns are being raised internationally about the well-being of an Iranian Christian convert who was arrested during an anti-government protest in Tehran last week. 

The Human Rights Activists News Agency first reported on the arrest of 21-year-old Christian convert Fatemeh Mohammadi, who prefers to go by the name “Mary” since her spiritual conversion. 

Mohammadi was detained near Azadi Square in Tehran, where protests occurred after the Iranian military shot down a Ukranian passenger plane and killed 176 people. 

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Although several people were arrested in connection with protests that took place in multiple cities, it is not clear whether Mohammadi was participating in any of the protests. 

Article 18, a United Kingdom-based watchdog group that promotes religious freedom and tolerance for Christians in Iran, reports that Mohammadi published a series of tweets on the day she was arrested, saying that the Iranian people faced “soft repression” in Iran as the regime creates “false beliefs through selective coverage of the news.”

Mohammadi reportedly used hashtags in her tweets that translate to English as “hard-pressed” and “suppression is the norm.” She reportedly accused the regime of spreading ”lies that are bigger and more repetitive make them more believable.”

Iran Human Rights Watch reported on Sunday that even a week after Mohammadi’s arrest “authorities have released no information on her whereabouts and condition.”

This is not the first time that Mohammadi has been detained by authorities in the Islamic Republic. 

She was arrested in 2017 during a raid on an underground house church meeting and later sentenced to six months in prison. Mohammadi served her time in the women’s ward of Iran’s notorious Evin prison. 

She wrote an open letter to Iran’s Minister of Intelligence Mahmoud Alavi last May accusing him of targeting Christians and violating the constitution, HRANA reported at the time. 

In her letter, Mohammadi also questioned why Christian converts in Iran must refrain from talking about their faith while Muslims are free to discuss their faith in public settings. 

In June 2018, Mohammadi wrote another open letter detailing the mistreatment she suffered while in prison. 

According to HRANA, Mohammadi accused interrogators of pressuring her to admit to having illicit sexual relations even though she hadn’t. 

She even said interrogators even asked her to make up a story about sexual relations that they can enjoy. 

Last December, Mohammadi took to social media to complain after she was deemed ineligible to take classes at Azad University and not given a reason why. Mohammadi’s denial comes as other religious minorities have reportedly been denied equal access to education in Iran. 

Last July, Mohammadi was arrested again for improperly wearing her hijab. According to Article 18, she was arrested while trying to report that she had been assaulted. She was detained for hours and released with a warning. 

Iran ranks as the ninth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution on Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List. The ranking comes as the government regularly persecutes converts from Islam.

Open Doors USA reports that 169 Christians were arrested in Iran during the organization’s 2019 reporting period — Nov. 1, 2018, to Oct. 31, 2019.

Iran has consistently been labeled by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for egregious violations of religious freedom. 

Johnnie Moore, an evangelical communications executive who serves on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, tweeted in support of Mohammadi. Moore explained that he is praying for God to protect Mohammadi and “everyone subject to those in Iran who traffic in inhumanity and who wield injustice to preserve their own personal power.”

“God, judge them for using & defaming your own name as they do so,” Moore wrote. 

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

or Facebook: SamuelSmithCP

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