Iranian Christian Targeted for Faith, Sentenced to Year in Prison

A 65-year-old Iranian woman named Mahrokh Kanbari has been sentenced to a year in prison by the Islamic Revolutionary Court in Karaj after being charged with “propaganda against the system.”

Kanbari, a Christian convert, was arrested by three Iranian intelligent agents at her home last Christmas Eve for “acting against national security.” Authorities allegedly confiscated mobile phones, Bibles and other Biblical materials before taking Kanbari to intelligence offices where she was subjected to ten days of intense interrogation.

Kanbari was released after paying a bail of 30 million Toman ($2,500), but was later officially charged with acting against national security in January. According to International Christian Response, Kanbari was instructed to see a religious leader in order to convert back to Islam.

“This is part of a continued downward trend of religious freedom for Christians in Iran,” International Christian Concern wrote in a press release. “The officially Islamic government views Christianity as an inherent national security threat. Generally, human rights do not exist within Iran, but for Christians, the situation is even more dire given the regime’s perspective of them.”

In July, Dabrina Bet Tamaraz, whose father, mother and brother have been imprisoned in Iran, attended the U.S. State Department Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom. In 2017, Dabrina’s father, a pastor, was sentenced to 10 years in prison under the same charge as Kanbari for planting house churches and promoting Christianity.

In his speech to the ministerial, Vice President Mike Pence said, “Pastor Bet Tamraz and his family are an inspiration to freedom-loving people the world over.” And President Trump promised Dabrina he would discuss the religious freedom of Iranian Christians when negotiating with Iran in the future.

“The effective designation of Christian doctrine as an attack on Islam amounts to the criminalization of the Christian faith,” said Christian Solidarity Worldwide chief executive Mervyn Thomas.

According to Open Doors USA’s 2019 World Watch List, Iran ranks as the ninth worst country in the world for Christian persecution.