A mother and son—Anousheh Reza-bakhsh and Soheil Zagarzadeh Sani—were arrested in Iran’s West Azerbaijan Province on February 20, after a raid of their home uncovered bibles and other books on Christian theology. Plain-clothed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers took the two from their home, and transported them to an undisclosed location.
Rezabakhsh and Zargarzadeh—a senior year psychology student—had recently converted to Catholicism, but the Iranian government considers leaving Islam a crime worthy of death. Neither have any criminal history. They are both are reportedly suffering health problems, but there has been no news of them since their arrest.
The raid and arrest took place in Urmia, the capital of the West Azerbaijan Province and home to almost 700,000 people.
Christianity is growing in Iran, but believers—especially Muslim converts—must meet in secret. Julie Lenarz, the executive director of the London-based Human Security Centre, told Fox News that Christians in Iran:
… are convicted in sham trials and linger in jail for years as prisoners of conscience. They face harassment, torture or even execution.
Open Doors’ 2017 World Watch List ranks Iran as the eighth worst persecutor of Christians worldwide.