Fatemeh Nouri, an art student at a university in Tehran, was convicted on charges of “attending a house church, insulting sacred figures and activities against national security”.
She had been arrested at her home last September and spent nearly three months behind bars. Tehran’s Revolutionary Court sentenced her to one year of deprivation of education.
Iranian Christian news agency Mohabat News said thatprior to Ms Nouri’s case, such sentences had not been issued for Christian converts, although they had been used to put pressure on members of another persecuted religious group in Iran, the Bahá'í community, as well as dissatisfied university students.
Mohabat News said that the use of this new penalty showed the failure of the regime’s former methods of stopping the spread of Christianity among university students. Attempts have been made to turn converts back to Islam through Islamic courses.
The news agency highlighted that the deprivation of education on religious grounds is against international law; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to education and that higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.
Fatemah’s case is connected to that of Leila Mohammadi, reported by Barnabas Fund earlier this month. She was jailed for two years having been declared guilty of “broad anti-Islamic propaganda, deceiving citizens by forming what is called a house church, insulting sacred figures and activities against national security”.
The crackdown on converts and house churches by the Iranian authorities continues. On 8 February, plain clothes security officers raided a home where Christians had gathered to pray. Ten people were arrested and taken to an unknown location.
Among them is believed to be a man named Mojtaba Hosseini, who was previously arrested in May 2008 with eight other converts because of his Christian faith. On that occasion he had been asked to renounce Christ.