HRANA News Agency – 16 Sunni converts from Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority were arrested on Monday during a Qur’an class in the Shekara district of Ahwaz city, Iran.
According to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), the men were arrested after Iranian security forces raided the house of one of the men, Mohammad Timas Silawi, where the men had gathered for a Qur’an and Arabic language class.
A large number of officers from the Ministry of Intelligence and Iran’s security forces stormed the house, whilst women and children were inside, breaking doors and smashing windows in the process.
Substantial damage was also caused to property whilst the officers searched through the men’s belongings.
The group of Sunni converts, which included two elderly men, were transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence detention center.
The names of the 16 men are: Mohammad Tilas Silawi (Abu Nassar), Nassar Mohammad Tilas Silawi (Abu Anas), Gazban Sayahi, Hamid Haidari (Abu Amjad), Aqeel Saadi, Sayed Jassem Alboshoka (Abu Farooq), Abu Masood Badawi, Hassan Hazbawi (Abu Ali), Mohammad Saadi, Hachem Nasseri, Ahmad Haidari (Abu Howrah), Hossein Bawi, Abbas Sari, Ahmad Bawi, Amin Saadi (Abu Yousri) and his brother Mohammad Saadi.
Two of the detainees, Amin Saadi and Abu Mansoor Saadi, who are both elderly men, were interrogated and later released.
Like most ethnic minorities living in Iran, the Ahwazi Arab minority, who mostly live in the south-west of Iran, have historically endured economic, political and cultural discrimination from the Iranian government.
Numerous men from Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority have been arrested by Iranian security forces after converting to Sunni Islam.
The Shia Iranian government has been alarmed by the rise of Sunni Islam among the Ahwazi Arabs in the traditionally Shia-majority Khuzestan province.
At least ten Sunni converts were arrested in Iran in July 2014, with three arrested after openly preaching Sunni beliefs and a further seven arrested after holding congregational Sunni Taraweeh prayers during the month of Ramadan.
Earlier this year, nine Sunni men were arrested in Qal’eh Chan’an, Khuzestan province for ‘religious activism’ after converting to Sunni Islam.
More than 20 Sunni converts were then arrested in February at a Qur’an and Arabic language study meeting in Koye Alawi (Hay al-Thawra district) in Ahwaz city. Numerous other Sunni converts have been arrested in the area since.