Good Friday arrests in Tehran

Good Friday arrests in Tehran

Seven Christians were arrested at a house church in southern Tehran on Good Friday.

The seven have been named as Nazi Irani, Maryam Asadi, Ali Arfa, Amin Mazloumi, and three Afghan nationals: Ehsan Sadeghi, Vahid Safi and Enayat Safi.

Agents from the Ministry of Intelligence arrested the Christians at a gathering at Maryam’s apartment.

The armed officers intimidated other residents in the building, and tore down all satellite-television receivers from the roof, before taking the seven Christians away in two white vans – to an unknown location.

Following frequent visits to the police station by family members of the arrested Christians, they were eventually told their loved ones had been taken by intelligence agents. They were also told to refrain from giving interviews to the media.

The families of Maryam and Amin eventually succeeded in speaking briefly with them over the phone.

After the warnings of the leaders of the Islamic Republic – especially Ayatollah Khamenei – about the growth of house-churches, there has been a rapid escalation in pressure on Christians, with hundreds of Christian converts in various cities of Iran attacked, harassed and detained by security officials.

In recent years, Persian-speaking churches have also been closed under pressure from the Ministry of Intelligence and some security-military institutions, and pressure on Christian centres has led to the growth of house-churches in the country, which increased the focus of pressure on such churches.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a 2010 speech, explicitly named the spread of house churches among the critical threats facing the regime.

“They [our enemies] … resorted to different things, ranging from promoting debauchery to propagating fake schools of mysticism – fake forms of genuine mysticism – the Baha’i Faith and the house-church network,” he said. “These are some of the things that the enemies of Islam are pursuing today through studying, planning and prediction … And the goal is to undermine religion in society.”

“House churches” mushroomed following the closure of several Persian-speaking churches, forcing Muslim converts to Christianity to take their faith “underground”.

Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, warned last month that fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of religion or belief, continue to be violated in Iran.

In his latest report, he expressed concern over the targeting of Christian converts, as well as Baha’is, Gonabadi dervishes and Sunni Muslims.

The European Parliament also recently criticised discrimination in Iran on grounds of ethnicity, gender and religion, and highlighted the situation of Bahai’s and Christian converts.

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