At least 114 Christians have been arrested in the past week following a series of raids in ten different cities across Iran.

The arrests took place in the cities of Ahvaz, Chalus, Damavand, Hamedan, Hashtgerd, Karaj, Mashhad, Rasht, Shahinshahr and Tehran.

Most of those arrested were released after a few hours, but only after they had written down details of their Christian activities and been ordered to have no more contact with other Christians.

Their mobile devices were confiscated and they were told they would soon hear from Ministry of Intelligence.

Those suspected of being leaders of “house churches” remain in detention.

These latest arrests mean that in total at least 142 Christians have been arrested in the past month.

The government-sanctioned Mehr news agency reported that some of those arrested were foreign nationals who had assumed Iranian identities, as reported by Radio Farda.

Mehr said the Christians, referred to as “Zionists”, had close links with Israel and desired to weaken Islam and especially the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Radio Farda notes that “Iranian authorities have long harassed and persecuted newly converted Christians but have rarely labelled anyone as ‘Zionist Christian’.”

Zoe Smith, head of advocacy at Open Doors UK & Ireland, said the recent rash of arrests were “highly concerning”.

“It follows an established trend of the Iranian government – as the number of converts to Christianity increase, so the authorities place greater restrictions on churches.

“The restrictions are worse for churches seen to be attended by Christians who have converted from Islam. Not only that, but the government is asking unreasonably high bail amounts and seeing longer prison terms for Christians.

“Church leaders are put under pressure to leave the country or face an arrest. ‘House churches’ weaken as their members choose to decrease their meeting hours and minimise their activities; some Christians lose the contact with their churches altogether, becoming isolated.”