Evangelical church leader and wife arrested in Karaj

Evangelical church leader and wife arrested in Karaj

Mehrdad Sajjadi, a leader at the Emmanuel Evangelical Church in Tehran, was arrested together with his wife Forough Dashtiani on Thursday 24 May in Karaj.

The news follows an alarming trend in closures and imposed restrictions on churches that hold services in the Persian language.

Over the past three years, several churches have been forced to stop their services on Fridays, a day off in Iran, when many non-Christians were able to attend church services in their free time.

Contrary to expectations, this has not resulted in decreased attendance, as Sunday church services in the few remaining Persian-speaking churches have doubled in numbers.

As a next step, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS), which oversees the activities of churches, has demanded the names and national ID-card numbers of attendees in a hope that it would deter people from attending church services freely.

Several Iranian church leaders have told Article18 that they increasingly find themselves “surrounded by a presence of security forces” and that “these pressures have increased day by day”.

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, told Radio Farda: “These arrests are just the latest. We have witnessed several other arrests of Christians in churches in Tehran. Some have not been reported in the media, but we are aware of them.

“It all goes to show the threat the government feels in the spread and public acceptance of Christianity and the Christian faith within society.”