Iranian security authorities seem to have started another anti-Christian campaign to increase pressure on Christians living inside the country during this Christmas and New Year time period.
Iranian Christian News Agency, Mohabat News – These threats remind us of the bitter events of last Christmas. On 26 December, 2010 when churches all around the world were praying, worshipping and celebrating the birthday of Jesus Christ, agents of the Iranian intelligence ministry attacked a number of house churches and homes of Christians in an organized fashion. They arrested hundreds of Christian converts, some of whom are still being held in prisons of the Islamic regime.
Again this year, as Christians and churches in Iran are preparing for Christmas and New Year celebrations, it seems that the security authorities are planning to repeat their violent and inhuman acts of last year to intimidate Iranian Christians. Reports received by Mohabat News from different cities of Iran indicate that security authorities are expanding their anti-Christian projects to exercise tighter surveillance of churches in order to crack down on Christians and attempt to terrorize them.
According to news published on 23 December, 2011, Farhad Sabokroh, the pastor of the Assemblies of God church of Ahwaz, as well as his wife and the members who gathered to worship and celebrate Christmas were arrested in a pre-organized attack on the church building by security authorities of the Islamic regime of Iran. All the detainees were then transferred to an unknown location.
This time, the security agents showed no mercy even to the children of the church and raided their Sunday School class with their faces covered. The security agents were shouting on children as they cried out in fear as a result of the attack. They then transferred these children to an unknown location together with other members present at the church. A question should be asked regarding this attack and it's this. Is attacking children, frightening and treating them like criminals another tactic of the regime to oppose the growth of Christianity? Such violent and inhuman acts will only have a negative impression on these children and form a dire and evil image of these agents of the regime on their minds.
Reports sent to Mohabat News from Tehran also say that the sale of Bibles and gospels in the AOG church of Markaz in Tehran was banned two weeks ago. This prohibition shocked visitors to the library of the church. This report also states that security authorities have ordered all books stores around Enghelab Street in Tehran to unconditionally forbid the sale of Gospels and Bibles to customers.
- Crackdown on Iranian Christians
However, a review of news reports reveals that, as Christmas approaches, the Islamic regime of Iran markedly increases its control, pressure and threats against the churches and their members. Last year the arrest of Christian converts grew to the extent that even international mass media such asthe Wall Street Journal and the Associated Press addressed this issue. Also in an article by Brian Murphy entitled "Crack down on Iranian Christians" the Washington Post said that 70 Iranian Christians were arrested by the Iranian intelligence services and were targets of fear.
During this broad crackdown many Christian converts were subjected to harsh treatment and later were arrested again for further interrogation. Most of the arrested Christians were detained for weeks and some for months. Some also were released on heavy bail bonds.
Prior to this, Heydar Moslehi, the intelligence minister of the Islamic Republic described the house church movement in Iran as a threat to Iranian youth and spoke of a new series of broad actions against the spread of house churches. This is while some of the Christians arrested last Christmas are still being kept for months in unknown conditions in terrible prisons of the Islamic Republic. Shortly after last Christmas' arrests Morteza Tamadon, the mayor of Tehran confirmed the arrest of a number of Christians and called the attendees of house churches "deviated" and "leeches".
He bluntly expressed his objection to evangelical Christianity and warned of an increase of pressure and arrests.
- Christians in custody
Christian converts who spent their first Christmas away from their families in prison include Noorollah Qabitizade, a Christian convert who was ministering in a house church when he was arrested on 24 December, 2010 by security authorities. Ten others were also arrested with him while they were celebrating Christmas in a house church in the city of Dezful.
Farshid Fathi, 32, who resided in Tehran, was arrested during an attack on Iranian Christians on 26 December, 2010 by security agents. He is another Christian convert who is being kept in ward 209 of the notorious Evin prison.
Fariborz Arazm is another Christian detainee who resided in Robat-Karim before he was arrested in his home on 17 October, 2011 by four plain-cloth security agents.
Maryam Jalili, Shahla Rahmati and Mitra Zahmati are three Christian converts who were arrested in the last nine months and then transferred to ward 209 of Evin prison. According to "Human Rights House of Iran", Shahla Rahmati and Mitra Zahmati remained some months in solitary confinement of ward 209 of Evin prison, before being sentenced to two and a half years of imprisonment. This report adds, "Shahla Rahmati was then exonerated of her charges and freed on 20 December. Maryam Jalili, who was arrested after the other two, was transferred to the women's ward of Evin prison about three months ago. The charge levied against these three Christian converts was "membership of an illegal group".
These individuals are only a small portion of those being held in the clutches of the religious regime of Iran for believing in Jesus Christ and having a faith other than Shi'ite Islam.