Monday, August 8, 2011

Condition of two Azeri-speaking Christians unknown after arrest and beating by Iranian authorities

By Michael Ireland
Senior Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

TABRIZ, IRAN (ANS) -- Following the increase in pressure on the Iranian Christian community inside Iran, Iranian security forces have arrested and beaten two Azeri-speaking converts to Christianity.
Vahid Rofegar and Reza Kahnamoei (Courtesy Mohabat News).

According to reports received by the Iranian Christian News Agency Mohabat News ( ) , two Azeri-speaking Christians, Vahid Rofegar and Reza Kahnamoei, who reside in the city of Tabriz (in the eastern Azerbaijan province northwest of Iran) were arrested by the security forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran at 3 p.m. on July 24. Their condition is unknown since their arrest.

The Mohabat News website reports indicate that these two Christians were identified and chased by security forces while they were riding on a motorcycle in the city of the Kalibar (northeast of Eastern Azerbaijan province). Once they noticed police were chasing them, they tried to escape. But they went off the road, lost control of their vehicle, and landed in the dirt.

"These two young men were wounded due to the accident, and then the police arrested and beat them, and finally transferred them into a jail at the same city (Kalibar). Even though Reza's leg was badly hurt, the officers didn't care about his injuries and (also) didn't provide any medical assistance," eye-witnesses said.

When their families became aware of the incident, they attempted to contact the related organizations to track their loved ones' situation. It was then that the officials told the families the two men would be released on July 31.

It has been reported that some intelligence officers have invaded Vahid's home and thoroughly searched there, but have failed to find anything. So far, no news has been reported about Reza's residence.

Mohabat News says that although officials have made promises regarding their release, these two men still remain in prison. The latest update on their case is that security officials have transferred them into the prison of the city of Abhar, and kept them separate from each other.

Mohabat News also says it is likely these arrests are related to the increasing pressure on the Azeri-speaking Christians of Iran. Recently, some pro-government websites admitted to this fact and complained about the "widespread of the Christianity (sic), especially in the city of Tabriz."

Majid Abhari, the advisor of the social commission of the Islamic parliament of Iran, recently said that 6,500 copies of the New Testament were seized in the Zanjan-Abhar Road.

Mohabat News commented: "This new wave of pressures and threats that the Christian converts are facing in the Azeri-speaking cities of Iran shows that the threats and pressures of the Islamic regime of Iran change its color every single day!"

** Michael Ireland is Senior Correspondent for ANS. He is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB UK, a British Christian radio station. While in the UK, Michael traveled to Canada and the United States, Albania,Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany,and Czechoslovakia. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China,and Russia. Michael's volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department -- 'Michael Ireland Media Missionary' (MIMM) -- of A.C.T. International of P.O.Box 1649, Brentwood, TN 37024-1649, at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can donate online to support his stated mission of 'Truth Through Christian Journalism.' Michael is a member in good standing of the National Writers Union, Society of Professional Journalists, Religion Ne wswriters Association, Evangelical Press Association and International Press Association. If you have a news or feature story idea for Michael, please contact him at: ANS Senior Reporter

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