Thursday, August 15, 2013

Three Iranian-Azeri Christians Arrested; Their Fate Unknown

By Jeremy Reynalds
Senior Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

IRAN (ANS) -- Following the increasing pressure on Iranian Christians from the Islamic regime of Iran, a number of Christian converts were arrested in Tabriz.

According to a story by Mohabat News, as pressure increases on the Iranian Christian community, three Christian converts, Farshid Modares-Aval, Mohammad-Reza Pirri, and Yashar Farzin-No, were arrested on July 20 in a raid by security authorities.

After arresting them, authorities searched their homes and seized a number of their personal belongings.

News sources reported that the three men were transferred to the Ministry of Intelligence's detention center in Tabriz prison. Security and judicial authorities have not yet provided any reason for their arrest to their families.

Lack of communication about their health and situation caused the families of those imprisoned to reach out to security and judicial centers for information.

However, Mohabat News said, none of the authorities would provide a concrete answer.

In many cases, Mohabat News commented, when families of detainees go to the authorities about the plight of their loved ones, they just hear promises for their early release if they keep silent and do not publicize the case.
Eventually when nothing happens, families decide to speak out and publicize their stories in the media.

According to reports received, Mohabat News said, the three Christian men have been beaten during interrogation. Mohammad-Reza Pirri's beating was so brutal that he had to stay in the prison hospital for four days.

Although Iranian law enforcement has always tried to relate house churches to foreign governments and often describes them as political groups intending to overthrow the Islamic regime, Mohabat News said there is no evidence to support these claims.

The crackdown against Christians in Iran is mostly targeted towards what the Islamic regime describes as "evangelical and extremist" Christians, and thus "a threat against the Islamic regime."

However, in reality all these arrested Christians are members of small Christian groups who gather in their houses for worship and Christian celebrations, out of sight of the authorities who do not allow these meetings. The only reason for these gatherings is to worship God - with no political agenda involved.

Mohabat News said some time ago, a website called "Ya Lasarat," affiliated with Ansar-e Hezbollah Islamic militant group, published an article against Christians and what they called "the threat of evangelical Christians and house churches." The article expressed concern over the growth of Christianity in Iran, especially in Tabriz.

Following this, Majid Abhari, Counsel at the Social Committee of Islamic Parliament of Iran, expressed his concern over the growth of Christianity in Azeri-Speaking regions and emphasized that the growth of house churches must be stopped.

Mohabat News said he also mentioned the confiscation of 6,500 Bibles at a roadside checkpoint near one of the Azeri-speaking towns.

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