By Stefan J. Bos, Special Correspondent Worthy News
(Worthy News) - Iran has detained or intimidated dozens of devoted Christians in recent days as part of government efforts to halt the spread of Christianity in the Islamic nation, investigators say.
Among those captured are many former Muslims who became believers in Christ, according to Christians familiar with the situation.
At least 12 Iranian believers were taken into custody by officers of Iran’s feared Revolutionary Guard in three cities, added Iranian advocacy group Article18.
“The arrests took place on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning in [the capital] Tehran, its sister city Karaj, and Malayer, 400 kilometers southwest of Tehran,” the group said.
“Dozens more Christians were ordered to provide their contact details and told they would be soon be summoned for questioning,” the group added.
The first arrests began Tuesday evening, in western Tehran’s Yaftabad district when security forces broke up a house church meeting, rights activists said. “Ten intelligence agents – eight men and two women – raided the home of a recent Christian convert, where around 30 Christians had gathered, Article18 stressed.
It claimed that the agents, who were armed and wore masks, were initially polite as they filmed the raid and separated men from women. “But they later turned the cameras off and treated the Christians harshly.”
Everyone was taken to the building’s car park, where a van with blacked-out windows awaited, and several other cars, Christians said. Vehicles of residents were removed to make space for the agents’ cars and for the garage to become a quasi interrogation room, Christians said.
Agents later reportedly read out a list of names written on an arrest warrant Christians. They were identified as Armenian-Iranian Christian Joseph Shahbazian, “and five Christian converts named Reza, Salar, Sonya, and elderly sisters Mina and Maryam. “
Those detained were handcuffed, blindfolded, and taken away to an unknown location, Article18 confirmed. “They’ve and have not yet been able to contact their families to tell them where they have been taken.”
The Christians were also ordered to write that none of their property had been confiscated, even after the confiscation of their mobile phones, and despite their protests, Worthy News learned.
The agents then drove the six detained Christians, as well as some of whose names were not on the list, to their homes in Tehran and Karaj to especially for Bibles, other Christian literature, and communication devices.
During the operation, “Christians were reportedly beaten, as well as some of their non-Christian family members,” Forum 18 stressed.
The agents later went to the homes of the three Christian converts whose names were read out but had not been present. Two men, Farhad, and another named Arash were detained.
Elsewhere three Christian converts were summoned to the city of Malayer and told to report to the Revolutionary Guard intelligence office for questioning.
The three Christians – named Sohrab, Ebrahim, and Yasser were released the next days on bail of 30 million tomans ($1,500) each, activists confirmed. Of the other detained Christians, two were reportedly freed on bail set at 50 million tomans (around $2,500).
Article18 said the raids were apparently coordinated “with the help of an informant, who had infiltrated the group within the past few months and gained their trust.”
This individual “is reported to have accompanied the intelligence agents in their raid on the Tehran house-church, and to have even stood next to the judge as he later read out his bail demands,” the group stressed.
Government officials have denied wrongdoing. However, Christians say Iran’s leadership is concerned as at least hundreds of thousands of former Muslims are believed to have embraced the Christian faith in recent years.