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10 July 2014

Iranian Christians under attack

Iranian Christians under attack

Numerous attacks on Christians have recently taken place in Iran.

Sources close to Alliance member Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) report that Mohammad Roghangir, Suroush Saraie and Pastor Matthias Haghnejad have been arrested by Iranian security forces.

They were arrested during a raid on Matthias's home on 5 July during which security agents confiscated bibles belonging to his family. Human Rights Activist news agency (HRANA) reports that pamphlets and a personal computer owned by the pastor were also taken.

Pastor Matthias has been targeted regularly by the Iranian regime and has been imprisoned on three other occasions. Mohammad and Suroush were part of a group of seven Christians who were initially arrested on 12 October 2012, when security forces raided a prayer meeting. The group was sentenced on 16 July 2013, after being found guilty of "action against the national security" and "propaganda against the order of the system." Mohammad was sentenced to six years imprisonment, while Suroush received two and a half years. Both sentences were upheld on appeal.

CSW's chief executive Mervyn Thomas said: "CSW is deeply concerned about this and the fact that the current whereabouts of these men remains unknown. Despite the political charges being levied against them, they were clearly arrested on account of their faith".

Pastor Behnam Irani, a Church of Iran leader who was assaulted and transferred to a previously unknown location on 7 June, has been returned to Ghezal Hesar Prison.
He was assaulted in prison by
Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security (VEVAK) officers during the early hours of 7 June after objecting to an irregular summons from Judge Mohammad Yari. He was subsequently brought before Judge Yari, and charged with communicating with the media.
The pastor was then transferred to a VEVAK detention centre, where he was kept in solitary confinement and interrogated on five occasions for four hours each time. He was warned that if he does not obey, he will receive a further sentence and remain in prison for a longer time.

Pastor Irani was initially arrested in December 2006, and sentenced in 2011 to six years imprisonment for "action against the state" and "action against the order."
During his first few months in Ghezal Hesar Prison, Pastor Irani was held incommunicado in a small cell, where guards repeatedly woke him from sleep as a form of psychological torture. He was moved to a cramped room where inmates could not lie down to sleep, before being transferred to a crowded, filthy cell, which he shares with 40 criminals, many of whom are violent. He has been subjected to physical and psychological pressure, and has suffered regular beatings from cell mates and prison authorities, as well as death threats.

Mervyn Thomas added comments about this case: "We urge the government of Iran to halt its harassment and imprisonment of religious minorities and to uphold freedom of religion or belief, as outlined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Iran is party. In addition, the international community must hold Iran to account for the wellbeing of prisoners of conscience, and particularly that of Mr Soltani, who was convicted on charges an independent court would have rejected".

Iranians coming to the UK are increasingly disillusioned with the regime in their home country and as a result are becoming more open to the gospel. This is resulting in significant growth in the number of Iranian Christian converts, as reported in an Iranian-focused idea article.