Security officials from Iran’s Intelligence Ministry raided the homes of eight Iranians converts to Christianity on July 1, in the southern city of Bushehr, carting them off to solitary confinement.
The arrest was first reported on Friday by Article 18, an organization that promotes religious freedom and supports Iran’s repressed Christians.
Intelligence agents “stormed the Christians’ homes in a coordinated operation at around 9 a.m.,”confiscating Bibles, Christian literature, wooden crosses and pictures carrying Christian symbols, along with laptops, phones, all forms of identity cards, bank cards and other personal belongings,” Article 18 wrote.
“Reporting suggests that Christianity is on the rise in Iran, along with other non-Islamic religions,” Alireza Nader, the CEO of New Iran, a research and advocacy organization based in Washington, told The Jerusalem Post on Friday. “This is a threat to the Islamic republic, a regime based on a narrow and totalitarian view of Islam. As the regime faces more internal unrest, the more it’ll crack down on religious minorities it views as threatening its stranglehold on religion.”
According to the Article 18 report, “Arresting agents also searched the work offices of at least two Christians and confiscated computer hard drives and security-camera recordings.... The officers are reported to have treated the Christians harshly, even though small children were present during the arrests.”
Iranian authorities have not allowed lawyers access to the arrested Christians, the human-rights organization wrote on its website, saying the prisoners are being held at an Intelligence Ministry site in the Persian Gulf port city of Bushehr.
Following the release of a US report on religious freedom in late June, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “In Iran, the regime’s crackdown on Bahá’ís, Christians and others continues to shock the conscience.”
The US has designated Iran a “Country of Concern” since 1999, because the regime violates religious freedom as defined by the US International Religious Freedom Act of 1998. Article 18 said the names of the arrested Iranian Christians are: Sam Khosravi, 36, and his wife, Maryam Falahi, 35; Sam’s brother Sasan, 35, and his wife, Marjan Falahi, 33; Sam and Sasan’s mother, Khatoon Fatolahzadeh, 61; Pooriya Peyma, 27, and his wife, Fatemeh Talebi, 27; and Habib Heydari, 38.”
The human rights organization said, “Khatoon Fatolahzadeh, whose arrest came after six cars carrying security officials turned up outside her home, was released the same day due to her age.”
The State Department’s religious freedom report said Iran’s clerical regime has “continued to harass, interrogate and arrest Bahá’ís, Christians (particularly converts), Sunni Muslims, and other religious minorities, and regulated Christian religious practices closely to enforce a prohibition on proselytizing.”
Peter Kohanloo, the president of the US-based Iranian American Majority organization, told the Post: “The Iranian regime’s recent arrests of Christian converts prove once again that there is no true freedom of religion in the country. If Europe cares at all about its Christian patrimony, then it should take seriously US efforts at isolating the regime, instead of undermining our economic-sanctions campaign.”