Raided, blindfolded and beaten
Below is Article 18’s report:
The first arrests took place at around 8pm on Tuesday evening, in western Tehran’s Yaftabad district.
Ten intelligence agents – eight men and two women – raided the home of a recent Christian convert, where around 30 Christians had gathered.
The agents, who were armed and wore masks, were reportedly polite as they filmed the raid and separated men from women, but later turned the cameras off and treated the Christians harshly.
All those present were taken down to the building’s car park, where a van with blacked-out windows awaited, as well as several cars. All cars belonging to local residents seemed to have been moved to make space for the agents’ cars and for the garage to become a quasi interrogation room.
The agents then proceeded to read out a list of names written on an arrest warrant.
The six present whose names were read out—Armenian-Iranian Christian Joseph Shahbazian, and five Christian converts named Reza, Salar, Sonya, and elderly sisters Mina and Maryam – were handcuffed, blindfolded and taken away, and have not yet been able to contact their families to tell them where they have been taken.
The others whose names were not read out— many of them recent converts— had their mobile phones confiscated and were ordered to fill out forms providing information of another method by which they could be reached, and told not to follow-up on the confiscation of their phones for at least 72 hours.
They were also ordered to write down that none of their property had been confiscated, even after the confiscation of their mobile phones and despite their protestations.
The agents then drove the six arrested Christians, as well as some of those whose names were not on the list, to their homes in Tehran and Karaj to carry out searches of their properties, looking especially for Bibles, other Christian literature and communications devices.
According to the reports of witnesses, some of the Christians were beaten, as well as some of their non-Christian family members.
The agents later went to the homes of the three Christian converts whose names were read out but had not been present—two men called Farhad, and another named Arash— and arrested them.
Meanwhile, on the same night, three Christian converts in the city of Malayer were called and told to report to the Revolutionary Guard intelligence office the next day for questioning.
The three Christians—named Sohrab, Ebrahim and Yasser—were arrested the next morning, before they had the chance to turn themselves in They were then detained, but released the next day after posting bail of 30 million tomans (around $1,500) each.
All that is known about the whereabouts of the other arrested Christians is that two of them had their bail set at 50 million tomans (around $2,500), and are currently seeking to raise the amount to secure their temporary release.
It is believed that the raids were 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.