Robert Duncan from Middle East Concern gives an update about the latest developments regarding Christians imprisoned for their faith in Iran. This past summer arrests and interrogations have been unusually violent, he reports.
What can you say about the arrests of Christians in Iran this summer?
There were many arrests. The exact numbers are difficult to give, but we know of 20 arrests in Kermanshah, Tehran, Shiraz and Karaj over July and August. The number could be much higher. Generally, house churches were targeted and it is believed that a government agent was able to infiltrate several house churches and gather information about members and church leaders which led to the arrests. It illustrates just how careful house churches need to be in accepting newcomers and that security is a big issue.
How were the arrests conducted?
Typically when security forces conduct a raid on a house church, they try to do it quickly and without attracting too much attention. This summer, however, there were several examples where the arrests were unnecessarily violent and witnessed by neighbors. The Aug. 8 raid on a house church in Karaj is a good example of this. More than 15 plain-clothed security officers arrived at a house as a baptism was in progress. As usual, the officials confiscated books and satellite dishes and then, according to neighbors, the security officers were seen roughly treating the house church members and pushing them into a van.
What struck you in what you heard about the interrogations?
Of course, the treatment during interrogation depends very much on the interrogator, but this summer there have been consistent reports of people being beaten. This contrasts very much with an interrogation conducted in February in which the house church members were treated with respect and politely advised to leave the country. This summer, however, there have been reports of violence against arrested Christians. One person in particular, a house church leader, was badly abused during interrogation, and detained for a considerable time. After being released, a friend found this person to be very distressed. Such people need our support and prayers.
Is there something we can say about the causes of these trends? Could it be related to the nuclear deal?
I strongly suspect the authorities were being much more careful during the period of negotiations, though it is impossible to prove. It was amazing that there were no arrests of Christians reported between Jan. 1 and the beginning of April. Possibly the Iranian regime was concerned that negotiations would be linked to human rights issues and wanted to avoid any unnecessary attention.
Iran is ranked #7 on the Open Doors’ 2015 World Watch List of the worst persecutors of Christians.
Compiled by Jerry Dykstra. For media inquiries, contact Christine Cape at 404-545-0085 or Christy Lynn Wilson at 770-401-9842.