Published: 12:00 GMT Standard Time - Monday 12 December 2011
Iranian authorities step up anti-Christian campaign in run-up to Christmas
Country/Region: Iran, Middle East and North Africa
The Iranian authorities are stepping up their campaign against Christians in the run-up to Christmas in what threatens to become a repeat of last year’s crackdown when dozens of believers were arrested.
Iranian Christians at worship
A number of Christians in Tehran and six other cities have been ordered to present themselves to their local state security centres, where they have been interrogated at length before being sent home with the warning that they will be recalled.
Meanwhile, police have been gathering information about Christian-owned businesses across the country. A senior general of the Islamic police in Tehran explained:
We must be on guard to find out the reasons behind this massive and country-wide distribution of the Bible. It is obvious that this illegal act could not have been done without the help and cooperation of Christian businessmen, and we are looking for proof of their involvement.
Last Christmas, more than 70 Christians were arrested in a crackdown on Iran’s house church movement; security officers raided homes in Tehran and the western city of Mashhad in the early hours of 26 December while the occupants were asleep.
Many of the Christians were verbally and physically abused before being detained for interrogation. The majority were held for weeks or even months before finally being freed, often after the payment of a large ransom.
Two of those captured, Nor-ol-lah Ghabiti-zadeh from Ahvaz and Farshid Fat’hi of Tehran, remain behind bars despite not having been charged.
Shortly after last year’s Christmas raids, the governor of Tehran Province, Morteza Tamadon, confirmed that a number of Christians had been arrested and described house-church worshippers as “deviants” and “parasites”.
He has reiterated his opposition to evangelical Christians, saying that they will be put under extra pressure and arrested wherever they are.
Another senior leader, Information Minister Heydar Moslehi, has also recently restated his department’s commitment to crack down on Christians and house churches. He said that the ministry was following the Supreme Leader’s orders to continue its efforts to identify and prevent the spread of house churches in the country.