A wave of
arrests hit Iranian house churches during the Christmas season, leaving at least
five Christian converts in detention across northern Iran, including the mother
of an ailing 10-year-old girl.
Security officers with
an arrest warrant from the Mashhad Revolutionary Court entered the home of
Christian Hamideh Najafi in Mashhad on Dec. 16. After searching her home and
confiscating personal belongings, including books and compact discs, police took
her to an undisclosed location, according to Farsi Christian News Network
FCNN reported that on
Dec. 30 the Mashhad Revolutionary Court sentenced Najafi to three months of
house arrest and ordered that her daughter, who suffers from a kidney condition,
be placed under foster care. Because of the seriousness of the girl’s illness,
however, she was left in the custody of her parents – on the condition that they
cease believing in Christ and stop speaking publicly of their faith, FCNN
Najafi was denied
access to a lawyer during this court hearing, according to FCNN.
officers told Najafi to return to Islam and to disclose names of Christian
evangelists. FCNN reported that on some occasions the security officers summoned
her husband, blindfolded him and threatened to beat him in front of his wife if
she would not sign a confession that she was “mentally and psychologically unfit
The Dec. 30 court
hearing was quickly arranged after she was coerced into signing this confession,
FCNN reported, and on those grounds her child was initially ordered to be taken
from her. Najafi’s daughter suffers from a severe kidney and bladder condition.
There were no formal
charges against Najafi, but she stands accused of contacting a foreign Christian
television network, which court officials labeled as a “political” crime,
according to FCNN.
Advocacy group Middle
East Concern reported that sources believe authorities forced Najafi’s sister to
file a complaint against her on these grounds.
The officers who came
to arrest Najafi said that portraits of Jesus hanging on her wall would be
enough to convict her in court, reported FCNN.
Compass has confirmed that authorities
disrupted Christmas celebrations of two house groups in the Tehran area on Dec.
21 and Dec. 29, leaving four in prison. Other members attending the special
services were also questioned.
In Shiraz, last week at
least eight Christians arrested and released over a year ago were called in for
questioning about their activities in the past year. They were all released
after a few hours.
Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani is
still in prison after being arrested on Oct.
13. Nadarkhani is married and
has two children under the age of 10.
A source told Compass that another
Christian identified as Shaheen, who had been in prison since July 31 when a
special meeting of 24 Christians was raided in Fashan, north of Tehran, was
released in November. He was the last of the six believers arrested at that
meeting to be released.
Apart from arrests,
Iranian Christians continue to endure discrimination. A source told Compass that
one Christian was denied renewal of his truck driving license last week. When he
asked why, authorities told him he was an enemy of the state.
The Christian had been
arrested three years earlier because of his faith.