By Dan Wooding, Founder of the ASSIST News Service
TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS – November 9, 2015) — Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) has been informed that 13 Christians were arrested in the city of Varamin, south east of Tehran.
They were Zari Shah Khasti (Poorkaveh), Simmin, Bahram, Amin, Leyla, Zahra, Mehdi and Farzaneh, Shayan, Sara, Nazanin, Elnaz and Mohammad Shah Khasti were arrested by agents of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence following a raid on a house church.
Another member of the church, who was not at the gathering was arrested at his home in Tehran during the early hours of November 2, 2015. Since their arrests the group’s whereabouts are unknown and family members are concerned about their safety.
“Most of the group were previously members of the Emmanuel Protestant Church in Tehran, which was forced to close by Iranian authorities in 2012 and to end its Farsi (Persian) language services,” said a spokesperson for CSW.
“There has been no improvement in human rights under Rouhani’s presidency, despite his reputation as a moderate. Instead Iran has witnessed a deterioration in the human rights climate since his election to office. Political opponents, journalists, activists and members of religious minorities continue to be imprisoned, with converts to Christianity and members of the Baha’i faith being targeted particularly.”
The human rights group, said that there has also been a “spike in executions since the advent of the Rouhani government, with Iran executing more people per capita than any other country.”
Since 2014, more than 1,000 people have been executed; including women, political activists and religious minorities, marking a 12–year high in the number of executions.
CSW’s Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas said, “We are extremely concerned at the arrests of these 14 Christians and the fact that their whereabouts remain unknown, which gives rise to concerns regarding their wellbeing. These people had merely gathered peacefully and had not partaken in any illegal activities. It is unacceptable that the Iranian authorities continue to harass the Christian community without cause.
“We urge the Iranian government to ensure that these people are released without delay and we reiterate our call for Iran to uphold its human rights obligations as a signatory to several international covenants, including Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to freedom of religion or belief.”
Since the 1979 revolution, Iran’s religious and ethnic minorities have suffered increasing human rights violations. Religious minorities are viewed with suspicion and treated as a threat to a theocratic system bent on imposing a strict interpretation of Shia Islam.
Note: Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) is a Christian organization based in New Malden, UK, and working for religious freedom through advocacy and human rights, in the pursuit of justice.
For further information or to arrange interviews please contact Kiri Kankhwende, Press Officer at Christian Solidarity Worldwide on +44 (0)20 8329 0045 / +44 (0) 78 2332 9663, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.csw.org.uk .
Photo captions: 1) A church in Iran. 2) House church believers meeting in Iran. 3) Public execution of religious minorities. 4) Dan Wooding.
About the writer: Dan Wooding, 74, is an award-winning winning author, broadcaster and journalist who was born in Nigeria of British missionary parents, and is now living in Southern California with his wife Norma, to whom he has been married for more than 52 years. They have two sons, Andrew and Peter, and six grandchildren who all live in the UK. Dan is the founder and international director of ASSIST (Aid to Special Saints in Strategic Times) and the ASSIST News Service (ANS). He is also the author of some 45 books and has two US-based TV programs –- “Windows on the World” and “Inside Hollywood with Dan Wooding” — which are both broadcast on the Holy Spirit Broadcasting Network (http://hsbn.tv/) and a weekly radio show called “Front Page Radio” on the KWVE Radio Network (www.kwve.com).
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