Iranian authorities continue to raid worship meetings and arrest Christians in a systematic series of arrests that began two months ago. Authorities launched the operation in hope of countering the growth of Christianity and stamping out the house church movement. Those arrested are rarely given a reason for their arrest. Their personal property is seized, and they are often transferred to unknown locations without notification of family.
Giti Hakimpour, a 78-year-old retired Christian nurse, experienced this firsthand. Hakimpour was awoken at 6 a.m. on Feb. 22 by security forces entering her apartment in Esfahan. They interrogated her for three hours before arresting her. Authorities seized her passport, the title deed to her house and her bank account numbers, among other possessions.
Hakimpour, a member of St. Luke’s church, was detained for three days at the Esfahan Intelligence Office. Her interrogator finally requested that she receive a temporary release because of her age and recent knee surgery, which required special medical attention unavailable in prison.
At least four other Christians were also arrested that day in Esfahan, and unlike Hakimpour, they have not been released.
Agents raided the home of Pastor Hekmat Salimi at 7 a.m. on Feb. 22. He was arrested and transferred to an unknown location.
Maryam Del-aram, 54, was also arrested at home. Agents took her Bible and other items they considered evidence of her faith. Her situation is currently unknown.
Officials found several Bibles at the home of Shahnaz Zarifi when they arrested this mother of two. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Zarifi has been transferred to Dastgerd prison.
Finally, Shahram Ghaedi, a convert to Christianity, was arrested at home at 7 a.m. He is a member of St. Paul Anglican church. Agents confiscated his belongings and took him to an unknown location.
Arrests of Christians are being carried out with the support of the government. A leading Islamic theoretician reported to the Office of Islamic Propaganda that “some work has been done and moneys have been spent to counter the growth of Christianity in some provinces, but the outcome is not satisfactory.”
The number of Christian detainees in Iran grows every day. In addition to recent arrests in Esfahan, security forces have raided homes in Ahwaz, Shiraz and Tehran. For a list of currently known prisoners, go to www.persecution.com.
Sources: Mohabat News, Farsi Christian News Network, Voice of the Martyrs