NEWS ALERT: Iran Detains Evangelical Couple; Whereabouts Unknown


By BosNewsLife Middle East Service with reporting by BosNewsLife's Stefan J. Bos

TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- A devoted Christian couple who are active in an evangelical church have been detained near Iran's capital Tehran, but there whereabouts remain unknown, Christians told BosNewsLife Wednesday June 6.

Mehrdad Sajadi, an engineer, and his wife Forough Dashtiani were taken from their home in Karaj city May 24 by plain clothes security officials, said Mohabat News, a news agency of Iranian Christians and activists.

Security personnel also thoroughly searched their house and seized some of their personal belongings, Iranian Christians said.

The couple were teachers at the Immanuel Evangelical Church in Tehran and local Christians believe their detention is part of a wider crackdown by Iran's "Islamic regime" on evangelical Christians.

Iranian officials did not comment on the case. Mohabat News cited "unofficial sources" as saying they were transferred to Tehran's notorious Evin prison.

"CONSIDERABLE ANXIETY"

However "despite their family's follow up efforts to obtain information" officials have refused to confirm the location and have turned down requests to visit them, adding to "considerable anxiety among the couple's family and friends," Christians said.

Six other believers were reportedly briefly detained in Karaj in recent weeks, before being released.

It also comes amid reported growing pressure on churches to halt Farsi services for Farsi-speaking believers.

The Assemblies of God Church in Tehran said last month it has been forced by authorities to ask members to submit their names and identity card details and hand them over to the country's feared Intelligence Ministry.

Earlier, in February 2011, Farsi services in the Protestant Immanuel Church and Evangelical St. Peter Church in Tehran were ordered to be canceled by the Intelligence Ministry, Christians said.

ASSEMBLIES OF GOD

It came after the main Assemblies of God Church in Tehran was also reportedly ordered to cancel its Farsi service on Fridays, the official weekend in Iran.

Local Christians said the actions are especially aimed at former Muslims who have embraced Christianity.

Yet, despite the pressure, "they have not been able to keep Iranians and Christian converts from attending church services. This shows the failure of the threats designed to stop the growth of Christianity in Iran," Mohabat News commented.

There are at least 100,000 devoted Christians in heavily Islamic Iran, according to conservative church group estimates, although others say there may be hundreds of thousands of devoted Christians in the country.

Iran's government has denied wrongdoing and says it wants to defend Islamic values.



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