By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– At least eight people remained missing Saturday, August 15, after Iranian security forces raided a gathering of new Christian converts in the city of Karaj as part of a wider crackdown on house churches in Iran, well-informed Christians told BosNewsLife.
As many as 15 plain-clothes officers invaded the house church in Karaj, 50 kilometers (31 miles) west of Tehran, during an August 7 worship service.
Not all names of those detained during the service were immediately available or shared for security reasons but Mohabat News, an agency of Christians and activists, said believers Esmayeel Fallahi, Nematollah Yousefi, Shahin Bashiri, Mona Chardooli, Razmik and Haydeh were among those taken into custody.
Separately, security forces reportedly detained members of the Karaj underground church while raiding their homes.
Plain-clothes officers, equipped with hand guns and radio communicators, “took away some of these Christian converts from their homes without ever producing any court or other legal orders of arrest and proceeded to search their homes,” Mohabat News said.
Christians said Esmayeel Falaahi, a 35-year-old married father with 2 children, was among those detained during the separate home searches in recent days. Police apparently seized his belongings including a computer, several Bibles and other Christian literature as well as several DVDs.
Iranian Christians said the arrests were carried out by forces of the Ministry of Information and added that the detainees were taken to “an unknown location” for further interrogations.
“There is no information on their whereabouts or their physical condition, but an unofficial source has indicated that the detainees have been taken to the headquarters of the Ministry of Information,” added Mohabat News.
Iranian authorities did not confirm their whereabouts Saturday, August 15.
Christians familiar with the situation said family members of the jailed Christians have been in a “relentless pursuit “ with judicial and security authorities to find them and secure their release but added that these efforts had been “futile and without any success”.
Mohabat News cited unconfirmed reports as saying that three of the detainees were “temporarily and conditionally released” on bail.
Several other house churches have been targeted by Iranian authorities in recent months. Iranian Christians say the crackdown is part of efforts by authorities to limit the spread of Christianity in the strict Islamic nation.
Iran is home to at least 360,000 new believers, up from just 500 known Christians in 1979, according to Elam Ministries, a mission group founded by Iranian church leaders. Many of them are former Muslims, BosNewsLife learned.
Ahmad Shahid, the special human rights reporter on Iran for the United Nations, has expressed concern about Iran’s treatment of detained Christians and other prisoners of conscience saying many are subject to torture and in several cases even threatened with execution.
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