June 11, 2008
ISTANBUL -- Iran continued a wave of arrests against Christians in recent weeks, detaining a Tehran house church leader who was previously held and tortured for religious activity.
Eight policemen arrested Mohsen Namvar, 44, from his Tehran home on May 31, refusing to provide any reason for his arrest. The officers confiscated a number of the Christian’s personal belongings including his computer, printer, CDs, books and money. His location remains unknown.
An Iranian pastor residing outside the country said that Namvar had anticipated that police would come for him.
“I know that if they decide to kill me as a martyr, you will care for my wife and my children,” the father of two told the Iranian pastor last month.
Acquaintances warned Namvar that he had been implicated during police interrogations of Christians in the city of Amol in April, the pastor residing abroad said. That month officials had detained several Christians in Amol, 80 miles northeast of Tehran, releasing them over the following weeks.
Treatment of Christians in jail follows a customary pattern, the pastor said: Authorities put them in jail for a few weeks and beat them in an attempt to get information about other converts.
Police had previously detained and tortured Namvar for baptizing Muslim converts to Christianity. The Christian was unable to walk for several months after police repeatedly applied electrical shocks to his back in the spring of 2007.
“You must not evangelize Muslims, you must not have meetings in your home,” the police officers who tortured him told him, according to the pastor residing outside of Iran. “They even said, ‘If you continue to do this, we will kill you.’”
After a successful back operation, Namvar is now able to walk but suffers from pain when sitting or standing for extended periods of time.
One Christian convert from Amol arrested with his wife in late April was ordered released on May 31. He was required to guarantee his bail with a huge deposit based on the monetary worth of his home.
The convert’s pregnant wife had been released after three days in custody.
The Amol Christian has been informed that a case has been opened against him and that he can expect to be called to court for trial at any time.
Iranian police also arrested 10 Muslim converts to Christianity from the southern city of Shiraz last month.
Two former Muslims arrested in a Shiraz park on May 13 remain jailed, their location and condition unknown. Mahmood Matin and a second man identified only by his first name, Arash, are members of a house church group in the city.
Eight other converts arrested in Shiraz on May 11 and released separately over the course of several weeks have had court cases opened against them. Two were charged with activities against Islam while the other six are accused of working against the country.
Under Iran’s strict Islamic laws, it is illegal to proselytize Muslims, and any Muslim who converts from Islam to another religion can be executed. A draft law before the re-elected Iranian parliament would make the death penalty mandatory for “apostates” who leave Islam.
Under the past three decades of Iran’s Islamist regime, hundreds of citizens who have left Islam and become Christians have been arrested for weeks or months, held in unknown locations and subjected to psychological and physical torture.
When released on bail, they remain under threat of criminal prosecution if they dare to worship in house churches or become involved in any Christian activities.
Homosexuals and members of Iran’s Baha’i religious sect have also come under intense persecution from the restrictive regime.
Speaking from London on Friday (June 6), Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi said that the government often arrests minority members on charges of working against national security, an accusation commonly leveled against Muslim converts to Christianity.
“I sometimes think the Iranian government is suffering from a phobia,” Ebadi said, according to The Independent. “They think everyone wishes to overthrow the government. When bus drivers protest against low wages, they are thrown in prison.”
Copyright 2008 Compass Direct News