Last Friday (13 May), agents from the Iranian Ministry of Security and Intelligence (VEVAK) raided the homes of Christian leaders in the north Iranian city of Rasht. Those arrested included Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani – a former Muslim who was previously sentenced to death for apostasy but released in 2012 – and his wife. They were both later released, however three other Christians – Yasser Mossayebzadeh, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammad Reza Omidi – remain in detention.
All three are part of the leadership of the church Pastor Youcef leads and were previously arrested in similar raids in February last year during which VEVAK agents “suggested” that they leave the country.
Although the Iranian government allows a degree of freedom of worship for Armenian and Assyrian churches - provided they do not worship in Farsi, the language spoken by most Iranian Muslims - the government repeatedly cracks down very hard on Christians who have converted from Islam and house churches who worship in Farsi.
VEVAK, the Iranian intelligence agency, is closely linked to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and has a specific duty placed on it in the Iranian constitution to safeguard the Iranian Islamic revolution. It is thought that VEVAK has in the past carried out a number of assassinations of Christian leaders in Iran.