Five Iranian converts to Christianity were abducted by agents of the Iranian Intelligence Ministry on Friday 26 August as they picnicked with their families in Firouz-Kouh county, north of Tehran. One of the men was beaten after he protested against the police’s harsh treatment of the guests. It is believed the five converts have been transferred to Evin prison. This latest incident occurred a fortnight after at least eleven Christians were arrested in a raid on a house church in Isfahan. They were taken away by armed men, who also removed Christian literature from the home where the believers were meeting. No further information has been given to the families. At least 43 Christians were detained across Iran in the last month.
There is concern for the welfare of those arrested, as torture of detainees in Iran is widespread. Pastor Saeed Abedini, an American-Iranian who spent three years imprisoned in Iran for “disturbing Iran’s national security by establishing a number of house churches”, was repeatedly shocked with a taser gun whilst being interrogated and even assaulted during a court hearing: “it was in a courtroom that the judge closed the door and the interrogators started beating me, and at that time I got a stomach bleeding" he told journalists after his release in January 2016. Pastor Abedini also reported seeing political prisoners being executed.
According to the U.S. Government’s Commission on Religious Freedom Annual Report for 2016, “Since President Hassan Rouhani was elected president in 2013, the number of individuals from religious minority communities who are in prison because of their beliefs has increased…The government of Iran continues to engage in systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations of religious freedom, including prolonged detention, torture, and executions based primarily or entirely upon the religion of the accused...Over the past year, there were numerous incidents of Iranian authorities raiding church services, threatening church members, and arresting and imprisoning worshippers and church leaders, particularly Evangelical Christian converts.”