Christian situation under the government of Rouhani
Setting aside the first three years of Islamic Regime from 1979 until 1982 and call those the years of establishment of the regime, the following decades can be divided into four distinct periods of 8 years each, reports Mohabat News.
Despite their different slogans of: War Until victory, Rebuilding, Reforms, and Compassion ; and all the undeniable internal strife over power and influence and their different approach to the problem of nation care, all have been remarkably consistent in their harsh dealing with Christians and other minorities.
This twisted approach to other religious groups is a direct result of the Islamic regime’s ideological world view which is a hodgepodge mix of Stalinist communism and Islam’s inherent inferiority complex.
Stalinist communism viewed all who could not wholeheartedly support its policies as agents of international imperialism, and political Islam, with its own interpretation of the Islamic history believes that all other religions, and in particular Christianity and Judaism, are its sworn enemies; and feels itself unable to coexist with them, seeing them as obstacles to its own domination of the world.
Historically, Christians had learned that such change of guards and the boil over of the so called moderates, will not make much of a difference in their mishandling of the Christians in the Islamic regime, as the philosophical fundamentals laid down by their ancestors forms the bedrock upon which the new players are to perform, to say nothing of the fact that at the very best these new players will, of necessity, have only a limited scope to improvise; with extremely limited scope of action in matters of security and law.
The very same cabal who, with the help and connivance of their venomous intelligence agencies and brutal police forces have held the reins of power, ruling supreme in the Islamic Republic since the end of the wasteful years of war and terror, are still in power and with ruthless use of villainous mobs in local mosques, have created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation, undermining cultural and spiritual foundations of society.
To better understand the suffocating atmosphere of fear which rules supreme even after the inauguration of Hassan Rouhani ‘s presidency; the following is a short review of the first six months of his “Prudence and Hope” policies in action against the Christians.
Within the last six months long established and licenced churches of the Assemblies of God in Tehran (Central and Jannat Abad), Ahvaz and Shahin Shahr of Esfahan, as well as Pentecostal Church of Kermanshah, which were all raided and forcibly closed by Ahmandi-Nazhad’s government, have remained closed, and all efforts by the respective church’s elders to reopen them have been blocked by Islamic regime’s bureaucracy in every turn.
Assemblies of God churches in Esfahan and Orumiyeh are faced with severe restrictions and due to continued harassments by regime’s agents, all former leaders of these churches have been forced to leave the country.
Shahr-Ara and Emanuel churches of Tehran which on the surface have been allowed to open, are in effect under Islamic Agents’ control and all their Evangelical work and Bible classes closed down.
Persian language Evangelical and Presbyterian churches in major cities such as Esfahan and Shiraz are, just as before, under constant surveillance and control by the Islamic regime’s agents. In some churches such as Evangelical churches if Esfahan, and Simon of Shiraz, the intelligence ministry agents are permanently stationed inside the buildings and actively interfere in the day to day affairs of these churches. They are also
1- Are obliged to compile a list of the attendees, photocopy their National Identity cards and submit them to the Ministry of Intelligence and Islamic Guidance. The two years long order has yet to be withdrawn.
2- Forced to hold all their services on Sundays (which is a mid-week, working day in the non- Christian country), and are banned from holding Friday services. This deliberate restriction is even applied to the ethnic Armenian and Assyrian churches in Tehran.
3- They are forced to close their doors to the Persian speakers, and its enforcement has been intensified further in the last six months. The elder of St. Peter’s church in Tehran officially asked his Persian speaking congregation not to attend the church, and refused entry to non-ethnic Christians to attend Christmas service.
4- Forced to hold their services exclusively in ethnic languages and their Persian services are severely curtailed. Pastors and church elders are still compelled to only speak in Armenian or Assyrian.
5- Banned from holding teaching classes or evangelising. Sale of books and other Christian literatures are banned, and Islamic agents enforce the ban.
With the start of court proceedings against Pastor Avanesian in Branch 26 of Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran on 7th September 2013 to answer trumped-up charges of actions against national security, and evangelising and teaching Christianity to moslems; it seems that pressure by the Islamic regime and its myriad of security services is sinking to yet new depths, nearing its final stages of forcing the Clergy, Church leaders, and prominent Christians to leave their country
1- Branch 26 of Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran on 5th December 2012 issued its ruling concerning the charges brought against Pastor Avanesian. He was found guilty of actions against the national security of the Islamic regime, and propagation of falsehood.
2- Pastor Robert Aserian, Theologian researcher, teacher and member of the synod of the Assemblies of God churches in Iran, was arrested during a raid by the agents of the Islamic regime on the AG church in Taleghani Street of Tehran, on 22nd May 2012. He spent more than 6 weeks in prison, and the church has remained closed since. The Islamic regime did its very best to bury the news of this raid and the subsequent closer of Iran’s largest “Persian” speaking church under the artificial “election” campaign. Pastor Aserian is yet to be officially charged and is under constant threat of re-arrest.
3- Leader of the church of Assemblies of God in Ahvaz, Pastor Farhad Sabk-rouh, and his wife, as well as two members of his church were first arrested during a raid by hooded agents of the Islamic Ministry of State Security of the Regime, on Friday 23rd December 2011, and subsequently sentenced to one year imprisonment. The ruling was ratified by the court of appeal.
Pastor Sabok-Rouh was taken to prison on 4th May 2013, and eventual released after spending a total of 217 days in captivity for his beliefs. The other two detainees were freed a few weeks later, but his wife, who was released only recently on 28th January 2014, had spent 273 days in prison.
New converts, born in Muslim families and converted to Christianity at a later date, were particularly vulnerable during the eight years of “president” Ahmadinezhad’s reign of corruption. Every month, news of fresh attacks by his agents of terror, attacks and arrests against House Churches would leak out of the country, not even youngsters and children were immune from the Islamic terror.
.listening to the electioneering speeches of Rouhani, and his victory in the 11th presidential elections in the Islamic republic, some Christians in the country, 500,000 to 700,000 ( impossible to collect real figures), were hoping that not only attacks against house churches and arrest of Christians would subside and end , also to see their imprisoned co-religionists freed from prisons.
But in September 2013, right before his trip to New York to attend the UN’s General Assembly, amongst a wave of freedom of political prisoners in Iran, only two Christian converts, shortly before the end of their sentences, were set free.
Counting these two, in the first six months of his presidency of the Islamic republic, only six imprisoned Christians have been freed, whereas people like Farshid Fat-hi, Saeed Abedini, Ebrahim Firouzi, Maryam Naghash Zargaran, and Behnam Irani are still incarcerated in Evin prison in Tehran and Rajaee Prison in Karaj.
In the meanwhile not only pressure on churches has not ceased, it has gone from bad to worst. The pressure on House Churches is on the increase, the convicted face tougher sentences, and more houses are raided. Some of the raids since 3rd August 2013 are as follows:
1- On Friday 9th August 2013, only days since the start of Rouhani’ term, regime’s security agents raided A House Church in western Tehran, assaulted those present, searched the house and detained the five Christians, taking them to undisclosed detention centres. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran has released the names of four of the five detainees as: Parham Farzmand, Sara Sardisian, Sedigheh Kiyani, and Mona Fazali.
2- In the same time period in August 2013, Mrs. Sedigheh Ami-Khani, Mrs. Mahnaz Rafie’ as well as Mr. Mohamad Reza Peymani, were also arrested, taken to unknown detention centres, and for many weeks, their families kept in the dark about their loved ones.
3- Defence lawyer of the Iranian-American Pastor Said Abedini, announced on Monday 26th August 2013 that his client’s eight year sentence has been ratified by Tehran’s court of appeal. Shortly after he was banished to Rajaeeshahr Prison in Karaj, he came amongst reports of his maltreatment and solitary imprisonment there.
4- The long prison sentences against 3 Christian converts in Shiraz was ratified by the court of appeal of the city. The news was deftly announced on 15th July 2013, and was lost in the heat of the presidential campaign.
Mrs. Fariba Nima-Shokoohi and her son of only 17 were sentenced to 2 years suspended terms and four men named; Homayoon Shokoohi Gholam-zadeh, Vahid Hakkani, Mojtaba Alaedin Hossein, and Korosh Partoi, were sentenced to 44 months. The four men had been kept in prison since 1st January 2011.
5- The Italian newspaper “Indindent” reportd that a court in Northern provinces, has sentenced four Christians to 80 lashes for drinking, even though it is not a crime for a Christian to drink. The report mentioned that this sentence was announced on 6th October 2013, and they were officially informed of the sentence, with ten days of grace to appeal. Their other “crime” was the ownership of a satellite receiver dish! The accused are Behzad Ta’li Pasand, Mehdi Reza Omidi(Juhan), Mehdi Dad-Khah(Danial), and Amir Haatami(Juhanna)
6- Rasul Abdullahi, is a new convert from Tehran who was arrested in Dec. 2010, and released on bail. He was later recalled, accused of “gathering with and participating in Christian activities” and was sentenced to 3 years prison sentence. He was called on 2nd Dec. 2013 to begin his imprisonment in ward 350 of Evin prison.
7- Committee of Human Rights reported the arrest of Cyber Bloggers “Kiavosh Sotoodeh” and “Jamshid Jabbari” in front of Kerman University, on charges of propagating Christianity and organising House Churches. They have remained in custody in as yet an unknown jail.
8- At around 08:30 on Sunday 15th Dec. 2013, during an orchestrated raid, the homes of two of the leaders of a non-Trinitarian Christian group named “Amin Khaki” and “Reza Rabbani” were searched by plain clothes agents of the Islamic Regime while the men were not at home, causing fear and distress amongst family members and children.
9- On Tuesday 24th Dec. 2013, just before Christmas, security agents raided the house of a new Christian convert in the eastern parts of Tehran, named “Hussein”, and arrested him and four other converts, named Ahmad Bazyar, Faeghe Nasrollahi, Mastaneh Rastegari, and Amir Hussein Ne’matullahi. The committee for Human Rights reported that they had gathered in the House Church for prayers and celebrations of the Birth of Lord Jesus Christ. Their arrest follows the same policy of intimidations by the Islamic authorities.