Two Christian men and a Christian woman, who were arrested during a police raid of the house church where they had gathered on 7 August, have been temporarily released on bail. One of those released, 35-year-old Esmaeil Falahati, was warned by Revolutionary Guard interrogators to leave the country, “otherwise they would harm me and my family,” he said.
After heeding the warning and leaving the country, Esmaeil Falahiti shared with Mohabat News what happened on the day that a group of at least eight Christian converts from Islam were arrested in the city of Karaj, in northern Iran.
“It was August 7, 2015, and we had gathered in a garden near Kan with a few brothers and sisters when security authorities entered the garden and arrested us,” he said.
“The authorities threatened the owner of the garden and put him on the ground with a gun to his throat in front of his child. What was surprising to us was that they had a number of arrest warrants pre-signed and stamped and they wrote out names on them on the spot! They searched the whole garden, despite being very dark. It seems they were looking for something specific.
“They took me to my house around 10 pm to search there as well. I had some Bibles and Christian books at home. The authorities took away all the books as well as my computer and some other personal belongings.”
The men were finally released on bail on 9 September and a Christian woman, Haydeh, was given temporary release a few days later, according to Mohabat News. The bail payment for Esmaeil Falahati amounted to the exorbitant sum of 700 million Rials (£15,500; US$23,300; €21,400).
Only recognised Christian minorities are allowed to meet together for worship in Iran. Converts from Islam are fiercely persecuted and often imprisoned as authorities crack down on the country’s fast-growing house church movement.
According to Mohabat News, Mr Falahati’s case appears to represent what may be a new government strategy for cracking down on the spread of Christianity in Iran by forcing Iranian Christians leaders to leave the country.