In a pre-planned and coordinated effort by government security forces, a group of new Christian believers were rounded up and arrested. There is no information of the whereabouts and the condition of at least 2 of detainees.
According to reports received by Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), on Thursday, July 18th, a group of 15 newly converted Christians, who were travelling to the provincial town of Bojnoord to meet and to fellowship with the believers of that town, were arrested in the city of Mashhad, the capital of the North Eastern province of Khorasan.
According to informed sources the government security forces had pervious knowledge of this trip and in a pre-planned and coordinated effort forced the bus, carrying the 15 Christians, to be stopped en-route to their destination and after boarding the bus arrested everyone.
Mashhad, after the capital city of Tehran and the cities of Tabriz and Isfaham, is considered one of the most important cities of Iran.
This city has a special significance for the Shiite Muslims of the world as it enshrines the tomb of the eighth Shiite Imam, Imam Reza, and is thus a center of pilgrimage, Shiite theological studies, and training of future clerics.
Mashhad is significantly larger is population than the city of Ghom, another great and important Shiite pilgrimage center, and despite the claims of the Muslim clerics that they have full control over the minds of the locals in these cities, evidence shows that God has been doing a wonderful work in the minds and the hearts of the people of this great Islmiac center, Mashhad, as many people have come to faith in Jesus Christ in the last few years.
The report adds that all 15 detainees were transferred to the Ministry of Information’s central detention center. During the ensuing one week they were subjected to harsh and inhumane interrogations. After one week, 13 of these believers, after agreeing to sign promissory notes and posting bails, were conditionally freed.
Two remaining detainees, 48 years old Reza (AKA Stephen) and 23 years old Ehsan Behrooz, did not agree to sign any forms and post bail and thus remain in detention.
FCNN reports that on the same of his arrest, Ehsan Behrooz was escorted by 3 security agents to his residence and after searching his home number of items such as his computer, books, and other literature were seized and taken away as evidence. From that time until now the family of Mr. Behrooz has no further information about his wellbeing and his whereabouts. Only twice has Ehsan been able to contact his family by phone and during these brief conversations he is has indicated that he is doing well.
Ehsan Behrooz is a university student and an active member of the Assemblies of God church in Mashhad.
Mr. Reza (Stephen) is married with two children and his family is extremely worried about his condition at the detention center.
While these 2 remain in detention, the 901st branch of the Revolutionary court, located on the Koohsangi Street in Mashhad, has begun the process of starting proceedings for arraignment and possible trial. As of now there has been no formal charges announced and access to legal representation has been denied and no one knows how long these men will spend in detention awaiting their day in court.
It is noteworthy to mention that Mashhad is not only an ultra-religious city and a center of Shiite faith and pilgrimage, but it is the birth place of the current supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ali Khamenei, and thus receives special attention from the government. Moreover, the large sums of money, millions of dollars annually, that are collected from the alms and donations made to the shrine of the eighth Imam of Shiites, Imam Reza, supports the power of the Ali Khamenie, who maintains full control over all the revenue generated in this city.
Perhaps it could be said that the success of Christianity in this ultra-religious city that remains a political, economic, and religious center for the Shiite clerics is due to the shedding of the innocent blood of a Christian Martyr – Rev. Soodmand. Since the coming to power of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979, Rev. Soodmand was arrested and interrogated on several occasions and finally after an illegal trial, with no defense lawyer permitted and no legal procedures followed, the 39 years old Rev. Soodmand was tried and condemned to hang. On December 3, 1990, the execution order was carried out in the prison yard of Mashhad and the spirit of this Martyr went to the Lord Jesus. Prison guards took his body and buried it in ruins in the Southern part of the city. Hussien Soodmand was the first Christian minister that due to his conversion from Islam to Christianity and his unwillingness to renounce his faith was formally tried and executed by the Judicial authorities of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The Cleric that signed and carried out the order of execution of Rev. Soodmand had stated in a conversation that, “we executed him to make an example of him for all who are contemplating leaving Islam…” At that time there were perhaps a handful of Christian in the city of Mashhad. Today, more that 20 years from that evil incident, there are thousands of Christian believers in Mashhad and we can see why the Lord did not stop the hand of the evil from killing His faithful servant. Hussein Soodmand died to glorify his Lord in a city that was the focus of the Shiite clerics and produce and testify to the whole world of such great and abundant harvest of souls for Jesus Christ.
It is noteworthy to mention that from the beginning of this year many such arrests and conditional releases have occurred in various cities in Iran and these newly converted Christians still await their day in court.