Iranian security agents arrested an Assyrian pastor and two Christian converts who were his guests at his Tehran residence on 26 December 26 according to Mansour Borji, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Iranian Churches, reports the.International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, published by Payvand Iran News.
Borji told the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the full reasons for the arrest of Pastor Victor Beth Tarmez, a former leader of the Tehran Pentecostal Assyrian Church, and his guests remain unknown, but that at the time of the raid on his home, agents stated that they were arresting the individuals because they “participated in an illegal gathering.” The “illegal gathering” was a Christmas party Tarmez was holding at his home and his guests were Zoroastrian, Muslim, and Christian citizens.
“There was a Christmas party at Pastor Victor’s home. He and his wife and son and 14 guests were there. When agents entered the home, first they searched all the personal belongings of the guests, then they videotaped their faces, and then they searched the premises. Eventually, they arrested Pastor Tarmez along with two Christian converts and confiscated some property from the home,” Borji told the Campaign.
“During a short phone call to his family on December 29, Pastor Victor informed them that he is held at Evin Prison. We have no information about the status of the two Christian converts arrested on the same day. All we know is that they have not been released yet,” added Mansour Borji.
Asked whether Pastor Victor had been threatened or arrested before, Borji said “In 2009, Intelligence Ministry agents asked Pastor Victor to cancel his Farsi-language classes at the Church. He resisted and continued his classes. In the end, agents put pressure on the Church and the Church dismissed him from his position. But Pastor Beth Tarmez continued his religious activities.”
“Over the past five years, we have witnessed arrests of several Christians and Christian converts during Christmas holidays. The government is very sensitive about these days and even tells Farsi-language churches in advance that they can only have one gathering for Christmas, because they are worried that because of the Farsi language [used in the sermons], regular people would also come to church and listen to what is being said,” concluded Mansour Borji.
Despite official assertions that Christians enjoy full rights as citizens of Iran, the Christian community-particularly Evangelicals and Protestant communities that are seen as encouraging conversion to Christianity, suffers severe and widespread discrimination and persecution in Iran, as documented in the Campaign’s report, The Cost of Faith: Persecution of Christian Protestants and Converts in Iran, and noted in the reports of the UN Secretary-General and the UN Special Rapporteur for human rights in Iran.