‘Continuously high’ wave of arrests increases; whereabouts, charges unknown.
LOS ANGELES, January 23 (Compass Direct News) – Three Christians from two different families were arrested from their homes Wednesday morning (Jan. 21) and are being held without charges, sources told Compass.
Authorities took Jamal Ghalishorani, 49, and his wife Nadereh Jamali from their home in Tehran between 7 and 8 a.m., about a half hour after arresting Hamik Khachikian, an Armenian Christian also living in Tehran. Ghalishorani and his wife are Christian converts from Islam, considered “apostasy” in Iran and potentially punishable by death.
Christian sources told Compass that Ghalishorani converted to Christianity 30 years ago, and his wife received Christ about 15 years ago. They have one child, a 13-year-old daughter, while Khachikian has two children, a 16-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. Authorities have not told the families of the charges against those arrested or their whereabouts.
The three arrested Christians belong to house churches, source said, and they hold jobs and are not supported as clergy. Police also took books and computers from the families’ homes.
The arrests come as part of a tsunami of arrests in the past several months, the sources said.
“We don’t know why the pressure is continuously high, but we see that it is increasing,” said one source. “The government does it to the Baha’i people as well – there are more arrests in the last several months among them than in maybe the whole 30 years before.”
Arrests and pressure on Christians from authorities have ramped up even further in the past few months, the source said, adding that the reasons were unclear.
Another source, however, said the arrests are part of a concerted, nationwide government plan.
“We are quite sure that these arrests are part of a bigger operation from the government,” the source said. “Maybe up to 50 people were arrested. In Tehran alone already some 10 people were arrested – all on the same day, January 21.”
Sources noted that whereas past waves of intense harassment and arrests of Christians eventually have subsided, recent pressure has been “continuously high,” with reports of arrests in almost every month of 2008.
“In the past there have been waves of incredible pressure, but then it seemed to calm down a bit sometimes,” said one source. “Then we had the feeling pressure came and went, but now it is continuously ongoing.”
The families of those arrested fear for their safety. Khachikian’s wife is “very confused, she has no idea where her husband is,” said the source. “Relatives are taking care of the daughter of Jamal and Nadereh’s, but of course she’s very anxious about what will happen to her parents.”
The arrests are particularly disturbing in light of the Iranian parliament’s approval last September of a new penal code calling for a mandatory death sentence for “apostates,” or those who leave Islam. In the past death sentences for apostasy were issued only under judicial interpretations of sharia (Islamic law).
Under the new penal code, male “apostates” would be executed, while females would receive life sentences. The new code was to be sent to Iran’s most influential body, the Guardian Council, which will rule on it. The council is made up of six conservative theologians appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader and six jurists nominated by the judiciary and approved by parliament. This body has the power to veto any bill it deems inconsistent with the constitution and Islamic law.
The last Iranian Christian convert from Islam executed by the Iranian government was Hossein Soodmand in 1990. He was accused of working as “an American spy.” Since then at least six Protestant pastors have been assassinated by unknown killers.
Report from Compass Direct News