Iranian Christian Converts Arrested

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CWN.org -- Security police officials in Tehran this month tortured a newly converted couple and threatened to put their 4-year-old daughter in an institution after arresting them for holding Bible studies and attending a house church.

A Christian source in Iran said that 28-year-old Tina Rad was charged with "activities against the holy religion of Islam" for reading the Bible with Muslims in her home in east Tehran and trying to convert them. Officials charged her husband, 31-year-old Makan Arya, with "activities against national security" after seizing the couple from their home on June 3, forcing them to leave their 4-year-old daughter ill and unattended.

Authorities kept them in an unknown jail for four days, which left them badly bruised from beatings, with Rad "very ill" and unable to walk, said the source. Rad was released on bail of US$30,000 bail, and her husband was freed on payment of US$20,000.

"The next time there may also be an apostasy charge, if you don't stop with your Jesus," a female security police officer told Rad during interrogation, according to the source. Under Iran's strict Islamic laws, Muslims who convert from Islam to another religion can be executed.

A draft law before the Iranian parliament would make the death penalty mandatory for "apostates" who leave Islam.

"They went to a court hearing just for show," the source said, "as secret police had already taken their signatures by force with a statement that they had not changed their religion."

The charges, however, are still open, said the source, a close friend of the couple.

The female security police official warned Rad that if she and her husband continued attending a house church and holding Bible studies, they could be imprisoned "for a very long time" and would lose their daughter, Odzhan Arya. An officer also told Rad that authorities could concoct a drug case against them, "and you will be punished as drug smugglers."

A male security police official also threatened Rad, who along with her husband received Christ as savior about three months ago, the source said.

"He told Tina during the interrogation that if she doesn't cooperate and tell some names and addresses, she won't see her daughter for a long time," the source said. "They said, 'Next time if we catch you, you are going to miss your whole family forever.'"

An officer also told Arya that authorities could place his daughter "in a protected religious institution."

The charge against Arya of "activities against national security" was based on his allowing Bible sessions with Muslims in his apartment and trying to go to the house church, the source said.

Confirmation from the couple's denomination of their arrest and mistreatment was not immediately available.

Forced Statements The couple was forced to sign a statement, the source said, that they wouldn't go back to their house church and that they would have no contact with other Christians - and that if they did, "they will be punished by the law of Islam."

The charges and forced statements seem to contravene the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a party, giving it the force of law. Article 18 of the covenant stipulates that everyone shall have the right to adopt a religion or belief, as well as freedom individually or in community in public or private to manifest one's religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

The couple would forfeit their bail and their freedom if secret religious police catch them engaged in Christian activities, they were told in the court before their release.

"They were tortured psychologically and physically," the source said. "There are a lot of blue places on their bodies. Tina can't walk well and is very ill, and her husband Makan is still very shocked."

The couple was arrested after a relative of Arya informed security police of the couple's Christian activities. According to the friend of the couple, officers confiscated their personal computer, satellite dish and television set, as well as all books, videos, CDs, DVDs and even a photo album.

"Tina is very sick, and because of the pain on the right side of her head from the torture, and the shock of the whole situation, she can't leave the house and their daughter," the source said. "She knows for sure that they are monitored in all their communications."

Societal Hostilities Following their arrest, the husband and wife also suffered at the hands of family and area Muslims.

In order to make the bail payments, Arya obtained financial help from his father - on the condition that he promise to divorce his wife.

"So he did , and now of course he refuses to divorce," the source said. "So his father gave him an ultimatum. There is discrimination even in the family against them."

After their release, the couple found the window of their clothing shop had been smashed.

"Almost the whole street knows about them, so imagine how difficult their business is," said the source. "They want to change the shop and go somewhere else. Every day and night they get some calls from unknown people, and their life at this moment is under invisible and visible surveillance."

On Monday Arya received letters at both the clothing shop and his home stating that he must place evidence on his new window pane indicating his Islamic faith by displaying a statement and photos, or else he would have to buy a new window every day.

The source said Arya displayed a photo of Islamic leaders on the window, "but they want to go somewhere else."

Arya went to area police asking for protection, the source said, "but they told him not to lie and to 'go do something about it if you are a real believer of Islam.'"

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