A Christian artist was arrested by plain clothes security authorities in a house church in Mashhad. No information is available yet concerning his health condition or where he is being held. The lack of information has increased concerns for his health.
According to Iranian Christian news agency, Mohabat News, ” Vahid Zarday”, a Christian convert was arrested on 26 May by plain clothes security authorities in the religious city of Mashhad.
Mr. Zarday, together with his wife and a number of other new Christian believers, had gathered in a house church to worship and hear teaching from Bible. Security authorities raided the place and arrested everyone in attendance and transferred them to an unknown location. In addition, the place used as a house church was thoroughly searched.
Vahid Zarday graduated in Music from Sooreh University in Tehran and is a Christian artist. In producing his material, he has collaborated with some famous Iranian artists in several domestic art festivals, including those for theater and has received awards as a music composer. Also he has written articles on music and theology for some Iranian newspapers.
According to the report, Mr. Zarday’s wife was temporarily released because of her physical condition and also because she is in the final days of her pregnancy. However, she was forced to sign an agreement stating that she must go to the respective offices and organizations in Mashhad upon request. She was also asked to remain silent and not give the news to media and avoid interviews.
No news has been received concerning the names and details of others who may have been arrested in the house church in Mashhad.
In a report, the Islamic Republic’s newspaper acknowledged the spread of house churches in the religious city of Mashhad and considered it to be organized and a result of broad plans of the agents of arrogance. The article also revealed that 200 house churches were located in Mashhad.
Vahid Zarday was born in 1358 Persian calendar (or 1979-1980) in Neyshabur and currently is a resident of Tehran. No information is available yet regarding his whereabouts and health condition nor has he contacted his family or friends since his arrest. This has heightened the anxiety among his family and friends.
Vahid Zarday had already been arrested by Intelligence officers 5 years ago in Neyshabur because of his Christian beliefs at the same time as other Christians. At that time he was interrogated for 48 hours and subjected to mental torture which affected him for a long time.
The reports received at Mohabat News indicate that following the arrest of Vahid Zarday in Mashhad, another house church in Neyshabur, the second most populous city in Khorasan-Razavi province, was raided by security authorities and its entire congregation was arrested and transferred to the Intelligence office of Neyshabur. No complete report is yet available concerning the number and names of those arrested in this attack. However, sources say that two of the detainees are Ali-Reza and Hadi whose situation is unknown as well.
The reports also revealed that 15 days before the incident, Ali-Reza had been summoned by the Intelligence office of Neyshabur and questioned aggressively about Christians in the area and their activities.
Neyshabur is known as an important city in Khorasan province. Some time ago, the local newspaper in southern Khorasan quoted Ayatollah Sobhani, a Marja-e-taqlid (a religious reference point) who warned against Christian activities in Iran and acknowledged the increase of Christian activities. This Ayatollah claimed “600 people in Neyshabur have become Christian”. He did not mention the source through which he received this number and did not name any organization.
Prior to that, other Ayatollahs including Mesbah Yazdi and Vahid Khorasani, top Shiite religious experts, harshly insulted Christianity and Christians. These senior religious figures had already warned government and judicial authorities against the growing interest of young people in Christianity. These statements prompted pressure, threats, arrests and torture of a number of Christians and Christian converts by security and judicial authorities, especially in religious cities.
Mashhad is the capital of Khorasan-Razavi province in North-East Iran. This religious city is the second most populous city of Iran after Tehran and is the birthplace of Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iranian regime considers Mashhad as the cultural capital of the Islamic world