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3/18/2011 Iran (ChristianToday) – Mohabat News, the only active news agency inside Iran reporting on the recent mass arrests of Christians in the country, was suddenly suspended today. It is unclear why the website has been disabled, however in the past the authorities have been known to shut down websites run by human rights groups and critics of the regime under the guise of defending the nation against “cyber warfare”.
In recent months a staff member of Mohabat News was allegedly threatened via an email from the Revolutionary Guard, which stated that he and his family would be targeted, and “bad things” would happen to them as a result of Mohabat’s output.
The suspension of Mohabat News came the day after it reported the seizure and burning of 600 New Testaments by authorities in western Iran on 7 February 2011. In a routine border inspection of a bus in Salmas in Western Azerbaijan, the Office of Contraband Search and Seizure along with the Revolutionary Guards reportedly discovered two boxes, each containing 300 New Testaments that had allegedly been smuggled across the border. No passengers claimed ownership of the confiscated boxes, and the official website of the Revolutionary Guards accused the United States of playing a major role in this incident.
These developments have occurred within the context of escalating fears for religious minorities in Iran. The Baha’i International Community recently reported that so far this month, the Iranian authorities have arrested at least nine Baha’is who provided schooling to children in a region of Iran devastated by an earthquake seven years ago. The authorities allege the Baha’is “took advantage” of the desperate need for teachers following the earthquake.
Furthermore, at least 282 Christians have been arrested in around 34 cities in Iran since June 2010. All have faced many hours of intense interrogation and most have faced long periods in solitary confinement. At least fifteen of these Christians remain in prison, including Khalil Yarali, who was held in solitary confinement for 28 days in an unknown place and under intense interrogations before being transferred to Karoon prison in Ahwaz.