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Iran: ‘Our daughter was terrified, running around the room, shaking and crying’

The U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a “country of particular concern” for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“‘Our daughter was terrified, running around the room, shaking and crying,’” Article 18, November 13, 2023:

Touraj and Elaheh’s youngest daughter, Elina, had just turned 10 years old and was still asleep when intelligence agents came to raid her home.

In fact, it was the sound of one of the agents’ voices that awoke Elina that day, and the scene that followed was a painful one not only for the little girl, but also for her mother and older sister, Arghavan.

“She was terrified,” Elina’s mother recalls, “running around the room, shaking, crying and asking in a panic: ‘What happened? What has happened?’”

Elaheh embraced her youngest daughter, and one of the agents even tried to make her feel better, telling her to think of him as her “uncle”. But a moment later Elaheh and her two daughters – Elina’s older sister was 20 at the time – were ordered to go into their lounge and sit in different corners and not to talk to each other.

Meanwhile, the agents ransacked their home, looking for any proof of what they suspected – that the family were Christian converts.

Sure enough, they found it, eventually filling 12 bin bags with confiscated items, including everything from Bibles and Christian books, to a painting of the Last Supper and Christmas-tree decorations.

At the same time, Elaheh was ordered to call her husband, who was at work, and an agent grabbed the phone before he answered, telling Touraj to return home immediately.

When he did, Touraj found the agents rummaging through his wife and daughters’ clothes and says he “got angry several times and said, ‘Either you bring a female agent, or you aren’t allowed to search our private things!’”

But much worse was to follow.

One of the agents told Elaheh that they had decided to have “mercy” upon her because of her children – by not taking her away, and only Touraj – but this was still too much for little Elina to bear.

“She was crying, and saying: ‘Don’t take my dad! Please don’t take my dad!’” Elaheh recalls. “They lied to her: ‘Don’t worry; your father will return by evening.’”

In fact, Touraj was held for the next eight days in the ward of Isfahan’s Dastgerd Prison which is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Intelligence: known as “Alef-Ta”, or “A.T.”

During Touraj’s detention, he was interrogated twice a day for at least two hours at a time – once in the afternoon, and then again at midnight.

“Sometimes they also interrogated me at 5 in the morning,” he adds.

But while the interrogations themselves were hard to bear, as Touraj and his new Christian faith were subjected to severe insults, he says it was the threats to his family that were most difficult.

“The interrogator threatened to harm my family if I didn’t cooperate,” Touraj explains. “He said: ‘Write down the names of anyone you know [from the house-church]. Otherwise, we’ll bring your wife and unmarried daughter here and do everything to them that we are capable of! If you love them, you should cooperate with us.’

“Once, he even took me to a cell where about 15 dangerous criminals were kept and said: ‘We’ll bring your daughter here to be raped!’ I cried a lot and couldn’t bring myself to even contemplate such a thing happening.”

“I was ready to be physically tortured,” Touraj adds, “but not for these threats against my family….

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