“Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.” Hebrews 13:3
Many Christians in Iran are paying a high price for their faith in Jesus. They have lost jobs, homes or even custody of children. Some have been physically abused. Scores are rejected by friends and family. And some are unjustly detained in Iran’s notorious prison system.
Your prayers are vital. Prayer strengthens our brothers and sisters and reminds them that they are not forgotten.
“I sense the fragrance of your prayers as a cool breeze on my heart and it strengthens me from afar.”
Imprisoned Christian, Farshid Fathi, Letter from prison
Please consider standing in solidarity and love through prayer with the prisoners listed below. They have all been imprisoned on false political charges relating to their Christian faith; usually they are convicted of 'undermining national security' through attending or organising house church meetings, or sharing their faith.
Christians serving court-issued sentences:
- Maryam (Nasim) Naghash Zargaran (f)- house church member, in Evin prison since 15 July 2013. Serving a four year sentence.
- Ebrahim Firouzi (m) - house church member, in Evin prison since August 2013. Serving a one year sentence, to be followed by two years exile to a border town. In March 2015 he was sentenced to a further five years' imprisonment.
- Behnam Irani (m) - house church leader (Church of Iran denomination), in Ghezel Hesar prison, Karaj, since May 2011. Serving a six year sentence. In September 2014 he was given a further six year sentence; this was overturned at appeal on 9 December 2014.
- Vruir Avanessian (m) - currently under house arrest. Ordained pastor of Armenian ethnicty, arrested at Christmas 2012; released after a few weeks on bail then tried and sentenced to 3.5 years in December 2013.
- Shiraz ‘Church of Iran’ group- eight members of the fellowship were arrested in Shiraz in October 2012, and sentenced in July 2013. At appeal in March 2014, the sentences of seven of them were upheld. Three of the group are believed to be currently serving their sentences:
- Shahin Lahooti (m) - sentenced to 2.5 years at the trial in July 2013. Released in December 2013 and then taken to serve his sentence in April 2014.
- Mohammad Roghangir (m) was taken into custody on 5 July 2014 in Bandar-Anzali, presumably to begin serving his sentence of six years.
- Massoud Rezai (m) began serving his five-year sentence on 9 November 2014.
Believed to remain in pre-trial detention:
There are believed to be dozens of others in detention who have not been formally sentenced in court. Please do pray for them: for many people this is the most difficult stage because it almost always involves long periods in solitary confinement and regular, long sessions of harsh interrogation. Sometimes this interrogation process involves physical and psychological torture. Most of those who are in pre-trial detention will not have been informed of the charge against them or allowed access to a lawyer.
Recently released Christians:
Please pray for their recoveries, for their readjustment to normal life and for their plans for the future. Some of them were released unconditionally; others were released on bail and will be summoned to court in the future.
- Saeed Abedini (m) - arrested in July 2012, sentenced to 8 years. Released on 16 January 2016.
- Maysam Hojati (m) - arrested 23 December 2015 in Isfahan, and temporarily released on bail on 6 January 2016. He endured 12 days of solitary confinement and harsh interrogations.
- Farshid Fathi (m) - imprisoned from 26 December 2010 - 21 December 2015. Farshid's full story.
- Suroush Saraie (m) - was released on 11 November from Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz, 14 months earlier than his expected release date. He had been issued a 2.5 year sentence in July 2013.
- Eskandar Rezai (m) Mehdi Ameruni (m) Bijan Farokhpour Haghighi (m): part of the Shiraz 'Church of Iran' group who were arrested in October 2012. They were reportedly temporarily released in late 2015.
- Eight Christians were arrested during a house raid in Karaj on 7 August 2015: Esmayeel Fallahi, Nematollah Yousefi, Shahin Bashiri, Mona Chardooli, Razmik and Haydeh were among those arrested. They were reportedly subsequently released on bail.
- Homayoun Shokouhi (m) - was issued a 44 month sentence and was imprisoned in Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz from February 2012 to November 2014 (when he was released on bail) and was again imprisoned January 2015 (when his bail was cancelled) until 28 June 2015.
- Alireza Seyyedian (m) - house church member (Church of Iran denomination), was in Evin prison from March 2012, serving six years, but was released early on 27 July 2015.
- Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz (m)- arrested on Boxing Day 2014 in Tehran during a Christmas service, along with two other unnamed persons. Many other gathered Christians were also questioned and intimidated during the raid on Pastor Tamraz's home. Released conditionally pending trial in March 2015.
- Mohammad Taslimi (m), Parsa Dadkhah (f) and Sepideh Morshedi (f) - arrested in Isfahan in early September 2014 and held in Dastegard prison. All members of the 'Church of Iran' network. Released on bail- date unknown.
- Mojtaba Seyyed Alaedin Hossein (m) - held in Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz from February 2012 (serving a 44 month sentence) until he was released on parole on 18 March 2015.
- Rasoul Abdollahi (m) - house church leader. Began serving a three year sentence in December 2013; released from Rajai Shahr prison on 18 February 2015.
- Vahid Hakkani (m) - was in Adel-Abad prison in Shiraz from February 2012, serving a 44 month sentence. Released early, on 26 January 2015.
- Amin Khaki (m) - member of Behnam Irani’s fellowship in Karaj, arrested 5 March 2014. Released on bail on 3 January 2015.
- Abdolreza (Matthias) Haghnejad (m) - the leader of the 'Church of Iran' group in Bandar-Anzali, taken into custody in Bandar-Anzali on 5 July 2014, along with Suroush Saraie and Mohammad Roghangir (see above). In September he was given a six-year sentence, but this was overturned at appeal on 9 December 2014 and he was released.
- Silas Rabbani (m) - member of the Church of Iran fellowship in Karaj, arrested on 5 May 2014. In September he was given a six-year sentence, but this was overturned at appeal on 9 December 2014 and he was released.
“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” 1 Corinthians 4:8-10
Last updated: January 2016. The information above is compiled from Elam's own contacts, and information available publically from the UN Special Rapporteur, various news agencies and various NGOs, including CSW, MEC, Article 18 and Open Doors.