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Persecuted but not forsaken

Last updated: October 2020.

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. Many are rejected by friends and family. And some are unjustly imprisoned 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.”

Pastor Farshid Fathi, letter from prison
 
Please note: the information provided is not intended to be exhaustive. It is an aid for prayer. There are many situations that cannot be made public for security reasons.

Imprisoned Christians:

Please consider standing in solidarity through prayer with the prisoners listed below.  They have been imprisoned on erroneous political charges relating to their Christian faith.

  • Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh (m) - since 20 January 2018 he has been serving a ten-year sentence in Evin prison for “acting against national security through the establishment of house churches”. He was originally arrested along with three Azerbaijani Christians.
  • Majidreza Souzanchi-Kashani (m) - Christian convert who has been in Evin prison since 17 November 2017, serving a two-year sentence for “membership of an evangelical group and conducting evangelism”. He was originally sentenced to five years, but his sentence was reduced to two years at appeal in January 2019. However, after the completion of his sentence a year later he was transferred to Greater Tehran Prison to serve a separate two-year sentence for theft, a charge he has consistently denied.
  • Yousef Nadakharni (m) - serving a six-year sentence in Evin prison since July 2018. He additionally faces two years of exile in a remote part of Iran on the completion of his prison term. A leader within the 'Church of Iran' - a denomination with an unconventional understanding of the Trinity. He was sentenced to death for apostasy in 2010 but was acquitted and released after a public outcry.
  • Zaman (Saheb) Fadaie (m) - serving a six-year sentence in Evin prison since July 2018. In September 2018, Zaman was given a separate sentence of 18 months in prison for “spreading propaganda against the regime." At a retrial in June 2020, Saheb's original 10-year sentence was reduced to six years. A member of the 'Church of Iran'.
  • Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad (m) - detained since February 2019. On 13 October 2019 he was sentenced to five years in prison for "action against national security" and "promoting Zionist Christianity," along with eight other men from the 'Church in Iran' denomination. Their appeal was rejected on 25 February 2020.
  • Shahrooz Eslamdoost (m) - detained since February 2019. On 13 October 2019 he was sentenced to five years in prison for "action against national security" and "promoting Zionist Christianity," along with eight other men from the 'Church in Iran' denomination. Their appeal was rejected on 25 February 2020.
  • Babak Hosseinzadeh (m) - detained since February 2019. On 13 October 2019 he was sentenced to five years in prison for "action against national security" and "promoting Zionist Christianity," along with eight other men from the 'Church in Iran' denomination. Their appeal was rejected on 25 February 2020.
  • Mehdi Khatibi (m) - detained since February 2019. On 13 October 2019 he was sentenced to five years in prison for "action against national security" and "promoting Zionist Christianity," along with eight other men from the 'Church in Iran' denomination. Their appeal was rejected on 25 February 2020.
  • Behnam Akhlaghi (m) - detained since February 2019. On 13 October 2019 he was sentenced to five years in prison for "action against national security" and "promoting Zionist Christianity," along with eight other men from the 'Church in Iran' denomination. Their appeal was rejected on 25 February 2020.
  • Hossein Kadivar (m) - he began serving a 5-year sentence on 1 June 2020. He was originally arrested in January 2019 and later released on bail. He was part of a group of nine members of the 'Church in Iran' who were sentenced in October 2019. The sentence was upheld at appeal in Feburary 2020.
  • Khalil Dehghanpour (m) - he began serving a 5-year sentence on 1 June 2020. He was originally arrested in January 2019 and later released on bail. He was part of a group of nine members of the 'Church in Iran' who were sentenced in October 2019. The sentence was upheld at appeal in Feburary 2020.
  • Kamal Naamanian (m) - he began serving a 5-year sentence on 1 June 2020. He was originally arrested in February 2019 and later released on bail. He was part of a group of nine members of the 'Church in Iran' who were sentenced in October 2019. The sentence was upheld at appeal in Feburary 2020.
  • Mohammed Vafadar (m) - he began serving a 5-year sentence on 1 June 2020. He was originally arrested in February 2019 and later released on bail. He was part of a group of nine members of the 'Church in Iran' who were sentenced in October 2019. The sentence was upheld at appeal in Feburary 2020.

Christians appealing sentences or awaiting summons to prison:

  • Sam Khosravi (m) - Sam and his wife Maryam were among eight converts arrested in their homes on 1 July 2019. On 21 June 2020, seven of the Christians received a range of sentences from prison and exile to fines and work restrictions. Sam and his brother Sasan Khosravi were sentenced to one year in prison, followed by a two-year exile from Bushehr, which includes a ban on working in their specialist profession – the hospitality sector. They are appealing the sentences. In September 2020 Sam and his wife Maryam's adopted daughter Lydia was ordered to be removed from their care because they are Christians and she is considered Muslim.
  • Sixteen converts in Bushehr - members of the Assemblies of God church before it was closed in 2013 - have been sentenced. The group was originally arrested, detained, interrogated and released on bail in 2015. An appeal was heard in March 2019. It is expected they will be summoned soon to serve their sentences. The group includes Shapoor Jozi (m), Parastou Zariftash (f), and Payam Kharaman (m). 12 of the converts have been sentenced to one year, the other 4 to five months.
  • Ismaeil Maghrebinejad (m) during 2020 he faced various court hearings at which he was sentenced to a number of years in prison on various charges. In his most recent hearing - July 2020 - he was aquitted of one conviction but two other convictions were upheld: for membership of group espousing "Evangelical Zionist Christianity" and “propaganda against the state". He is believed to be awaiting summons to prison.
  • Anousheh (Veronica) Reza-bakhsh (f) & Soheil (Augustine) Zagarzadeh Sani (m) - this mother and son pair were arrested in Urmia in February 2017 and released six months later on bail. They have been sentenced to five years in prison. They are appealing the sentence.

Those arbitrarily detained:

There are many others arbitrarily detained.​ Please 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 detention will not have been informed of the charge against them or allowed access to a lawyer.

Recently released or in exile:

Please pray for the recoveries of people recently released from prison or arbitrary detention, for their adjustment to life outside prison. Pray especially for those forced into exile and as they try to rebuild their lives in a new place.

  • Ebrahim Firouzi (m) - imprisoned August 2013 to 26 October 2019. As part of his sentence he has been exiled for two years to a remote part of Iran, far from family and friends. In March 2020 that exile was extended by a further 11 months owing to an "unauthorised" leave of absence, when Ebrahim visited home to sort out some family affairs related to the death of his mother while he was in prison. In September 2020 Ebrahim was threatened with new charges of "insulting the sacred" and "propaganda against the state through promoting the Christian faith", but the local prosecutor dismissed the charges.
  • Sevada Aghasar (m) - he began serving a five-year sentence in July 2017. In July 2019 he was granted conditional release.
  • Rev. Victor Bet Tamraz (m) - a senior Iranian-Assyrian church leader was sentenced to ten years for “conducting evangelism and illegal house church activities". He found out his appeal had been rejected in August 2020, when he was summoned to begin his sentence, but he is no longer in the country and does not intend to return.
  • Shamiram Issavi Khabizeh (f) - the wife of Rev. Victor Bet Tamraz, was sentenced to five-years’ imprisonment for “acting against national security." She found out her appeal had been rejected in August 2020, when she was summoned to begin her sentence, but she is no longer in the country and does not intend to return.
  • Kavian Fallah Mohammadi (m) and Hadi Asgari (m) (both converts) were sentenced to ten years for “conducting evangelism and illegal house church activities". They found out their ppeal had been rejected in August 2020, when they were summoned to begin their sentences, but they are no longer in the country and do not intend to return.
  • Amin Nader Afshari (m) - a convert, in 2017 he was sentenced to fifteen-years imprisonment for “conducting evangelism, illegal house church activities and insulting Islamic sanctities." Amin found out his appeal had been rejected in August 2020, when he was summoned to begin his sentence, but he is no longer in the country and does not intend to return.
  • Mohammad-Ali Mosibzadeh (m) - he began serving a ten-year sentence in Evin prison in July 2018. A member of the 'Church of Iran'. He is reported to have been granted temporary furlough after he was one of 12 prisoners in Ward 8 of Evin prison to rest positive for Covid-19.
  • Mohammadreza (Youhan) Omidi (m) - he started serving a ten-year sentence in Evin prison in July 2018. In June 2020, Youhan's 10-year sentence was reduced to two years at a retrial. He was released from prison on 18 August 2020, but a month later began his two years in exile. Then, on 14 October 2020, Youhan was summoned back to Rasht to receive 80 lashes for consuming communion wine. A member of the 'Church of Iran'. 
  • Amin Khaki (m) - began serving a 14 month sentence in the Central prison, Karaj in July 2019. On a previous occasion, he has served a year in prison on charges related to his faith. A member of the 'Church of Iran'. On 2 March 2020, he was released on 36 days' leave due to fears over the coronavirus. This leave was later extended, and then on 6 April he was told he would not need to return to prison.
  • Fatemeh Bakhteri (f) - serving a one-year sentence in Evin prison since 31 August 2019. She was sentenced alongside Saheb Fadaee. At their appeal hearing in January 2019, the two converts were asked to renounce their faith. They refused. On 15 March 2020, Fatemeh was given temporary leave from prison due to the coronavirus outbreak. This was later extended. Then on Easter Day, Fatemeh was told she had been pardoned on the occasion of Persian New Year (Nowruz).
  • Rokhsareh (Mahrokh) Ghanbari (f) - she started serving a one-year sentence in Shahid Kachooei prison, Karaj, on 14 October 2019. She was released on 36 days' leave from prison on 2 March 2020 due to fears over the coronavirus. A month later, she was told she would not need to return to prison.
  • Ramiel Bet Tamraz (m) began serving a four-month sentence in Evin prison in January 2020. He was released on 26 February 2020.
  • Asghar Salehi (m), Mohammadreza Rezaei (m) and one other Christian convert from Fars Province started serving six-month prison sentences in December 2019, having been sentenced in September 2019 for 'propaganda against the system through promoting Zionist Christianity.' Asghar was conditionally released on 2 February 2020, having served two months of his sentence. The other two converts were released on 8 February 2020.
  • Farzad Behzadi (m) & Abdollah Yousefi (m) - arrested along with two sisters on 2 December 2018. They were held in a prison in Mollasani, north of Ahvaz, before being released on bail. It is not clear what charges they are facing.

Pray also for those individuals who have been released on bail, but who will likely be summoned to court, or taken for further interrogations about their faith, in the future.

“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: October 2020. The information above is compiled from Elam's own contacts, and information available publically from the UN Special Rapporteur, news agencies and various NGOs/non-profits, including Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Middle East Concern, Article 18 and Open Doors. Further reading: https://www.meconcern.org/2020/01/20/iran-annual-report-on-rights-violations-released/