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Persecuted but not forsaken

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. 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

Imprisoned Christians:

Please consider standing in solidarity through prayer with the prisoners listed below.  They have all been imprisoned on erroneous political charges relating to their Christian faith. This list is not intended to be exhaustive, but is an aid for prayer.

  • 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 at appeal in January 2019.
  • Yousef Nadakharni (m) - serving a ten-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.
  • Saheb Fadaie (m) - serving a ten-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." Further, Saheb's appeal against a sentence of 80 lashes for drinking communion wine is still outstanding. A member of the 'Church of Iran'.
  • Mohammad-Ali Mosibzadeh (m) - serving a ten-year sentence in Evin prison since July 2018. Further, an appeal against a sentence of 80 lashes for drinking communion wine is still outstanding. Further, an appeal against a sentence of 80 lashes for drinking communion wine is still outstanding. A member of the 'Church of Iran'.
  • Mohammadreza Omidi (m) - serving a ten-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 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'. 
  • Fatemeh Bakhteri (f) - serving a one-year sentence in Evin prison since 31 August 2019. She was sentenced alongside Saheb Fadaee, who is serving 10 years in prison. At their appeal hearing in January 2019, the two converts were asked to renounce their faith. They refused.
  • Rokhsareh (Mahrokh) Ghanbari (f) - serving a one-year sentence in Shahid Kachooei prison, Karaj, since 14 October 2019. Rokhsareh is in her sixties, yet following her initial arrest in December 2018, she was detained and interrogated for long hours for ten days, before being released on bail. In January 2019 she was forced to visit a cleric to receive religious instruction and be offered the chance to return to Islam.
  • Abdolreza Ali Haghnejad (m) - detained since February 2019. Charged with "action against national security" and "promoting Zionist Christianity" but not yet sentenced. In July 2019, his bail was increased tenfold after he insisted upon being defended by his own lawyer. Unable to post this bail, he is held in Evin Prison. A member of the 'Church of Iran'.
  • Shahrooz Eslamdoost (m) - detained since February 2019. Charged with "action against national security" and "promoting Zionist Christianity" but not yet sentenced. In July 2019, his bail was increased tenfold after he insisted upon being defended by his own lawyer. Unable to post this bail, he is held in Evin Prison. A member of the 'Church of Iran'.
  • Babak Hosseinzadeh (m) - detained since February 2019. Charged with "action against national security" and "promoting Zionist Christianity" but not yet sentenced. In July 2019, his bail was increased tenfold after he insisted upon being defended by his own lawyer. Unable to post this bail, he is held in Evin Prison. A member of the 'Church of Iran'.
  • Mehdi Khatibi (m) - detained since February 2019. Charged with "action against national security" and "promoting Zionist Christianity" but not yet sentenced. In July 2019, his bail was increased tenfold after he insisted upon being defended by his own lawyer. Unable to post this bail, he is held in Evin Prison. A member of the 'Church of Iran'.
  • Behnam Akhlaghi (m) - detained since February 2019. Charged with "action against national security" and "promoting Zionist Christianity" but not yet sentenced. In July 2019, his bail was increased tenfold after he insisted upon being defended by his own lawyer. Unable to post this bail, he is held in Evin Prison. A member of the 'Church of Iran'.
  • Mehrdad Hooshmand (m) & Sarah Nemati (f) - Security forces summoned this married couple to the intelligence ministry and arrested them in September 2017. They have been accused of performing Christian funeral rituals at the Beheaht-e-Zahra cemetery. They were transferred to an unknown location and are believed to still be in detention.
  • Farzad Behzadi (m) & Abdollah Yousefi (m) - arrested along with two sisters on 2 December 2018. They are held in a prison in Mollasani, north of Ahvaz. It is not clear what charges they are facing.

Christians appealing sentences:

  • 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 have been sentenced to one year
    • 4 will serve a five-month sentence
  • Rev. Victor Bet Tamraz (m) - a senior Iranian-Assyrian church leader, Kavian Fallah Mohammadi (m) and Hadi Asgari (m) (both converts) have been sentenced to ten years each for “conducting evangelism and illegal house church activities". An appeal is ongoing.
  • Amin Nader Afshari (m) - a convert, was sentenced to fifteen-years for “conducting evangelism, illegal house church activities and insulting Islamic sanctities." An appeal is ongoing.
  • Shamiram Issavi Khabizeh (f) - the wife of Rev. Victor Bet Tamraz, was sentenced to five-years’ imprisonment for “acting against national security." An appeal is ongoing.
  • 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.

(These lists are not intended to be exhaustive. They are an aid for prayer.)

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 from prison/arbitrary detention:

Please pray for their recoveries from time in prison, for their readjustment to normal life and for their plans for the future.  Pray for those who were released from detention on bail as they will likely be summoned to court, or taken for further interrogations, in the future.

  • 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.
  • Sevada Aghasar (m) - initially arrested with Ebrahim Firouzi in August 2013, then released on bail after more than six months in detention. He began serving a five-year sentence in July 2017. In July 2019 he was granted conditional release.

“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: November 2019. 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://articleeighteen.com/report/92/