Tuesday, November 16, 2021

RLPB 624. Iran: Christians repressed, persecuted and jailed

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 624 | Wed 17 Nov 2021
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- Persian prisoners write letter; groups launch petition over right to Persian worship.
by Elizabeth Kendal

Amin Khaki with his wife Laleh
 and son Ateen (5) outside the
Civil and Revolutionary Court of Fardis,
before his transfer to Ghezel Hesar prison.
10 November 2021

In November 2020 Iranian Intelligence agents raided the homes of Persian converts, Amin Khaki, Milad Goodarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi, in Fardis, west of Tehran, confiscating phones, laptops and everything relating to Christianity. In May 2021 the three converts became the first Iranian Christians to be charged and convicted under the penal code's newly amended Article 500, when they were fined and handed the maximum sentence of five years in prison for 'engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam'. In August the fine was removed and the sentences reduced to three years on appeal. Article 18 reports (8 Nov): 'The three men, who have all spent time in prison before because of their Christian faith and activities, have until Wednesday, 10 November, to hand themselves in to the prison authorities in Karaj.'

In June 2020 brothers Sam and Sasan Khosravi and Habib Heydari were among seven Iranian Christians from Bushehr, on Iran's south coast, to be sentenced for 'propaganda against the Islamic Republic by promoting Christianity'. While the men were handed custodial sentences, the women were fined and banned from work. Sam, Sasan and Habib were sentenced to serve one year in prison, after which the Khosravi brothers must also serve two years in internal exile. In January 2021 an appeals court upheld their custodial sentences on the grounds that the men are indeed guilty of 'organisation of house-churches and promotion of Christianity, which are clear examples of propaganda against the state' [see RLPB 584 (10 Feb 2021)]. At that time, Sam and his wife Maryam were also fighting to retain custody of their special needs daughter Lydia (2), whom they adopted from an orphanage as an infant. Because Lydia was 'born Muslim' and Sam and Maryam are Christian, the court deemed them unfit to raise her [see RLPB 571 (14 Oct 2020)]. Their struggle continues. Sasan and Habib began their prison terms on 8 February but were furloughed in March, doubtless due to the stress COVID-19 was inflicting on the prison system. On 11 November Sasan and Habib returned to Bushehr Central Prison to complete their sentences.

Zaman (Saheb) Fadaie (40)
with his wife Marjan and daughter Martha (15),
during a 15-day leave from prison in September 2021.

Meanwhile, Zaman (Saheb) Fadaie (40) - imprisoned since July 2018 - was recently informed that he has been denied parole for a second time. Saheb - whose 10-year sentence was reduced to six years on appeal - was surprised because he had not even applied for parole. Incarcerated in Tehran's Evin Prison, Saheb has consistently refused to apply for conditional release because, as Article 18 explains, he cannot accept the conditions of release; specifically the condition that he have no further involvement with a house-church. The conditions for those charged under the amended Article 500 are even worse, including no contact with 'sect' members in the 'real or virtual sphere' (i.e. in person or on-line; so as to prevent 'mind control' and 'psychological indoctrination'). Saheb Fadaie is one of three Persian Christians currently serving long prison sentences for their membership of a house church who have written a joint letter and recorded video statements, asking the authorities where they should worship once they are released. For, while Armenian and Assyrian Christians are permitted to meet for Christian worship, they are not permitted worship in the Persian/Farsi language or welcome Persian converts into their fellowship. Consequently, Persian converts have no choice but to meet in secret house-churches which the regime has banned as 'sects' and 'enemy groups'.

In support of the prisoners, several Christian advocacy groups have co-authored an open letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. Dated 9 November 2021, the letter requests the High Commissioner seek answers from the Iranian regime to the question of 'where Persian-speaking Christians can gather to worship freely without risking harassment and imprisonment on excessive charges.' As the letter explains: 'In 2020 alone, there were at least 115 known separate instances of the authorities targeting Christians for the peaceful exercise of their religious belief in which a total of 237 individuals were targeted, and combined prison sentences of 147 years (1,760 months) were handed down. So far in 2021, at least 53 Christians have been arrested, and many more await imminent court hearings. At present, at least 17 Christians targeted on account of the peaceful practice of their religious belief are serving sentences of between two to 10 years. Two more are in state-ordered internal exile, having already spent years in prison.' That number no doubt includes Morteza Mashhoudkari, Ayoub PourRezazade and Ahmad Sarparast, three Persian converts arrested in Rasht at around 10pm on the night of Sunday 5 September - two from a prayer group and one from their home. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

You can read the full text of the letter and sign the petition HERE:  https://articleeighteen.com/news/9587/


* comfort and sustain Iranian believers - men and women - who are imprisoned, exiled or awaiting trial simply for exercising their Christian faith through prayer, worship and witness; may their Almighty Father protect them; may Christ the Good Shepherd lead them and supply their needs; and may the ever-present Holy Spirit draw them into prayer and fill them with 'the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding' so as to guard their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (from Philippians 4:3-7). 'But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head' (Psalm 3:3 ESV).

'Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body' (Hebrews 13:3 ESV).

* 'carry' Sam, Maryam and Lydia safely into a secure and settled future where they can live as a family to the glory of God. 'Behold, the Lord God comes with might... He will tend his flock like a shepherd... he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young' (from Isaiah 40:10-11 ESV).

* continue to build his Church in Iran (Matthew 16:18); in this, we pray especially for Christ's rapidly growing Church of Persian converts; may their testimony of liberation, transformation, salvation and redemption ensure Christ's light will shine ever brighter until Iran's darkness is no more.

* break through and demolish every stronghold in and over the nation of Iran: having loosened Islam's spiritual grip over the people, may God now break Islam's political grip over the nation - for the glory of Christ, AMEN!


In May, Persian converts, Amin Khaki, Milad Goodarzi and Alireza Nourmohammadi, were sentenced to five years in prison for 'engaging in propaganda that educates in a deviant way contrary to the holy religion of Islam'. The sentences were reduced to three years on appeal. The men entered prison on 10 November. In June 2020, brothers Sam and Sasan Khosravi and Habib Heydari were among seven Iranian Christians sentenced for 'propaganda against the Islamic Republic by promoting Christianity'. Furloughed from prison after a month (due to COVID-19) Sasan and Habib recommenced their prison terms on 11 November. Meanwhile, Sam and Maryam continue the struggle to retain custody of their adopted daughter, Lydia (2), after the court deemed them (as Christians) 'unfit' to raise her. Please pray for the Church in Iran.


Elizabeth Kendal is an international religious liberty analyst and advocate. She serves as Director of Research at Canberra-based Christian Faith and Freedom Inc (CFF) and is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the Arthur Jeffery Centre for the Study of Islam at Melbourne School of Theology.

She has authored two books: Turn Back the Battle: Isaiah Speaks to Christians Today (Deror Books, Melbourne, Australia, Dec 2012) which offers a Biblical response to persecution and existential threat; and After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (Wipf and Stock, Eugene, OR, USA, June 2016).

See www.ElizabethKendal.com