As part of the government’s attempt to “warn” Christians against proselytising over Christmas, 114 Christians were arrested in one week in Iran, according to religious freedom charity Article 18. Advocacy Director Mansour Borji said he was “staggered” by the number of arrests” which were spread across “10 or 11 different cities.” Most of those arrested were allowed to go home after a few hours, or in some cases days. “They arrested so many they didn’t know what to do with them all,” but all were told to expect a call from the Ministry of Intelligence. Each of them had their mobile devices confiscated, while those suspected to be leaders remain in detention.
Borji added that the Christians were asked to write down details of their Christian activities and told to have no more contact with any other Christians or Christian groups. The government approved news agency Mehr claimed that some of those arrested were foreign nationals who had taken Iranian names. At the same time as the arrests, the mother of one long-term Christian detainee, Ebrahim Firouzi, died and was buried, without her son being allowed to see her in her final days, nor attend the funeral. As her health deteriorated, she pleaded with the authorities to allow her son to visit her one last time, but her pleas were rejected.
Following his mother’s death, Firouzi, imprisoned since 2013, asked to attend his mother’s funeral, but his request was denied. Ebrahim Firouzi was charged with “promoting Christian Zionism” following his arrest in March 2013. At his July 2013 trial at the Revolutionary Court in his hometown of Robat Karim, he was also charged with “attempting to launch a Christian website, contact with suspicious foreigners and running online church services”. He rejected all the charges, saying the allegations against him had been fabricated. In August 2013 he was jailed for one year with a further two years in exile in the remote city of Sarbaz, near the Pakistan border.
“Evangelism activities are considered to be in opposition to the Iranian regime,” read the court’s statement. He was due for release in January 2015 but was kept in prison and retried in March 2015 under new charges of “acting against national security”. He was sentenced to a further 5 years in jail, where he has suffered beatings and been dragged against his will to an appeals hearing, which was then postponed. Firouzi is in Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj. Borji said Rajaei Shahr Prison is considered “notorious” as many criminals are held there, including Islamic State sympathisers and other extremists.
In July 2018, Firouzi went on a hunger strike to protest against a surge in arrests of Christians. He commenced the hunger strike on 17 July 2017, for a period of 10 days, in support of the rights of fellow Christians. Other Iranian Christians have also gone on hunger strikes to protest against their treatment, including Maryam Naghash Zargaran, whose case was highlighted by Amnesty International in 2016 when it criticised Iran’s “cruel” denial of medical care in its prisons, and Amin Afshar-Naderi, who is serving a 15-year sentence: 10 years for “acting against national security by organising and conducting house-churches” and an additional five for “blasphemy”.
Source: World Watch MonitorPrint This Post