VIOLENCE AGAINST CHRISTIANS IN IRAN
The crisis in Afghanistan, particularly the plight of Christian brothers and sisters there, is rightly in the center of attention and intercession for many. But that nation’s neighbor to the west — Iran — is also making headlines. And Believers there need our prayers.
In recent days disturbing videos were released from one of Iran’s most notorious jails — Evin prison. If that name rings a bell, the reason is that Evin has been a brutal holding place for Christians and others the Iranian regime views as threats.
One of those is Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a Christian convert from a Muslim family. Nadarkhani was detained 15 years ago, eventually sentenced to death, and, after international outcry, acquitted in September 2012. But then he was arrested again in 2018. According to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), “plain clothes authorities raided Nadarkhani’s home and took him to the notorious Evin Prison. Authorities reportedly beat Nadarkhani and attacked his son with a taser during the raid.”
Evin prison is a dangerous place. It was even sanctioned by the U.S. government in 2018 for “brutal tactics inflicted by prison authorities, including sexual assaults, physical assaults, and electric shock.” Iranian authorities in the past have reportedly tried to downplay stories of the horrors there, but evidence presented by the new videos are shocking. Leaked surveillance footage from a hacker group called Edalat-e Ali show terrible scenes of beating, neglect, and other mistreatment of prisoners.
After viewing the videos, Heba Morayef, a regional expert at Amnesty International, said, “This disturbing footage offers a rare glimpse of the cruelty regularly meted out to prisoners in Iran. It is shocking to see what goes on inside the walls of Evin prison, but sadly the abuse depicted in these leaked video clips is just the tip of the iceberg of Iran’s torture epidemic.”
It’s bad. In fact, it’s bad enough that regime authorities are even taking action. Just this week, Iranian judiciary prosecutors announced criminal cases against six Evin guards. Iranian spokesman Zabihollah Khodaeian said, “The scenes shown in the published films were against the law and it is not justifiable under any circumstances.” Meanwhile, according to Radio Farda, an apology from the country’s top prison official was a “a rare admission of abuse by the authorities.”
Could this beam of light energize a larger movement for righteousness and justice? It’s difficult to believe given the track record of the Iranian regime, particularly after the rise of a new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi. Indeed, USCIRF released a report last month documenting the escalation of persecution against Christians and other minorities in Iran, and Open Doors USA ranks Iran #8 on its list of top Christian persecutors.
Still, we know our Lord can and does turn what seems irreparable into good. Let’s pray for light and truth to prevail in Iran and throughout the region. And, as Open Doors suggests, let’s pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ — asking for “God to uphold their faith, embolden their outreach, and bless their efforts to bring others to Christ.”
Let’s especially pray for those individuals (and their families) who are suffering for their faith in Christ in prison.
Does this move your heart? Share a prayer in the comments below for our brothers and sisters in Iran, and for reform in the prison system.
Aaron Mercer is a Contributing Writer with two decades of experience in Washington, D.C.’s public policy arena. (Photo Credit: Canva).
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