On Dec. 2, Rasoul Abdollahi, a Christian convert from Islam, was moved to Ward 350 of Evin prison in Iran. While it is unclear whether he was held elsewhere immediately before this or whether he was at home on temporary bail, he is now in Evin serving a three-year sentence for “collusion against the government and evangelism.”
Rasoul’s prison sentence stems from a raid conducted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard in December, 2010. In an organized attempt to stop Christians from meeting together, authorities stormed a Christmas celebration on Dec. 26 and arrested 22 Christians, including Rasoul and the group’s pastor, Farshid Fathi, whose story is featured on The Voice of the Martyr’s Prisoner Alert Web site.
After ten of the Christians were intensely questioned and forced to sign an agreement stating that they would refrain from Christian activities, they were finally released. With the exception of Farshid, the other 11 people arrested, including Rasoul, were released by April, 2011.
In Iran authorities use temporary bail as a tactic to keep those previously arrested in a constant state of uncertainty. Those on bail can be recalled to face further interrogation or longer prison sentences. Prisoners can also be held without being charged or sentenced and many wait months before knowing what the official charges are or how long they will face in prison.
Pastor Farshid was never released, even though authorities took a large sum of bail money from his family, who were hoping to have him return home. Instead, he was held in solitary confinement for over a year. On March 5, 2012, Farshid was charged with “acting against national security through membership of a Christian organization, collection of funds, propaganda against the Islamic Regime by helping spread Christianity in the country,” and sentenced to six years in prison. He is also currently being held in Ward 350 of Evin prison.
Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh and his wife, Shahnaz Jayzan.
A year after the raids of December, 2010, authorities raided another Christmas celebration on Dec. 23, 2011. This time, it was an Assemblies of God church in Ahvaz. Everyone at the service was arrested, including children. Several hours later, authorities released all but four Christians, including Pastor Farhad Sabokrouh, his wife, Shahnaz Jayzan and two church ministers, Davoud Alijani and Naser Zamen-Dezfuli. Each of their stories are also included on Prisoner Alert.
After being released on bail by Feb. 21, 2012, the four were sentenced to one year in prison in October, 2012. They were called to a court hearing in May, 2013 when each was arrested. Davoud was sent to Karoon prison in Ahvaz, and the other three were sent to Sepidar prison, located in Ahwaz.
On Dec. 4, 2013, just two weeks prior to the end of their year term, the pastor, Farhad, and church minister, Naser, were released. Farhad’s wife and Davoud are still serving their terms and have been in jail over 220 days. It is hoped that they will also be released in the coming weeks.
At least 40 Christians are currently being held in prisons throughout Iran, many of them arrested during Christmas services in 2010 and 2011.
Knowing that Iranian believers who celebrate Christmas are at risk of having their churches raided, how will you pray for Christians this Christmas season?
“Ann Kay” is a writer for VOM. She learned about VOM five years ago when she read Tortured for Christ and began receiving the newsletter. She is passionate about reaching the world for Christ and sharing stories of the persecuted church.