The Iranian authorities have released Ebrahim Firouzi, a Christian convert from a Muslim background, after he served a 5-year sentence at Gohardasht (Rajaei Shahr) Prison in Karaj, 20 kilometers west of Tehran, the Christian Mohabat News website reports.
Sources close to Mr. Firouzi’s family told Mohabat News that the authorities had released the 35-year-old machinist (tool and die maker) in the streets of Karaj.
Firouzi, who is a native of Robat Karim, in the northern province of Tehran, had been arrested and detained at least three other times as of 2011 until his imprisonment in 2013 on charges of “acting against national security.”
Firouzi was denied visitation rights during his last incarceration. The prison authorities did not even allow him to attend his mother’s funeral in November 2018.
Firouzi will reportedly be sent to exile for two years to the town of Sarbaz in the southwestern province of Sistan and Baluchestan.
His family had requested that he be allowed to spend a few days at home before reporting to local authorities in Sarbaz. It is, however, unclear if the Judiciary has approved the petition.
Firouzi lived in horrible prison conditions and endured inhumane physical and mental treatments. Yet while in prison, he continued his support for the striking truck drivers and his peaceful civil disobedience. He also went on hunger strikes several times, protesting his living conditions in prison.
The mistreatment of religious minorities in Iran, particularly those who have converted to Christianity, has gained worldwide attention in recent years. Many house-churches have been closed, and worshipers arrested by security forces.
It is unclear how many Christian converts are in prison in Iran. Reports by human rights groups do not reflect the true extent of abuses committed against Christian communities in Iran.
Although Article 13 of the Constitution recognizes Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity, the authorities routinely harass Christian converts and evangelical Christians. The Islamic Republic considers evangelical Christianity a “corrupt and perverted” movement.
The U.S.-based weekday morning “Fox and Friends” TV program recently interviewed Dalton Thomas, the director of a documentary film titled “Sheep Among Wolves Volume II”, produced by Frontier Alliance International Studios (a Christian human rights organization founded in 2011 by Mr. Dalton), which explores “an underground, persecuted Christian movement” in Iran.
The film argues: “Forty years of the Islamic Republic rule have caused the worst devastation in the 5,000-year history of Iran.”
According to the documentary, many Iranians from a Muslim background have converted to Christianity in recent years. Most Christians reportedly worship at makeshift and home churches.
According to Thomas, the movement inside Iran “owns no property, no buildings, no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women.”
[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]