03/04/2021 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Iran recently ratified two concerning amendments to its Penal Code, specifically to Article 499 and Article 500 which are frequently utilized to accuse and arrest Christians. These articles deal with engagement with “anti-security groups” and “propaganda” against the state and Islam.
The amendments carry five-year prison sentences if convicted. Article 500’s amendment restricts “deviant education and proselytizing activity” that “contradicts the sacred law of Islam”. Article 499’s amendment is quite vague, allowing for potentially harmful discretion in baseless charges and arrests.
There are still many Iranian Christians who are fighting for justice both from within the prison system and outside. Ibrahim Firouzi was one of the most recently arrested Christians, though he has already served almost seven years in prison prior. Firouzi was arrested after he released videos detailing the harassment he experienced from Iranian officials on charges of blasphemy and propaganda. He endured a three-day hunger strike, ending after he was told he would soon be released. Firouzi was released 11 days after he was promised, after bail was posted for him. He is now released but the charges against him have not dropped.
Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian convert who has also served many years in prison, recently found some encouragement after a UN Working Group deemed his incarceration arbitrary. Though Iran has not taken any active steps towards rectifying the working group’s demands, Nadarkhani’s plight has brought Iran’s violations of human and religious freedom rights to the international stage.
Yasser Mossayebzadeh, who ICC had previously reported on as a COVID-19 positive prisoner, has finally been released from jail. According to reports, Mossayebzadeh was pressured to recount his faith in order to receive his freedom. It is not known whether that is the case. His conditional release stipulates that he is to have no interactions with Christians or engage in Christian activity.
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