Two Christian women from Iran have started two-year prison sentences for involvement in church activities. The news reinforces the unpredictability of Iran's justice system, after nine Christians were acquitted of charges earlier this year for participation in a house church. Please continue to lift your Iranian family in prayer.
Fariba is yet another Iranian Christian imprisoned for her faith
Two Christian women – one of whom is recently married – have begun two-year prison sentences for involvement in church activities.
Fariba Dalir and Sakine (Mehri) Behjati are both converts and started their sentences on Holy Saturday (16 April). Fariba is in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison in the capital Tehran, while Sakine is in Lakan Prison in the northern city of Rasht.
Fariba was arrested in July 2021 along with five other Christians, including Soroush who was then her fiancé. The couple and three others were sentenced in December, while a 17-year-old girl was released after spending ten days in solitary confinement and being subjected to intense interrogation.
In the end, only Fariba has ended up in prison for ‘acting against national security by establishing and leading an Evangelical Christian church’. The other four were given ten-month sentences for membership of a house church but, because they had already served time in detention, they were given the option to pay a fine of five million tomans each (around £200) and not go to jail.
Fariba and Soroush got married while awaiting their sentencing and will now be separated for two years.
Mehri Behjati was among a different group of four Christian converts arrested in February 2020 for involvement in a house church in Rasht. They received between two and five years in prison for ‘acting against national security’ and ‘spreading Zionist Christianity’. Behjati was handed a two-year sentence. Her appeal was rejected by Iran’s Supreme Court.
While one of those convicted started their four-year prison sentence earlier this year, Behjati was allowed to spend the Iranian new year with her family before reporting to prison on Holy Saturday. The two others are waiting to start their sentences.
The news is a setback to Iran’s minority Christian population after the encouragement that came earlier this year with the acquittal of nine Christians prisoners for participation in a house church. This was after Iran’s Supreme Court ordered a review of the sentences, saying that sharing the Christian faith in a private home is not ‘gathering and collusion against internal or external security’, as the original verdict alleged.
These recent verdicts highlight the unpredictability of Iran’s justice system, extending even to the country’s Supreme Court. It means that, as Christians across the country continue to bravely gather in homes for worship, Bible teaching and fellowship, they still do so at great risk.
In a report to the UN Human Rights Council earlier this year, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, said he was concerned about the ‘continued repression of religious minorities’, including at least 53 Christians who had been arrested between 1 January and 1 December 2021 for practising their faith.
Iran is number nine on the World Watch List, making it still one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a Christian.
Source: Article 18
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