Family and friends of three Christians from Azerbaijan and an Iranian Christian are pleased to report that they have been permitted to leave prison on bail.
Middle East Concern report that ‘the three Azerbaijani men, all from Baku, were allowed to travel back home on 6 November.’ Many people have been praying and writing to the Iranian authorities on behalf of the men and so it is encouraging to see this result.
Eldar Gurbanov , Yusif Farhadov and Bahram Nasibov were arrested on 24 June when security officials raided a wedding party they were attending. ‘Seven others were also arrested, most of whom were quickly released. However Eldar, Yusif, Bahram and Iranian Christian convert, Naser, were taken to Evin Prison for interrogation.’
Subsequently, the four men were kept in solitary confinement for two months and interrogated. Their whereabouts were not made known, to the concern of family members. They were refused access to any legal support during this initial period of their detention.
‘In September, the men were transferred out of solitary confinement to shared cells in Ward 350 in Evin Prison, much to their mutual encouragement. They faced charges of engaging in missionary activity and propaganda against the regime, but it is hoped that they will be acquitted of these charges.
Finally, on 29 October they were released on bail.’
Let’s give thanks to God for answered prayer and pray for continued strength for the men and their families. Eldar, Yusif and Bahram are all married and have children. Yusif has a young son with Down’s Syndrome. Continue to pray that they would be aware of God’s presence very close and that they would receive any necessary emotional and spiritual support required after the trauma and pray that the men would be acquitted of the charges.
Recently, more than 200 Iranians and Afghans were baptised in a location just outside Iran and the service was attended by people from eight different Persian-speaking churches. During their baptism the believers shared testimonies as to how Jesus had changed their lives.
‘One man said he had been suicidal, but Jesus intervened and brought him new hope.’
‘Another new believer shared: “I never thought I would find freedom from my past, but Jesus has set me free.’
The church in Iran has been growing mightily in recent times. Twenty years ago, everyone thought there were 2,000-5,000 believers in Iran and now the conservative estimate is 300,000 to 400,000 Muslim-background believers, with others saying that the number could be as high as one million.’
Certain factors have spurring the growth of the church in Iran. There is disillusionment with the Iranian regime and with Islam and life has not improved in the last few years, particularly with the sanctions. People are also disillusioned by violence carried out in the name of Islam.” Iranians are spiritual people and are hungering for the truth and when they hear of Jesus they are intrigued and eager to learn more.
Let’s give thanks to God who is continuing to build his church even amidst fierce persecution.
Family members of five Christian prisoners arrested in Firouz-Kouh county are concerned about the’ prolonged detention of their loved ones as they fear Iranian intelligence forces may be trying to fabricate accusations against them.’
‘Ramil Bet-Tamraz, is the son of the Assyrian pastor, Victor Bet-Tamraz, former leader of the Pentecostal Assyrian Church in Tehran and is currently under arrest. Reports indicate that he suffers from a number of health issues and the conditions in Evin prison are putting his health at serious risk.’
‘Two of these prisoners, Ramil Bet-Tamraz and Amin Afshar Naderi were previously arrested in 2014 and were released on bail, which makes the situation worse for them.’
‘The greatest concern of the families of these Christian men is that the authorities may fabricate storied and that authorities would put their loved ones under pressure, forcing them to confess to crimes they have not committed.’
Please pray that God would comfort and strengthen these men and sustain their families at this difficult time.
Maryam Zargaran who was permitted to leave prison to receive urgent medical treatment in recent weeks has been ordered to return to prison. She has been in hospital since August 28th receiving treatment for heart problems but has been denied any extension to her leave.
Mohabat News has reported ‘a few days ago officials at the prosecutor’s office her family were informed that her furlough would not be extended and she has already been considered absent [without leave] and must return to prison as soon as possible.”
Fears for Maryam’s health have increased significantly “She’s not in a good mental or physical state and she’s still in the hospital,” added the source. “She doesn’t have the mental strength to go back to prison.”
In addition to heart problems for which she has been taking medication, Maryam has been suffering from issues with her digestive tract and spine. Maryam also suffers from arthritis in her neck and hands which has increased over time while in prison.
Maryam commenced two hunger strikes in 2016 ‘demanding to be freed based on Article 58 of the New Islamic Penal Code, which allows the deciding court to grant conditional early release to prisoners sentenced to less than ten years after they serve a third of their term.’
On November 5, Maryam was arrested for her alleged involvement in missionary activities. In 2013, despite having no access to legal counsel, Maryam was sentenced to four years in prison by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh for “assembly and collusion against national security.” The Appeals Court later upheld the sentence.
Furthermore Maryam was also accused of seeking property in northern Iran for an orphanage along with converted Iranian-American Christian pastor Saeed Abedini prior to his arrest for his religious beliefs in 2012. Abedini was sentenced to eight years in prison. He was released following a prisoner swap deal between Iran and the United States in January 2016.
Christians, particularly Protestant and Christian converts, experience severe discrimination in Iran, and are harshly prosecuted for their religious beliefs and involvement in missionary work. Please pray for Maryam that God would strengthen her and comfort her family at this time: ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble’.
Maryam Naghash Zargaran, a Christian prisoner who went on hunger strike on Saturday, July 9, 2016, broke her strike on Sunday, July 31, 2016 as ‘prison authorities promised a fairer handling of her case.’
Maryam has been on strike for twenty two days and this has taken a serious toll on her health.
Reports declare that Maryam’s family have been able to visit her and that ‘authorities have given her some positive promises which eventually convinced her to break her hunger strike.’
Maryam’s initial eleven-day hunger strike resulted in authorities granting leave to obtain medical treatment but demanded her return before being able to complete the course of treatment.
Three days prior to the breaking of her strike, Maryam had to be taken to prison’s clinic as her condition had become critical.
‘Her mother, Mrs. Pour Noohi, says “I expect to hear a bad news any moment. I keep thinking about tragic things that can happen to my daughter.”Earlier, Mrs. Pour Noohi had release a video asking Iranian government to release her daughter.’
It is unclear what the outcome will be. The strike has been been a voice to the authorities in pleading for her release to obtain necessary medical treatment.
‘Maryam is 35 years old and was initially arrested in the winter of 2013 for alleged “actions against national security” through her Christian activities. She was held in temporary custody of the Intelligence police for three days while they raided her house and seized anything they could find related to her Christian faith. She was then transferred to Evin prison for interrogation where she was held for 19 days. Eventually she was released on bail until the date of her trial.’
Please continue to pray for Maryam whose condition is deteriorating as medics were unable to complete her course of treatment. Please pray that God’s will would be done and that God would bring her comfort and even bring healing. She is currently in a prison cell in Tehran’s Evin prison.
‘Maryam who has a Muslim background is currently serving a four year sentence for work connected to an orphanage alongside Pastor Saeed Abedini.’ Please pray that God would strengthen her in a mighty way and even that she would be released. Also, give thanks for her fellow prisoners who are backing her bids for medical treatment. Above all, pray that each prisoner would know God’s peace and presence continually: ‘For the Lord hears the poor and needy and despises not his prisoners’ Ps 69v33.
Iranian Authorities have refused to give extended leave to Christian prisoner Maryam Naghash Zargaran. They have disregarded doctors advice that she be allowed to spend further time outside of prison to complete her medical treatment.
She was requested leave on June 6, 2016 for medical treatment. Authorities have since ordered that she must return to prison midway through treatment
‘A source close to the Zargaran family said, “Her mother went to the court on Sunday asking for an extension to her leave, but they refused. She was told her daughter has stayed out of prison beyond her leave and needs to return to prison today”.’
Prior to her leave, Mrs. Zargaran went on a hunger strike to protest against the authorities’ neglect of her regarding her health, mishandling her case and refusing her medical leave. Combining eleven days of hunger strike as well as extensive media coverage of her situation, authorities allowed her to go on a short leave.
During her leave, Mrs. Zargaran remained in hospital until the evening of Saturday, June 18, 2016 but is continuing to suffer physically. Mrs. Zargaran has a history of medical problems, ‘including a heart condition known as Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) for which she underwent a surgery years ago. More recently, she has been feeling numbness in her hands and feet and suffers from chronic pain in her joints and spinal cord.’
Maryam is a Christian convert from an Islamic background who is currently serving a four year sentence in the women’s ward of the notorious Evin prison in Iran.
In recent months 18 Iranian Christians have been sentenced to a total of 23 years in prison. Their only crime according to the Iranian courts has been “evangelism and building house churches”.1
Lets pray that God will grant them courage to keep on witnessing when faced with the gravity of their prison situation.
What an amazing answer to prayer. On 4th July 2015 Farshid was given an early release date of 10th December 2015 when he fully expected to be released two years later. “This is positive news, which has greatly encouraged Farshid and his family. We join them in praising God for this development, and for those who have made it possible. Please continue to pray for Farshid during his final months in Rajai Shahr prison, Iran.”2
The underground church continues to bloom amidst the severe persecution inflicted on Christians Elam Ministries report that another house church has opened its door recently.
‘A pastor explains how a neighbour of his had a conversation with his brother who had become disillusioned with religion and whilst watching a Christian programme on TV gave his life to Christ. A group of seven believers meet weekly and Bibles are being sent to the group.’3
Pray for the safety and security of these 7 and the many like them who meet secretly to worship the living God.
Like many thousands before her *Laleh had come to England seeking a better life. She was tired of the country Iran had become and longed for a fresh start where she could be free and valued as a woman. It was hard to leave her community behind but it helped that her husband had travelled to London months previously to set up ‘home’ in readiness for her and their teenage son to arrive.
At first life was exciting but after a couple of years disaster struck when her husband announced that after 16 years of marriage he was divorcing her. Suddenly she was faced with the prospect of living in a ‘foreign’ country with limited English, jobless and with a teenager to educate. This was easily the lowest ebb of her life and she became deeply depressed. Apart from the shame and humiliation of being a divorcee she felt painfully alone and utterly rejected. Some fresh start!
It was at this point that we met Laleh as she had been invited by a friend to come along to the New Life Persian Fellowship, that Amir pastors. In the months that followed she slowly opened up explaining the extent of her anguish and sorrow. We encouraged her to seek out the God of the Bible as he was a personal, loving Father who wanted to carry her burdens and give her rest. One night in her confusion she cried out to God and to Muhammed (just to keep her options covered!) that if they were alive could they reveal themselves. Shortly after this she fell into a deep sleep and had a dream.
Before her she saw a bride and bridegroom yet they were strangely separated by raging waters. The groom was dressed in a purple robe and the bride was desperately trying to do everything she could to be with him. The more she struggled the more futile it all became. Just when all appeared hopeless the groom crossed the river and scooped his beloved up in his arms and they were united at last.
In the Middle East dreams carry great significance so Laleh was eager to speak to Amir to hear just how he would interpret it. After listening carefully he reassured her that The God of the Bible was speaking very specifically into her situation and went on to share what he thought it meant.
The man dressed in purple clearly represented Jesus the Bridegroom and the bride in this case was Laleh .The bride’s attempts to cross the raging river underlined the inadequacy of Islam to reach God. Trying to adhere to its five pillars was not the answer. The groom’s action of scooping her up in his arms spoke of the message of the cross. The penalty of her sin had been dealt with and now all she had to do was rest in this ‘finished’ work by Jesus.
After hearing this explanation Laleh broke down and was clearly moved that God had spoken. In the months that followed she surprisingly withdrew herself from Church life and still hasn’t accepted Christ as Saviour. We still pray for her and visit her on a regular basis and our desire is that one day, in God’s time she will come to find rest in Jesus the bridegroom.
* name changed for security purposes.