Christian convert from Islam Ebrahim Firouzi has been in and out of prison in Iran since 2011, and though he was due to be released in January 2015, authorities instead retried him and extended his sentence by five years.
Ebrahim was first arrested on January 11, 2011. At that time, he was interrogated and held in jail for 154 days before being conditionally released. In Iran, this conditional release means authorities can re-arrest you at any time to complete your sentence. In March 2013, he was arrested again and held for 53 days. On July 13, 2013, a court sentenced him to one year in prison following two years of exile for the crimes of:
• propagating against the Islamic regime of Iran
• organizing evangelistic activities
• contact with foreigners and anti-Islamic revolutionary networks outside the county
• administering a Christian website
On Aug. 21, 2013, Ebrahim was arrested again, along with two friends. He was accused of spying. While his friends were later released on bail, he was held in Evin Prison in Tehran, until October 2014 when he was transferred to Rajai Shahr Prison near Karaj.
He was due for release on Jan. 13, 2015, but instead, he was kept in detention, retried in March 2015 and charged with “acting against national security, gathering, and collusion.” He was sentenced to five years in prison.
The Islamic Republic of Iran is a theocratic Shiite republic where Muslims are 99 percent of the population and Christians less than half of 1 percent.
Religious freedom for those not Shiite Muslims has been crushed even though the constitution guarantees such freedom.
Christians may not proselytize, and anyone defecting from Islam may be punished by death.
All foreign missionaries were expelled shortly after the governmental overthrow in 1979. About 50 percent of the population is under the age of 25. Farsi (Persian) is the official language. The Islamic revolution that removed the Shah has not delivered all it promised coupled with eight years of war with Iraq have contributed to economic recession in this nation where the majority lives in poverty. Discrimination in jobs, housing and education is a daily reality to all who are not Muslims.
Christian bookstores, conferences, camps, printing of Christian literature or church newsletters and the production of Christian videos are banned.
Persecution is so severe that it is difficult to estimate how many secret believers may worship there.
An estimated 5 million have fled this nation seeking refuge elsewhere, but there remain more than 68 million people living in this land between the Caspian Sea and the Persian Gulf.