Islam, Main, News, Persecution, Religious
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Christian pastor arrested in Iran as protests rage through the country


Protests in Iran Credit: Javad Saharban/Flickr/Creative Commons

Protests in Iran Credit: Javad Saharban/Flickr/Creative Commons

According to reports, Iranian Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani has once again been arrested by authorities. Plain clothed agents with Iran’s secret police arrived at Yousef’s home on July 22 and were trying to break down the door.

When Yousef’s son opened the door to find out what was going on, he was immediately tasered and thrown to the floor.

The Iranian agents then tasered pastor Yousef and brutally beat him in front of his family before arresting him and taking him away. The family found out later that the government transferred Yousef to the country’s notorious Evin Prison renown for its brutal treatment of religious and political prisoners.

This isn’t the first time the Iranian secret police had arrested Yousef. In 2009, police arrested him for questioning school authorities on why his Christian children were being taught the Koran. Though the Iranian constitution guarantees religious freedom, the current government of Iran routinely ignores the law.

At that time, the police charged Yousef with “apostasy,” as it is illegal in Iran for a Muslim to convert to Christianity and it comes with a death penalty. During his trial, the judge asked Yousef to recant his faith and return to Islam. Facing a possible death sentence, Yousef refused stating:

“Repent means to return. What should I return to? To the blasphemy that I had before my faith in Christ?”

The judge sentenced Yousef to death for converting to Christ. However, when news of his sentencing leaked out, world pressure forced the Iranian government to release Yousef in 2015.

A year after his release, Yousef was again arrested when Iran’s secret police raided 10 Christian house churches, one of which Yousef and his wife were attending.

Yousef along with three other men were charged. The court sentenced two of them to ten years in prison and Yousef and another man were sentenced to 12 years.

However, all four were released on $33,000 bail as they appealed their sentences. But they lost that appeal in June this year and Yousef’s recent arrest was undoubtedly tied to that decision.

According to Iran’s Human Rights Monitor, Yousef and the three others arrested are part of the Church of Iran which follows the teachings of the now deceased American Pentecostal preacher William Branham.

While the government squashes religious freedoms in the country, there is growing resentment in Iran to its current government.

The country has an elected president, Hassan Rouhani, but the real power seems to lie with its Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Throughout  2018, thousands of Iranians have risked their lives and taken to the streets protesting the current government for its gross corruption and mismanagement of the country’s finances and economy. According to the JNS news, many are also outraged the government is more concerned about funding terrorism around the world, than bettering the life of its citizens.

The government estimates that the unemployment rate for those between the ages of 15 and 19 is nearly 25%, which means the number is undoubtedly higher. Though the economy seems to be the focus of the protests, others are not convinced this is the sole root of the problem.

In an interview with CNN, Reza Marashi with the National Iranian American Council believes there is a civil rights element to these protests. He said that protestors are not only opposing the President Rouhani’s mismanagement of the economy, but they were also seen tearing down posters of the Supreme Leader Khamenei suggesting other issues are at play.

In an interview with CNN, Karim Sadjadpour, who works with Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, also believes civil rights issues are mixed in with these protests.

He told CNN:

“Women in Iran are highly educated. They are involved in the workforce, arguably more so than any other country in the Middle East, and they are continually suppressed. This is part of their fight to gain their freedom and their rights.”

Over the last few years, several videos have surfaced of groups of Iranian women prowling the streets trying to enforce clothing restrictions on women out in public.

The last time there were significant protests in Iran was in 2009. Though the current protests have not yet reached those levels, many believe there is a significant difference as the protests this time are more wide-spread and there seems to be a growing dissatisfaction with the country’s Supreme Leader, that was not seen in 2009.

Sources:

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