Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Iran: Pray for Pastor Behnam Irani, others

Pastor Behnam Irani
IRAN – The health situation for imprisoned Pastor Behnam Irani is increasingly grave. 

In July, prison officials reportedly sent him to a military hospital for treatment when he became unconscious after vomiting blood from a chronic ulcer. 

We have now learned that the "military hospital" was only a first-aid area where he was treated, quickly returned to his cell, and has since been denied further medical treatment. 

Pastor Behnam was first arrested in Dec 2006, tried for crimes against national security, and released in Jan 2007. He was then re-arrested, tried, and sentenced to 5 years in prison but was never called to serve the sentence. 

On April 14, 2010, Ministry of Intelligence and National Security (MOIS) officers raided Irani’s house church, assaulted, and arrested him. 

Despite being released on bail in June 2010, he was convicted in absentia of crimes against national security in Jan 2011 and sentenced to one year in prison. After voluntarily surrendering to authorities on May 31, 2011, to begin his sentence, he received a letter in October stating that he must now also serve the previous 5-year sentence. 

During the first few months of his imprisonment, the pastor was held incommunicado in a small cell, where guards repeatedly awakened him from sleep to psychologically torture him. Later he was moved into a cramped room where inmates could not lie down to sleep. 

Since being transferred to his current cell, Pastor Irani has been beaten regularly by cell mates and prison authorities. As a result of injuries sustained during these assaults, he has difficulty walking and with vision. His health has further deteriorated under death threats. 

Since Feb 2012 he has suffered with the chronic bleeding ulcer, fueling growing concerns about how long he can live under such conditions. Behnam Irani, now 41, became a Christian in 1992 and a pastor in the evangelical Church of Iran in 2002. Pray for him, his wife and two children. 

Elsewhere in Iran, two believers were released last week while a pastor’s sentence was upheld. 
House church leader Noorollah Qabitizse, 48, had served 19 months after being arrested with ten others in a Christmas Eve celebration at his home in 2010. In prison, authorities interrogated and mentally abused Qabitizse, trying to force him to denounce his faith. Authorities later discovered a Bible study he led among inmates and transferred him to another prison as punishment. 
The second Christian was released after 8 months in prison which included 105 days in solitary confinement. Ehsan Behrouz, 24, a management student at the University of Mashhad, was arrested Oct 2011. He may be barred from further education, a common punishment for Christian students. 
Third, Pastor Farshid Fathi’s 6-year prison sentence was upheld on appeal. He has already served 18 months. Farshid was arrested in Dec 2010 for his Christian work, convicted of being the “chief agent of foreign organizations” in Iran and of administrating funds for foreign organizations. Farshid has become a shining beacon for Christ in the notorious Evin prison. An Iranian Ayatollah’s son has commented on Farshid in a YouTube video, remarking how beloved Farshid is amongst the inmates. Farshid has a wife and two girls. Pray that these testimonies of faith in Christ will encourage other believers in Iran to persevere for the Gospel. 
 Sources: VOM, CSW, Present Truth