Youcef Nadarkhani, an Iranian Christian, was arrested for denouncing Iran’s educational practice of requiring children to read the Quran in public schools. Last September, Youcef was given the death sentence for apostasy. The verdict was appealed to Iran’s Supreme Court, and though it was initially reported in July that they had upheld the sentence, we have now joyfully learned that the they overturned their decision (likely due to international pressure) and sent the case back to a lower court. Please continue to pray for Youcef, however, as he is still being pressured to recant his faith.
Please be in prayer for this brother and lift up your voice on his behalf! First, read the information below and find out all you can about Youcef and about religious persecution in Iran. Then take a look at the top menu to see the different actions you can take to help free him (spread the word, call your representatives, and contact the Iranian embassy in your country).
Name: Youcef Nadarkhani
Arrested: October 12, 2009
Prison: Lakan Prison in Gilan province
Location: Near Rasht, northern Iran
Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, a church leader in Rasht, Iran, was arrested for questioning the Islamic education practice which forces Christian students – including Yousef’s own children – to be required to read the Quran in school. Youcef protested that the Iranian Constitution, which guarantees the right to practice one’s own beliefs, should be upheld. On October 12, 2009, Youcef was brought before a political tribunal for conducting the protest. After Youcef’s arrest, his charge against him was altered to apostasy.
Youcef’s wife, Fatemeh Passandideh, was later arrested on June 18. Fatemeh was told that unless her husband renounced Christianity than their children, ages 6 and 8, would be given to Muslim parents. When her husband still refused to return to Islam, Fatemeh was put on trial without legal representation and sentenced to life imprisonment. However, Fatemeh was able to file an appeal which eventually led to her release on October 11 after four months of imprisonment.
In late September 2010, Youcef appeared before the 11th Chamber of The Assize Court of the province of Gilan and was orally given the death sentence for his conversion to Christianity from Islam although no formal verdict has been handed down. After the oral verdict was issued, Youcef was transferred to a high security prison in Lakan where he has been held in solitary confinement.
On October 29, 2010, the U.S. Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) urged the Obama Administration to press for Youcef’s immediate release. “This case is further evidence that there is no transparency or justice in Iran’s so-called legal system for religious minorities,” said Leonard Leo, USCIRF chair. “This pattern of arrest and harassment of religious minorities, coupled with increasing inflammatory rhetoric from President Ahmadinejad and other leaders has not been seen since the early years of the Iranian revolution. Time is of the essence here. This man’s life is at stake.”
A formal verdict was finally handed down on November 13, 2010, announcing that Youcef would be executed by hanging (see the translated verdict here). The sentence was appealed in December to the Supreme Court of Iran and Youcef is currently awaiting the decision.
In a letter to the international Christian community, Pastor Youcef took courage and consoled believers around the world: “What we are bearing today, is a difficult but not unbearable situation, because He has not tested us more than our faith can endure… We must consider these bumps and prisons as opportunities to testify to His name.” (Click here to view the full letter).
As a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Iran is obligated to uphold religious freedom and to follow due process of law. While apostasy is not referred to in Iran’s legal code, it has been reported that the presiding judge over Youcef’s case based his ruling on texts by Iranian religious scholars.