Iran’s Persecuted Converts
ICC Note: American Pastor Saeed Abedini remains in prison in Iran, serving an eight year sentence for his faith. He is just one victim of the Iranian regimes intense war to crack down on Christian converts from Islam. The Iranian regime continues to clamp down on any narrative that challenges their grip, labeling house churches as “a threat to national security.”
05/20/2015 Iran (DW) Her gaze is sharp, her posture straight, her voice calm – when Naghme Abedini speaks of the fate of her husband, Saeed, currently serving an eight-year sentence in an Iranian prison, she maintains outward composure. Only when the conversation turns to the conditions that he has to endure, do tears begin to well up in her eyes.
“His father visits him every Wednesday,” says the mother of two during her DW interview. “His health isn’t good. He is in pain, he’s undernourished, has no access to clean water and constantly has to fight illness.”
In a letter that Saeed Abedini managed to have smuggled out of prison, he reported being the victim of physical and psychological torture. Beyond that he was often told that he would “be hanged” for his Christian faith. A very real possibility, for Saeed is not only a Christian, he is a convert.
A pastor that “threatens national security”
Saeed Abedini converted to Christianity from Islam in 2000 – secretly, as “falling from the Islamic faith” alone can be reason enough for the death penalty in Iran – and almost all other Muslim countries.
Yet more than a few Iranians dare to take that step. It is said that between 250,000 and 500,000 Iranians have converted, though the actual number is impossible to know.
They are turning away from Islam primarily because they are disappointed in their government, which has tied politics and religion together so as to make them inseparable, and has curtailed many civil rights in the name of Islam. Christian converts often meet in so-called “house churches” – private apartments in which they can profess their faith out of the public eye.
Abedini and his wife left Iran to settle in the USA in early 2006. But Abedini regularly traveled back to Iran, where he aided in the establishment of underground churches. He was arrested in 2009, but was later released on the condition that he would no longer evangelize.