Imprisoned in Iran’s Torture Factory, a Christian’s Health Spirals Downward
By Claire Evans
05/10/2018 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – Evin Prison is known by many names: the regime’s torture factory, the black hole of evil, Iran’s most notorious jail, to name a few. According to research by International Christian Concern (ICC), it is the preferred prison for Christians who are jailed because of their faith. Those believers who have completed their sentences in prison have shared chilling reports of their experiences.
Maryam Rostampour is a Christian convert who was imprisoned in Evin for eight months. She recently shared with World Watch Monitor, “One day is like a year, some days you can’t breathe because you don’t know what’s going to happen to you the next day…When people experience living in Evin Prison, they will never be the same again. The stress is too much. We can’t be the same people. We can’t be as happy as before. We don’t enjoy activities like normal people because all the time we think of those who are still there.”
ICC has documented at least 11 believers who are currently reported imprisoned inside Evin. One of the more recent prisoners is Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, a convert from Islam who was arrested nearly two years ago. Dr. Hormoz Shariat, president and founder of Iran Alive Ministries, said “He was arrested with several Azerbaijani Christians who were a part of a mission organization. The government wants to publicize this case to warn other Iranians that if you work with outside organizations, we will be tough on you.”
After his arrest, media reports indicated that Nasser and the Azerbaijanis were kept in solitary confinement and that they were continuously interrogated. Four months later, they were released after paying a hefty bail of €29,000 (approximately $34,000 USD) each. The Azerbaijanis were allowed to return home, although the case pending against the four men continued. A year after his arrest, Nasser finally received his sentence: 10 years in prison for “acting against national security through the formation and establishment of an illegal church organization in his home.”
“My client has not broken any of the criminal code and is not guilty of his charges,” said Hossein Ahmadi Niaz, Nasser’s lawyer. “All other Christians arrested with him also confirmed all of their meetings were strictly focused on their faith and worship and nothing else.”
“The human toll on the imprisoned cannot be ignored as many of them will suffer irreversible psychological and emotional trauma for the rest of their lives.”
He lost his appeal in November 2017. In January 2018, Nasser once again returned to Evin Prison, this time to begin serving his 10-year prison sentence.
The first few months of a prison sentence is crucial for Iranian Christians, especially for those who are sent to a prison with a reputation as notorious as Evin. Dr. Shariat elaborated, “Usually, the first month or two, there is torture to get all the information they can from the prisoner. If the prisoner dies under torture, they claim that he committed suicide. Plus, when one is arrested, other brothers and sisters (may) cut relationship from him and his family because of the security risks. So the person and his family feels abandoned and lonely.”
Dr. Mike Ansari from Heart4Iran, an Iranian Christian partnership platform, added, “Most of the arrested individuals are coerced to divulge information about their house-church activities and those of their friends, under threat of criminal prosecution or arrest of family members… Therefore, the case of every arrested Iranian believer is of utmost importance.”
Given this backdrop, it is worrying that just five months after his incarceration, reports are circulating that Nasser’s health has taken a downward turn. According to Article 18, “(He) has many problems in the oral and dental area, which should be treated as soon as possible. But authorities in Evin Prison, despite the heavy pain… and physical condition of this Christian, have so far refused to provide adequate medical care.”
In a statement provided to Article 18 by one of Nasser’s close relatives, there is grave concern that Nasser will completely lose his teeth if medical care continues to be denied. While it is unclear what prompted Nasser’s decline in health, it is well-documented that the denial of medical care is a tactic commonly used by Iranian authorities to further oppress prisoners of conscience.
“Everyone should be entitled to basic human rights,” added Dr. Ansari. “The human toll on the imprisoned cannot be ignored as many of them will suffer irreversible psychological and emotional trauma for the rest of their lives.”
As Nasser continues to suffer in prison because of his faith, he and his family are in great need of prayers for healing and safety. “Pray for the judges to have mercy and compassion on him,” said Dr. Shariat. “Also pray that God’s grace will sustain him and he will experience the presence of the Lord in a deep and personal way.”
Dr. Ansari also “ask[s] everyone to please pray for wisdom, anointing, God’s favor and protection over those who have found peace with and in Jesus and have embraced Him as their Savior. We also pray for God to soften the heart of the leaders of Iran.”
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