Christian Convert Faces Deportation to Iran from Turkey After Six Years
02/23/2022 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Pastor Hekmat Salimi, an Iranian Christian convert and Anglican minister, fled Iran six years ago with his wife and daughter after years of harassment and resettled in Turkey, seeking asylum. Turkey issued the family a seven-day deportation warning in mid-February to either return to Iran or face forced deportation.
Though the family sought asylum in Turkey and resettlement to a safe country, the family, along with many other Iranian Christians, were never offered refugee status. Their case was heard in December 2020, over four and a half years after their arrival, but was rejected.
Pastor Salimi became a Christian the same year as the Iranian Revolution. He reports that his persecution began in earnest in 2009 when he worked to reopen St. Paul’s Anglican Church in Isfahan after it had been closed for 30 years. Today, it is one of just four Persian-language churches in Iran, but rarely used beyond special occasions. Pastor Salimi worked as a minister in Iran for several years, though Iranian intelligence agents raided his home at least twice and pressured him to restrict his Christian activity.
Turkish courts deemed that Pastor Salimi and his family did not face “real risk” of persecution if they returned to Iran. In the six years since the family’s departure, Iranian Christians have faced continued threats to their faith, especially those who converted. Their ability to freely worship and practice their faith is limited and their actions are regularly monitored by Iranian intelligence.
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