Displaying items by tag: Iran
The war in Ukraine and the poor global economy have enabled dictators, regimes, and terrorists to take advantage of the situation while the world’s attention was distracted. This will worsen in 2023, to the detriment of Christians. Ask God to protect China’s Christians as the crackdown on house churches accelerates. Pray for all the minorities in Myanmar, where the 2021 political coup has led to many attacks and bombings of churches. The internally displaced use churches as shelters. Iran has also taken the opportunity to crack down on churches, Christians, and Muslim-background believers this year. Pray for Christian arrests and torture to diminish in 2023. Indian Christians need our prayers for an end to the anti-conversion laws being enforced in Hindu communities. Afghanistan has no national income and no natural resources, and all assets are frozen worldwide. Christianity is illegal. Those forced to stay or needing support to find safe havens need God's protection.
On 26 December intelligence agents raided Pastor Matthias house church during Christmas celebrations. Matthias and two other converts were arrested and transferred to Lakan Prison in Rasht. On 3 January Matthias’ wife Anna was summoned to intelligence offices, arrested, and also transferred to Rasht. Matthias was jailed in January 2022 for a six-year sentence on national security charges, saying that he was an enemy of the state. Although detained in prison, he was allowed regular leave, and continued to minister in the local house church. Friends are concerned about Anna’s health in detention as she has back problems. They request prayer that God will strengthen and encourage them, and that their teenage daughter will be adequately cared for while her parents are in prison. Criminal charges will not be brought against Matthias and Anna or the two other converts arrested at the Christmas gathering.
Saudi news channel Al-Hadath reported that hundreds of Iranian missiles armed with the lethal chemical thionyl chloride have arrived at a warehouse in Syria, with a bird’s eye view of Lebanon’s border nine miles away. They were transferred there by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The recipient was Hezbollah, the Iran-backed Lebanese terror army on Israel’s northern border. According to Saudi media, Hezbollah has Iran and North Korea to thank for the arsenal. Plans are reportedly in place to move them to a site three miles from Israel’s border. Israel’s defence ministry identified ten Syrian locations where Iran has facilities producing advanced weapons for its proxies in the region. Pray for Israel’s defence force to constantly look to God for guidance. May the Lord enable them to think outside the box as Gideon did when he divided the men into companies with trumpets and companies with jars containing torches (Judges 7:16).
The director of MI5 says Iran has plotted the assassination and kidnapping of at least ten British residents it accuses of being ‘enemies of the regime’. A Home Office statement said, ‘You may have seen Ken McCallum’s annual threat update, in which he said that Iran’s instability is bringing real-world consequences here in the UK. It has become the state-actor which most frequently crosses into terrorism, and we see the regime resorting to more and more extreme measures to silence its critics at home. We also see Iran projecting threats directly to the UK through its aggressive intelligence services. We know, at the most extreme end, its ambitions include kidnapping and killing British or UK-based individuals they perceive to be enemies of the regime.’
‘Someone’s crime was that her hair was flowing in the wind. Someone’s crime was that he or she was brave and outspoken.’ These lyrics could cost Iranian rap artist Toomaj Salehi his life. The underground rebel rapper was arrested and faces a death penalty. 14,000 Iranians have been arrested since September when an Iranian woman died after being detained by ‘morality police’ for not wearing her hijab properly. Salehi’s uncle had a phone call from his friend saying ‘Our whereabouts have been leaked’. Later fifty people raided Salehi’s residence. He is accused of propagandist activity against the government, cooperation with hostile governments, and forming illegal groups to create insecurity in the country. His uncle has information he was tortured. He said, ‘We still do not know anything about Salehi’s health condition, or if he is alive’. Pray for the family.
At least 15 people were killed and 40 others were injured in a terrorist attack at the Shahcheragh Shrine in the city of Shiraz. Two children were among the victims. Iranian security forces have arrested two of the suspected attackers, and a manhunt is underway to capture a third. The terror group ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attack, releasing a statement through its affiliated Amaq news agency that said one of its members had ‘targeted groups of Sunni refusal infidels inside the shrine with his Kalashnikov machine gun, causing the death of tens of them.’ The attack happened on the same day that clashes broke out throughout Iran and thousands of people came to the burial site of Kurdish Mahsa Amini to mark 40 days since her death. Iranian news ISNA said it’s unclear if the attack was related to the protests.
Naser Navard Goltapeh, 61 years old, has served nearly five years in Evin prison for ‘acting against national security with the intention to overthrow the regime’. Having been told on 17 October that he had been pardoned, he has now returned home. His ‘crime’ was running a house church. His conviction was a result of his alleged links to churches and Christian groups outside Iran. His requests for a retrial were rejected four times by the authorities. Evin prison is notorious for abuse and torture of prisoners. He was kept in solitary confinement for two months undergoing gruelling interrogation. Fariba Dalir was set free the following day. She had been sentenced to five years in prison for establishing an evangelical Christian house church. Their release comes in the midst of widespread anti-government protests. It is not known if their release is linked to the fire at the prison on 15 October.
The Americans, French, and British agree that ‘kamikaze’ drones unleashed by Russia into Ukraine were made in Iran and violate a UN security council resolution barring Iranian transfers of certain military technologies. Ukraine has identified the drones - or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) - as Iranian Shahed-136 weapons, called kamikaze drones after the Japanese fighter pilots who flew suicide missions in World War Two. Iran denies supplying weapons to Russia, but the USA said, ‘Russia's plan is to import hundreds of Iranian UAVs of various types. There is extensive proof of Russia using them in Ukraine. The deepening alliance between Russia and Iran is something the whole world should see as a threat. Russia and Iran provided key military support for President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war.’ The EU's foreign policy chief said it is ‘gathering evidence’ on the Iranian drones and is ready to act - implying intensification of sanctions.
Nine days after a fire and shooting killed ten at Lakan prison, a fire in Evin prison killed at least eight. Evin is notorious for human rights abuses such as lengthy interrogations and torture of political prisoners, including many arrested during recent nationwide protests. The government claims the fire was part of an escape attempt, but witnesses inside the prison deny it. Global Catalytic Ministries said over the last four weeks of protests thousands have been arrested. The prison guards and wardens are saying, ‘To show that we’re in control, we will start a fire and shoot some prisoners so as to create a spirit of fear among these newly arrested people.’ The Iranian government has responded brutally to the recent protests, killing over 200 people using live fire and beatings. Nevertheless, huge crowds continue to gather, chanting ‘Death to the dictator.’
Security forces have killed at least 201 people in unrest following the death in custody of a woman arrested for breaking strict hijab rules. Now people honk car horns supporting any women they see not covered up. Protests against the security forces are in the evening and afternoon in different locations. At night, those who do not leave their houses shout ‘down with the dictator’ out of their windows in big and smaller cities. The protests are not just about women wearing the hijab; that was just the spark. They have always been about basic human rights. Iranians have always wanted what westerners might take for granted as a normal life. A protester said, ‘We want life, liberty, justice, accountability, freedom of choice and assembly, a free press. We want access to our basic human rights and an inclusive government that is actually elected by the people through a proper election and that works for the people.’ See also