Iran: Another Believer Arrested

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

By Elizabeth Kendal
World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEA RLC)
Special to ASSIST News Service

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- On 24 July, an Iranian Christian named Issa Motamadi was imprisoned on account of his faith. French internet news site VoxDei reports that Issa Motamadi, a resident of the north-western town of Resht, the capital of Gilan Province, will soon stand trial before a Revolutionary Tribunal.

Sources with knowledge of the situation request prayer for Issa, his wife Parvah – both converts to Christianity – and their young son. They also appeal to human rights and religious liberty organisations, and request that they intercede for Issa Motamadi to their Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

While Issa Motamadi has been accused of apostasy, it is likely that a non-religious charge will eventually be leveled against him in order to prevent accusations of religious persecution. Article 23 of Iran's Constitution states: "The investigation of individuals' beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief."

Allegedly, Issa and Parvah came to the attention of the authorities around seven months ago when they decided to give their newborn son a Biblical, Christian name. Sources explain that this is interpreted as a sign of irrevocable rupture with Islam as it demonstrates that the child is born to Christian parents, to be identified as Christian from birth – he i s one who cannot be accused of apostasy.

According to reports, Mr Baghani, a secret service official with responsibilities for minorities, advised that Issa should renounce his faith and return to Islam, for only then will he be free. He said the judge will not accept any other solution. He also intimated that it may take several executions before Iranians actually comprehend the reality of the consequences of apostasy.

There have been rumors that the authorities may also move to arrest Parvah and falsely accuse her of drug trafficking. Issa's mother, who is not a Christian, is deeply traumatised by these events. The family is in desperate need of a lawyer courageous enough to advocate with conviction for Issa and Parvah's constitutional religious rights.

There is great concern that President Ahmadinejad may escalate persecution of Christians, especially converts, while the conflict in the Levant absorbs the world's attention.

Those appealing for advocacy for the Motamadis would like Iran's leaders to be reminded that 14 centuries ago a group of fugitive Muslims fled persecution from the Quraysh in Mecca to seek refuge in Christian Abyssinia (Ethiopia). In Abyssinia the Muslim refugees appealed to the Negus (Emperor) for asylum and religious liberty on the grounds of what they said were the affinities between Islam and the Abrahamic religions. Their cause was heard and the Negus refused to hand the Muslims over to the Quraysh, even though the Quraysh offered prolific bribes and gifts. So the Muslims lived in Christian Abyssinia under the protection of the Christian Negus, in peace and with full religious liberty.

The Abyssinian experience is repeated widely around the world today. For example, multitudes of Shiite Muslims who fled persecution in Iraq during the rule of Saddam Hussein have found both refuge and religious liberty in the "Christian" West.

Yet today, Issa Motamadi is holed up in an Islamic prison in Rasht, wrongfully accused and separated from his family and loved ones simply on account of his devotion to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the Creator of the world.