Our 61-year-old brother Nasser Narvad Gol-Tapeh has served nearly 2,000 days—five years of his 10-year sentence. His “crime?” Participating in house church meetings, an act the Iranian regime calls “acting against national security.” Nasser has been very vocal in protesting his arrest and imprisonment, but the regime has repeatedly denied his applications for retrials and parole.
A year ago, his elderly mother made an emotional video plea for his release, saying she was afraid she would die without seeing her son. Still, Nasser languished another 440 days until, in a surprise move on October 17, he was pardoned and released! His stunned family got a phone call from him to tell them the amazing news, and to ask them to pick him up from prison. It’s hard to imagine what a reunion that was!
One day after Nasser’s release, our sister Fariba Dalir, a 51-year-old wife, mother and house church planter, was also unexpectedly pardoned and released from Evin Prison. After her initial arrest in July 2021, Fariba spent more than 200 days in detainment, including more than a month in solitary confinement. Her sentence in Evin Prison began April 16 of this year. She was charged with “acting against national security by establishing and leading an evangelical Christian church.”
Upon her release, Fariba returned to her overjoyed husband, Saroush, and their daughter Arezoo. Despite their happiness in being together, the three also realize that things are very dangerous still for those left behind in Evin.
Two days before Nasser was released, a fire broke out in Ward 7 when government protesters shot explosives targeting the prison. At least four prisoners died in the fire (original reports said 40). Protests have raged across Iran for a month a young Kurdish woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, was arrested for wearing her head scarf “improperly” and died in police custody. The attack on the prison, a focus of outrage among civilian protesters, inadvertently put prisoners in danger.
The family of one of the Christian prisoners in a Ward next to the fire told Article 18 that they were on the phone with their loved one when they heard gunshots and the phone disconnected.
“We wept until the morning,” the family said.
Thankfully, their loved one was safe, along with the other Christians in Evin, who were forced to use whatever they could find to prevent the fire from spreading into their area. Another 10 Christians remain in Evin Prison, including 64-year-old Homayoun Zhavey, who suffers from advanced Parkinson’s disease, and his wife Sarah Ahmadi. Both were arrested as members of a house church and charged and convicted for “acting against national security.” The world waits to see if they, along with the eight other Christian prisoners of conscience in Evin Prison, will be released, as well.
Article18 reports that at least eight more Christians remain in other prisons throughout Iran or in exile. But the real numbers are likely higher because some cases are not reported publicly.
Join with us as we rejoice over the release of Nasser and Fariba—and petition the Lord to swing open prison doors in Iran and set all the captives free (Luke 4:13).