Terminally ill and 62—Christian convert faces prison in Iran

March 19, 2021 by Lindy Lowry in Middle East

At any hour, 62-year-old Iranian Christians Homayoun, who is suffering from advanced Parkinson’s Disease, and his wife Sara Ahmadi, 42, will be summoned to serve prison sentences. Homayoun was sentenced for two years while Sara received a punishment of 11 years— for belonging to and leading a house church in Iran.

Both he and Sara have been told to expect a summons “any day” to begin their prison sentences.

Article 18 reports that the couple was arrested in 2019 while on vacation in Amol with several other Christian families. While the other Christians were also questioned, only Homayoun and Sara were detained. What happened next is an example of how political prisoners are dealt with in Iran. They were held first in Sari, near Amol, and then taken to the notorious Evin Prison in their home city of Tehran. Political prisoners are often held in what has become known as “Iran’s torture factory.”

Homayoun was released from Evin Prison a month later, but Sara was held for a total of 67 days. Thirty three of those days were in soltary confinement—792 hours of darkness and isolation. During that time, Sara reportedly endured extreme psychological torture.

The couple’s story is not rare. In Iran, where leaving Islam is illegal, Christians are spied on, their homes raided, and quickly charged and arrested for participating in and leading underground house churches. To avoid prison and likely their deaths, Christians are often forced to flee the country, leaving everything they own, to be refugees in a foreign land. Read Pastor Victor Bet-Tamraz and his wife Shamiram Issavi’s story below.

Christian pastor and wife flee Iran

Only hours before Iranian-Assyrian Christian Shamiram Issavi was due to begin her five-year prison sentence for participating in a house church, she and her husband Victor Bet-Tamraz reportedly have fled their homeland of Iran. Since Victor’s arrest three years ago, Open Doors has asked our community to pray with this couple as they face the reality every Christian in Iran knows could be them the next day.

Read their story

Falsely accused, arrested and sentenced

In November 2020, both Homayoun and Sara were tried and sentenced. A month later, they appealed the decision but were quickly rejected. In his appeal, the couple’s lawyer  argued that the law was “unclear” on how meeting as a group of Christians could be construed as membership of an “illegal organization.”

“My clients have always insisted that they haven’t engaged in any actions against national security, nor do they harbor any animosity or hostility towards the government,” the lawyer told the court, adding that Homayoun’s health condition prevented him from participating in any anti-security actions even if he wanted to be involved.

On top of his Parkison’s Disease and advanced age, Homayoun is also vulnerable to COVID-19 and its significant impact on older people. As yet, neither he nor Sara have been offered a Covid-19 vaccine.

On Sunday, March 14, they learned that their case had been forwarded to the government body responsible for enforcing judgments. Their case went public only a few days ago only days before they learned the start of their prison terms was imminent.

On Sunday, March 14, they learned that their case has been forwarded o the government body responsible for enforcing judgments. Their case went public only a few days ago just prior to the deadline for reporting to prison.

Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, shares a sobering reminder that Iran’s government is hostile to Christianity and is working to stunt the growth of the Christian church in the country. Both Homayoun and Sara have also been banned from foreign travel or membership in any social or political group for two years after their release.

“To hand down a prison sentence to a man of Homayoun’s age, suffering with advanced Parkinson’s—and only because of his membership of a house church—would be shocking were it not for Iran’s proven track record of systematically persecuting Persian-speaking Christians, regardless of their age, health, or any other reasonable considerations,” Borji said.

“We call on Iran to immediately reverse its decision, and to stop persecuting Christian converts like Homayoun and Sara for the peaceful practice of their faith.”

Pray with the underground church in Iran

Pray the courts would reverse its decision immediately and that the summons for Homayoun and Sara will not be realized.

Pray the peace that surpasses all understanding would guard Homayoun and Sara’s hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6).

Pray the Iranian government would halt the persecution of converts like Homayoun and Sara as they peacefully practice their faith

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