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In Iran, 21-year-old Christian activist arrested, missing—‘no one has heard from her’

January 28, 2020 by Global Christian Relief in Middle East

The website Article 18 reports that Mohammadi was arrested near Azadi Square, where protesters rallied over the Iranian government admitting to shooting down a Ukrainian passenger plane. Several protesters were reportedly arrested last Sunday in multiple Iranian cities even though it is unclear whether she was participating in any of the demonstrations.

Article 18 reported that Fatemeh has been transferred to an unknown location.

Already, the young Christian activist has been arrested three times and has spent six months in prison for being a member of a house church in Tehran. Just before the arrest, she was kicked out of the university she was attending for no given reason and only a week later was arrested again.In an interview with Article 18 (before the recent arrest), she spoke about her expulsion.

“It appears that my religious beliefs and having a prior conviction [because of Christian activities] on security-related charges, as well as my human rights activism, are the reasons for banning me from further education.

“The denial of basic and fundamental rights, such as the right to education, certainly can act as a pressure mechanism and is used as a lever to apply pressure on religious minorities and human rights activists in the hope that individuals will halt their activities and abandon their beliefs.

Depriving me of my education is certainly intended to exert pressure upon me, and silence me.”

The young woman is seen as a threat. She boldly speaks out about believers’ rights, including the cruel treatment she received in prison. She also writes on a variety of social issues and has also run a campaign petitioning for all Christians, including converts, to be given the right to worship in a church.

Earlier this year, Fatemeh wrote an open letter to Iran’s Minister of Intelligence, accusing him of violating the constitution by targeting Christians. Specifically, Article 23 of the constitution, which states that “no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”

Fatemeh also questioned why Christians are prevented from “talking about their beliefs with their peers,” while Muslims can freely engage in “propaganda” at schools, universities, mosques and shrines

Last year, she was arrested again because she filed a complaint against a woman who assaulted her for not wearing her headscarf the right way. Her assailant was released, but Fatemeh once again found herself behind bars. She spent a night in prison and the next day was released with a warning.

Illegal to convert, illegal to preach

In Iran, it’s illegal to convert from Islam and illegal to share your faith. Consequently, church services in Farsi (Iran’s national language) are not allowed. Converts from Islam face persecution from the government, and house church participants risk the constant threat of arrest.

Fatemeh and Christians like her in Iran live in a society governed by Islamic law, which means the rights and professional possibilities for Christians are heavily restricted. Fatemeh said it’s “impossible” to provide a comprehensive assessment of the overall situation of Christians in Iran, due to lack of access to information.

“There are many Christians who will have been arrested, sentenced imprisoned and  deprived of their rights whom we won’t even have heard of.”

As more people turn from Islam to Christ and as the church in Iran continues to grow, the threats and arrests will continue, she says,

“So we don’t have much information, but what is striking is that, according to the statistics released each year [about the numbers of Christians in the world that are persecuted]—and the Islamic Republic’s authorities’ own admission of the growth of Christianity in Iran as a result of conversions—the Islamic Republic, which does not tolerate the right to choose religion, or freedom of thought, is now likely to feel more threatened and weakened and to therefore intensity its battle against these people.”

Photo: courtesy of Article18

Pray with Fatemeh, your sister in Iran

Pray with Fatemeh and her family—that her whereabouts would be made known. Ask God to protect her. Pray that He would comfort and strengthen her—and continue to give this 21-year-old fierce boldness.

And pray with our persecuted family in Iran who have also chosen Jesus and are risking everything to be a part of Iran’s underground church. Pray for protection, discernment and boldness for them, also. And that God would continue to raise up men and women like Fatemeh for His Church.