Three Christian Azerbaijani men freed in Iran
PUBLISHED ON 11 NOVEMBER, 2016 BY LYNDSEY KOH
Iran (MNN) — Three Christian Azerbaijani men were just released from prison in Iran on bail. They were able to return to Azerbaijan and reunited with their families on November 6th.
Emily Fuentes with Open Doors USAexplains, “Several months ago, these men were arrested along with another Iranian national for Christian activities within the country. It was under the guise of some other things, but it was the common thread that they were all Christians and practicing their faith and participating in religious events.”
Eldar Gurbanov, Yusif Farhadov, and Bahram Nasibov traveled to Iran from Azerbaijan to celebrate a friend’s wedding. On Friday, June 24, the wedding was raided by Iranian officials and ten people were arrested. While most were quickly released, Eldar, Yusif, Bahram, and Naser (an Iranian Christian) were taken to Iran’s notorious Evin Prison.
During their imprisonment, the men’s families had no idea where they were. All of the men are married fathers, and Yusif has a young son with Down’s Syndrome.
They were kept in solitary confinement and interrogated for two months. The men were also denied access to the consulate or legal assistance. In September, the men were moved to Evin Prison’s Ward 350.
Fuentes says after the men were arrested, “Open Doors launched a petition asking the government of Iran to set these men free and allow them to practice their religion in peace. Several thousands of Christians signed this petition.
“We know that it’s mixed with that effort, mixed with the prayers around the world that we have the amazing news that they’ve been released on bail. So we’re praising God today for this good story!”
Although these Azerbaijani Christians have been released on bail, does it mean their troubles are over? Fuentes says, “Not necessarily. So prayers are definitely needed to continue for these men that they won’t be rearrested, because that can happen in this country and it has. But we’re thankful they’re out of prison, because that’s also not the fate for many Christians.”
Open Doors hopes these men will ultimately be acquitted of all charges, which include engaging in missionary activity and propaganda against the regime.
“Pray for them and pray that God would truly allow it so they could be set free.”
Please also pray for the Church as a whole in Iran, for strength in Christ and perseverance in their witness. The World Watch List with Open Doors names Iran as the 9th harshest country for the persecution of Christians.
“Iran is a country where there is a great deal of suppression and oppression against Christians. The government is very anti-anything-West, including Christians. But things are changing within the population. Even though the government is that way, we see a large population under the age of 35. Many are fed up with the strict Islamic rule put forth by the government and are interested in a different way of life,” Fuentes explains.
“We’re seeing many have dreams about Jesus and coming to churches to find out more. So, even though there’s great restrictions on the Christian faith there, we’re seeing a huge underground church movement with several coming to Christ.”