15 years since brutal murder of Christian convert Ghorban Tourani

15 years since brutal murder of Christian convert Ghorban Tourani

This Sunday will be the 15th anniversary of the brutal murder of Iranian Christian convert Ghorban Tourani, whose still-bleeding body was dumped onto his doorstep on 22 November 2005.

Ghorban’s murder – he was stabbed in the stomach, throat and back – remains the most recent of eight known killings of Iranian Christians since the 1979 revolution, all but one of them extrajudicial.

Ghorban, who was 53 years old, was an ethnic Turkmen from the city of Gonbad-e Kavus near the Turkmenistan border in Iran’s northeast. 

He converted to Christianity during the 15 years he spent in a Turkmenistan prison for killing a man during a fight, and returned home to Iran in 1998 a changed man.

Ghorban quickly established a house-church in his city, but faced opposition from local religious leaders in the predominantly Sunni Muslim city.

He received multiple threats, including from some members of his own family, and bore a scar across his face from a previous knife attack by his brother.

A week before his murder, Ghorban was reportedly told by local extremists he had “one last chance” to return to Islam or face the consequences.

Ghorban holding a cake in the shape of a cross.

On the day of his murder, Ghorban left his home for another meeting with the group in a park, but when no-one showed up, he returned home.

Then, as he neared his home, Ghorban noticed a car parked on the edge of the street where he lived, and as he approached three men got out and stabbed him in the throat, back and stomach.

His body was then dumped onto his front doorstep.

A witness later recalled hearing one of the assailants calling out that such was the punishment for those who “become infidels and reject Islam”.

Ghorban’s widow, Afoul Achikeh, said afterwards that her husband was “a Christian martyr who laid down his life for the sake of Christ”.

A year before his death, Ghorban had written a poem, in which he expressed his willingness to die for his faith.

“I am willing to give my life, which belongs to You, for the sake of You and Your Church,” he wrote.

The day after Ghorban’s murder, intelligence agents raided his home and those of other local converts and confiscated all the Christian items they found.

The local authorities blamed the murder on extremists, but no-one was ever identified or convicted, while their reluctance to investigate the murder, and attempts to silence the family in the wake of the international attention it received, were viewed by local Christians as evidence of their complicity.

Ghorban’s murder came just a few days after the new hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reported to have vowed to “stop Christianity in this country” in a meeting with provincial governors. Many observers interpreted this as providing law enforcers across the country with a “green light” to crackdown on Christians.

The pressure on Christians in Iran, especially converts, continues to this day. Twenty Christians are currently serving sentences either in prison or exile, and last year five converts in Ghorban’s own city were arrested and three of them imprisoned on charges related to their Christian activities.

Quoting the contents of this article in part is permitted. However, no part of it may be used for any fundraising appeal, or for any publication where donations are requested.