Abbas and Sakineh – Iran’s forgotten Christian martyrs

Abbas and Sakineh – Iran’s forgotten Christian martyrs

The deaths of an elderly Iranian couple following a violent raid by intelligence agents on their house-church in 2008, though a relatively recent event, remains a largely untold story.

Abbas Amiri, who was 63, and his wife Sakineh Rahnama – both converts to Christianity – died on 30 July and 3 August, respectively, due to injuries sustained during the 27 July raid on their home in the Malek Shahr neighbourhood of Isfahan.

Abbas’s injuries – especially to his chest – were so severe that he was taken, in a coma, straight to intensive care in Isfahan’s Shariati Hospital.

He died three days later.

It was reported at the time that the agents had intensified their beating after learning that before his conversion Abbas had made the pilgrimage to Mecca and had also been a veteran of the Iran-Iraq War – both sources of immense national pride.

Following Abbas’s death, his family were warned not to make too much noise about his passing, nor to mourn him too publicly – for example by erecting black flags outside their home.

A photo of the couple’s graves.

Instead, they held a quiet ceremony in Abbas’s hometown, Masjed Soleyman, where he was laid to rest the day after his death.

Three days later, Abbas’s wife’s body would be laid beside his.

Sakineh died from a heart attack, believed to have been brought on both by the injuries she sustained during the raid, and the distress of her husband’s passing.

Yet even though these tragic events took place just 13 years ago – much more recently than most of the other known killings of Iranian Christians – little else is known about what happened.

For example, a reported eight men, six women and two minors were arrested during the raid on the couple’s home, but nothing is known about these individuals – who they were, or what happened to them afterwards.

It seems that in this instance, the authorities’ threats had exactly the desired effect.

After Sakineh’s death, their son was reportedly told to immediately leave the city, and their home placed under surveillance.

Despite calls at the time by religious-freedom groups for an independent enquiry into Abbas and Sakineh’s deaths, the event was simply swept under the carpet and has today even been largely forgotten in Iranian Christian circles.

We remember them today.