Exiled Iranian Christian convert summoned to explain ‘propaganda’

Exiled Iranian Christian convert summoned to explain ‘propaganda’

A screenshot of one of the six videos of Ebrahim Firouzi released over the past week on the Facebook page of Switzerland-based activist Milad Baharian.

An Iranian Christian convert who has spent years in prison and is now in internal exile has been summoned to respond to fresh allegations of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic in favour of hostile groups”.

Ebrahim Firouzi, who has spent the last 15 months in exile 1,000 miles from home in the remote southeastern city of Rask, was told yesterday he must report to the prosecutor’s office in Sarbaz, the regional capital, within five days. 

The summons came just one day after the release of the last of six videos in which Ebrahim protested against the continued rights violations against him.

In the videos, published by a Switzerland-based activist, Ebrahim complains about the harassment of his brother – who, he notes, is not even a Christian – as well as the continued confiscation of his property and the discovery that one of his “friends” was actually an informant of the Ministry of Intelligence.

The 34-year-old also describes the events leading up to his last summons, in September 2020, which came after he received an unexpected package containing some Bibles.

“It appears the Ministry of Intelligence had asked the post office to inform them before I received this package so that they could be there,” Ebrahim explains in one of the videos.

“When I went to pick it up, the intelligence agents were waiting for me. Then they came to my house in a police car, without a warrant or any official charge, and confiscated my laptops, mobile phones, and textbooks I needed for my online theology lessons, even though these books had been published with the permission of the Ministry of Guidance. 

“They also wanted to confiscate some of my Bibles, but I didn’t let them, explaining I had been recognised as a Christian by the judiciary, and saying, ‘You have entered the house of a Christian, and I have the right to have a Bible’.”

Ebrahim adds that he is still awaiting the return of his property, despite frequent requests.

“They tell me, ‘We have not yet examined its contents,’” he explains. “But by doing this, they are preventing me from continuing my education online.

“I told them, ‘As an Iranian-Christian citizen, I want to enjoy my legal rights, and you have prevented me from studying by confiscating my electronic devices, as you do with Baha’is who wish to continue their studies at university.’” 

‘Not afraid of prison’

Ebrahim explains in another video that he chose to go public with his grievances because he was recently informed that his case was still “open”, having previously been led to believe that it had been “closed”.

“I decided to release these videos so the truth would be known,” he says. “I have said many times that if I am accused of something, bring me to the court, and, if not, declare my case closed.”

In a stinging attack on the judiciary, Ebrahim notes that the Iranian constitution forbids any “inquisition” into a person’s beliefs, before adding: “A system that violates its own laws does not have the authority to deal with criminal cases, let alone with me, who is not guilty of any crime.

“Unfortunately, the judiciary fully supports the Ministry of Intelligence, even if its actions are illegal, and my case has been left undocumented.”

Ebrahim has been on the radar of Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence for the past decade – his first arrest took place in 2011 – and has since spent nearly seven years in prison and 15 months (so far) in exile. 

Even were no new official charges to be brought against him, Ebrahim is not due to complete his exile until October 2022, after his initial two-year term was extended by 11 months because of an “unauthorised” leave of absence.

Ebrahim says the case against him could lead to another three years in prison but that he is “not afraid of being sent back to prison for telling the truth” or fighting for justice.

“My prayer is that the authorities pursue true justice,” he says. “The Iranian Church has never sought war with the government. We are believers in Jesus Christ the Lord and, according to the message of the Bible, we want to live a quiet and lawful life.”

He adds: “The power of Christ’s love for us is such that no power can distract us from what we believe. They may be able to hurt us [physically], but they can’t do damage to our souls.”