Ebrahim Firouzi to begin hunger strike after latest imprisonment

Ebrahim Firouzi to begin hunger strike after latest imprisonment

Exiled and now newly imprisoned Iranian Christian convert Ebrahim Firouzi has declared that he will begin a hunger strike tomorrow and won’t eat anything again until the latest charges against him are dropped.

The 34-year-old, who has already spent nearly seven years in prison and 15 months in exile because of his Christian activities, was taken to Chabahar Prison, in southeastern Iran, on Monday, 8 February, after being summoned to answer new charges of “propaganda against the Islamic Republic in favour of hostile groups”.

The new allegations came after six videos of Ebrahim were shared on the Facebook page of a Switzerland-based activist, in which Ebrahim complained about the continued rights violations against him.

Ebrahim received the summons on Sunday 7 February, the day after the last of these six videos was released. He was told he must report to the prosecutors office in Sarbaz – about an hour and a half’s drive from his city of exile, Rask – within five days.

Ebrahim decided to answer the summons the very next day, Monday 8 February, after which he was sent directly to Chabahar Prison, 250km south of Sarbaz.

He was offered temporary release on bail of 50 million tomans (around $1,650) but refused, saying that he would rather stay in prison and fight the charges against him.

However, there are concerns for his health and safety, even before he begins his hunger strike.

Continued harassment

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 the majority of his time in either prison or exile.

Last year, Ebrahim’s two-year term in exile was extended by a further 11 months because of an “unauthorised” leave of absence.

And even in exile, Ebrahim has reported continued harassment – not only of him but also his family.

In the videos released last week, Ebrahim complained about the harassment of his brother – who, he noted, 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.

He also described the events leading up to his previous 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 explained in one video.

“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 added that he was still awaiting the return of his property, despite frequent requests.

“They tell me, ‘We have not yet examined its contents,’” he explained. “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 said 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 said. “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 noted 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 also explained that the new case against him could lead to another three years in prison but said he was “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 said. “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 added: “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.”