Ebrahim Firouzi sent into exile 1,000 miles from home 11th November 2019 News Two weeks after returning home from six years in prison, Christian convert Ebrahim Firouzi is on his way to the remote city of Sarbaz, 1,000 miles from his home, to begin two years of internal exile. Ebrahim, who will be 33 next month, left his home in Robat Karim, near Tehran, early this morning and will arrive in Sarbaz tomorrow lunchtime, having been forced to travel by bus at his own expense. He is the first Iranian Christian to endure such a punishment, though others such as Yousef Nadarkhani and Mohammad Reza Omidi – like Ebrahim, converts to Christianity – also face exile at the end of their sentences. At the time of Ebrahim’s initial sentencing, the judge added two years of exile to the maximum sentence for the charges he faced because he showed no remorse for his actions – meeting together with other Christians to pray and read the Bible, for which he was charged with “gathering and collusion” and “actions against national security”. Before his release on 26 October, Ebrahim had not seen his home since August 2013. Now he faces another two years away, during which time he will not be allowed to leave Sarbaz unless granted a temporary furlough – something he was never granted during his time in prison. Ebrahim is allowed to find work, but nothing is provided for him, including accommodation, so he will have to stay in a hotel while looking for work. Before his release from prison, Ebrahim was forced to submit property deeds, which will remain with the court during his time in exile, in case he chooses to run away. During his two weeks at home, Ebrahim was able to visit the grave of his mother, Kobra Kamrani, who passed away while he was in prison. Ebrahim had pleaded for a temporary leave of absence to see his dying mother in her last weeks, but this was rejected and he was also prevented from attending her funeral. A source close to Ebrahim told Article18 he had “mixed emotions” about his exile. “So long as the church is not free [to worship freely with other believers], Ebrahim believes there is no difference between home or elsewhere,” the source said. “He said, ‘God was in control when I went to prison, and I am sure he will still be in control in my exile. He will show me His ways in His own time.’” Background Ebrahim was first arrested in 2011 as part of a wave of arrests of Christian converts from all over Iran. He was initially sentenced to 10 months’ imprisonment on charges of “propaganda against the regime, insulting Islamic sacraments and acting against national security”. Ebrahim was re-arrested in March 2013 and charged with “establishing and managing a website about Christianity, receiving and distributing Bibles, cooperating with student activists, promoting Christian Zionism, and acting against national security”. In July 2013, he was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment to be followed by two years’ exile. On 21 August 2013, prior to commencing his sentence, Ebrahim was re-arrested in Karaj and returned to Tehran’s Evin Prison. Six weeks later he was relocated to Rajaei Shahr Prison in Karaj. He was due to be released in January 2015, but he was instead detained and re-tried on new charges of “gathering and collusion”, as well as “actions against national security”. In April 2015 he was sentenced to five years in prison. His appeal was eventually heard 18 months later, in December 2016, when the sentence was upheld. Ebrahim went on hunger strike in July 2017 after several fellow converts were given ten-year prison sentences. In an open letter, he wrote that he was protesting against “the mistreatment of new Christian believers and converts by the judicial authorities, refusing Christian prisoners access to Christian literature, and issuing unjust and hefty verdicts and sentences against new Christian believers and converts”.