Displaying items by tag: Iran
On 27 July Mohammed Eslami, head of the national atomic energy organisation, announced that Iran is building a new nuclear research reactor at a facility in Isfahan. The reactor will be able to test fuel for other reactors and will be one of Iran’s largest nuclear facilities. Mr Eslami stressed that the main issue is to increase the capacity of domestic power plants, and that the country is examining sites, especially in southern Iran, which could serve as favourable locations for new plants. Last month 90% of Iran's uranium enriched to 60% fissile purity had been moved to Isfahan. Eslami said Iran intends to move forward to produce fuel for reactors and part of the fuel needed for power plants at the Isfahan complex. He dismissed claims that the programme has ‘non-peaceful goals.’
Vladimir Putin visited Iran this week in only his second overseas trip since invading Ukraine. He received a red carpet welcome from Iran’s supreme leader who wants to strengthen long-term cooperation with Russia. Tehran and Moscow are both suffering under Western sanctions. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei praised Putin for ensuring his country had ‘maintained its independence’ from America and said their two countries needed to remain vigilant against ‘Western deception’. Ahead of Putin’s arrival, Iranian officials indicated they could strike weapons deals with Russia. ‘Currently, we are ready to export military equipment and weapons’ said Iran's army ground forces commander. His comments came a week after America claimed Iran was planning to send hundreds of weapons-capable drones to Moscow for use in Ukraine. Meanwhile a Ukrainian missile struck a key bridge linking Russian-occupied Kherson city with the heavily militarised Crimean Peninsula, amid reports Kyiv is preparing to take back captured territory in the South.
85 million people, 98.6% of Iran’s population, are Muslim; only 0.2% are Christian. Massive numbers of Iranians have come to Jesus in recent years. From only 500 Muslim-background believers in 1979, many estimates suggest the number is even greater than one million. Large numbers of Persian people have also encountered the risen Christ outside of Iran. The Church has not grown this fast since the seventh century. In Iran, a person can receive a death sentence for abandoning their religious faith. This growth is a remarkable move of the Holy Spirit, with many signs and wonders, dreams and visions. But we still need to pray for a mighty move of God across the nation; for the Iranian believers to be protected as they share their faith; and for those who are translating the Bible into the many different dialects spoken in Iran to reach every lost tribe.
In Afghanistan, after America and its allies withdrew, the Taliban controlled the government, declaring an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, employing harsh tactics to expose Christians. This has brought persecution in Afghanistan to its highest levels since the Taliban’s first government in 1996. In Nigeria Fulani Militants, the largest nomadic ethnic group, have killed tens of thousands of Christians and left many more homeless since 2000. Having seen increasing violence against Nigeria’s Christian population in the Middle Belt, it is alleged that the Fulani militant aggression is aided by stakeholders within the Nigerian government. Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country’s Supreme Leader, exerts control over every aspect of Iranian life, both physically and spiritually. As an Islamic republic, Iran poses severe limits on the ability of Christians to practice their religion, enforcing a hardline regime that allows the brutal torture and execution of many Iranian Christians.
One of the many refugees destined for Rwanda under a controversial scheme is an Iranian ex-police commander who fears Iranian agents would kill him in Rwanda. Iran's Revolutionary Guard is known for kidnapping and assassinating dissidents in African countries, including Rwanda. He testified via Skype to a tribunal investigating Iranian atrocities during anti-government protests. He was in charge of sixty police officers when he refused to obey orders to shoot protesters during the rallies. He was demoted by Iran’s military court and sentenced to five years in jail. 1,500 men, women and children were killed in the demonstrations. While out on bail pending his appeal he escaped to Turkey and lived in hiding for fourteen months, before fleeing to England in May. Although his face was covered when he gave evidence, Iran's security forces managed to identify him and have persecuted his family who are still living in Iran. See also article 5 in the World section.
Iran's proxy militias have caused the decline of Christians in many regions by adopting ‘forced immigration’. In Lebanon Hezbollah targets missionaries, impedes conversions, imposes strict dress codes and alcohol bans, and limits mixed sexes in public, in what have been dubbed ‘mini-Tehrans.’ A sizeable amount of land owned by Christians has been taken over by Hezbollah through eviction. In Iraq, initially employed to resist American forces, the Shiite Mahdi Army has changed the demography, Making Baghdad 'Christian-free' was high on its agenda when they morphed into IS. Iran had influence in Syria through the Assad family (Alawite Sunni). After the uprising Iran restructured the Syrian Army and created several militias within the Shia Liberation Army. It saved the Assad regime, killing 600,000 people, displacing 6.5 million internally, and forcing 6.6 million to flee Syria. In Yemen the Houthis have invested considerable effort into ending the Christian presence in the territories under their control.
The Houthi terrorists are based in Yemen. Recently, senior Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi went on an antisemitic tirade supporting Russia's invasion of Ukraine, stating, ‘It is because Ukraine’s President is Jewish. Any country run by a Jew ends up going to war.’ His statement gives an insight into what to expect from Iran and its proxies. Many are saying, ‘We must recognise Iran for what it is and redesignate the Houthis, who operate as a weapon of war for the Iranian regime.’ Currently Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE are raising serious concerns about any new agreement between the USA and Iran that involves Iran acquiring nuclear weapons capability. They see that embracing Iran comes from a false hope that it will lead to better behaviour by its regime and terrorist proxies.
For the last six years, Prayer Alert readers have often been asked to pray for Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, held in an Iranian jail on charges of plotting to overthrow the government. She was freed on 16 March, as was retired civil engineer Anoosheh Ashoori, and they have both been reunited with their families in the UK. Mr Ashoori had been detained in 2017 on spying charges and sentenced to ten years in prison. Another prisoner, Morad Tahbaz, has been released but must stay in Iran. As Nazanin walked down the plane's stairs seven-year-old Gabriella Radcliffe asked, ‘Is that Mummy?’ Mr Ashoori's daughter Elika spoke of her happiness at seeing her father, sharing a video of the pair's arrival. Their release came after the UK settled a debt to Iran of almost £400m dating from the 1970s. This news follows last week’s positive report of a landmark decision that nine Christians jailed for their faith should be freed from prison.
Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori are now united with their families in the UK after years of detention in the notorious Evin Prison, which has a reputation for torture and abusing human rights. Over the years, Iranian converts to Christianity have been detained there as well as Iran’s political dissidents and critics of the government. In 2021 a medical assessment by a human rights charity found Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe had post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from her treatment in Evin. The foreign secretary said, ‘Nazanin is held unlawfully, and it amounts to torture the way she's being treated.’ While in Evin Nazanin has suffered deep depression, hair loss, and sickness. Torture is internationally prohibited. Anoosheh Ashoori said, ‘Like Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, I was locked in Evin jail. My struggle was trying to stay sane. We are continuously fighting against cockroaches, rats and bed bugs that attack all night. Extraction fans pump stinking air from bathrooms, toilets and three sewage manholes. The food is foul - only the needy eat it.’
A court has acquitted nine men who were sentenced to five years in prison for attending a house church in a ‘landmark decision’ for Iranian Christians. They were imprisoned in 2019 for ‘acting against national security’ and ‘promoting Zionist Christianity’. In November 2021 the supreme court ordered a review of their case, arguing that ‘going to church does not mean Christians are enemies of the state’. On 7 March all nine were released when the appeal court judges found there was ‘insufficient evidence’ of them acting against national security as they had only ‘worshipped in the house-church, and Christians are taught to live in obedience, submission and support of the authorities’. Earlier this year Christian agencies which have been supporting their case called on the UN to help Persian speakers in Iran to have the right for a place of worship.