With more than 18,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases and nearly 1,300 deaths, Iran ranks third among the world’s hardest-hit nations during the global pandemic.
A video has circulated on social media showing body bags lined up at a morgue in Qom, the nation’s religious center and seventh-largest city. Health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur tweeted earlier today that in Iran, one person is dying from coronavirus every 10 minutes. The country reported 149 deaths so far today and 147 yesterday.
This week, as the coronavirus has spread in the nation’s squalid and overcrowded prisons, tens of thousands of prisoners have been temporarily released from prison, and state television has announced that 10,000 prisoners will be pardoned tomorrow in honor of the Iranian new year.
Open Doors reported that six Christians were among those granted temporary release, but at least 11 Christians serving longer-term, security-related sentences remain in prison. The 10,000 to be pardoned reportedly will include a number of security-related prisoners, though it does not appear that specific names have been released.
One prisoner who has been released temporarily is Christian activist Mary (Fatemeh) Mohammadi, who was arrested in January during a protest of the Iranian military’s shooting down of a civilian jetliner from Ukraine. After her arrest, she was brutally beaten and denied food for the first 24 hours in custody.
Mohammadi, a member of one of the many house churches in Iran, has been a bold activist for Jesus Christ in a nation where it is illegal to convert to Christ, to share one’s faith with non-Christians, to produce Christian literature or to hold church services in Farsi. She has previously spent time in prison for her faith, and in 2019 she wrote a letter to Iran’s minister of intelligence, accusing him of violating the constitution, which states, “The investigation of individuals’ beliefs is forbidden, and no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”
Iran is ranked 9th on Open Doors’ list of the world’s worst countries for Christian persecution.
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