A new petition has been launched calling for the release of an Iranian pastor who is at risk of catching COVID-19 while in prison.
House church leader Youcef Nadarkhani has served two years of a 10-year sentence for allegedly seeking to evangelize Muslims. Now, with Iran battling a severe outbreak of the disease amongst the incarcerated, Nadarkhani finds himself at grave risk.
Earlier this month, the Iranian government announced that it would be releasing 85,000 prisoners early as a “precautionary measure to confront the outbreak." The inmates that were furloughed had all been serving sentences of five years or less and tested negative for the illness. As a result of his lengthy prison term, Pastor Nadarkhani did not qualify for the early release and will remain behind bars indefinitely.
He is currently housed in the disease-ridden Evin prison, which is notorious for maltreatment of detainees. In a recorded phone call obtained by The Guardian, one British-Iranian prisoner described the horrific conditions in the prison’s hospital, as COVID-19 continues to run riot among the inmate population.
“As we entered [the new prison ward] the soldiers were wearing worn-out masks, and no gloves. Nobody checked anybody for high temperature. All our stuff they touched when we entered,” said prisoner Anoosheh Ashoori, who is accused of being an Israeli spy.
“Last night bedbugs were biting everyone. Nobody slept through the night. Today we have newcomers who are murderers and all different outlaws. Someone was sent from corona[virus] quarantine. It is chaos and I cannot explain how bad this situation is. All the places are filthy with bedbugs. I cannot explain how bad this situation is. It needs international attention.”
The petition to have Pastor Nadarkhani released has been organized by D.C.-based persecution watchdog, International Christian Concern (ICC).
“As Pastor Nadarkhani and his family navigate these difficult times, we ask that you please join us in showing them your support,” the group wrote. “By signing this petition, you have the chance to show the American and Iranian governments that the Nadarkhani family matters, that they are remembered, and that they deserve basic human rights. You are also letting the Iranian government know that the world is watching.”
You can sign the petition by heading here.
Photo courtesy: Emiliano Bar/Unsplash
Will Maule is a British journalist who has spent the past several years working as a digital news editor. Since earning a degree in international relations and politics, Will has developed a particular interest in covering ethical issues, human rights and global religious persecution. Will's work has been featured in various outlets including The Spectator, Faithwire, CBN News, Spiked, The Federalist and Christian Headlines. Follow him on Twitter at @WillAMaule.