Ebrahim Firouzi (33) spent over six years in prison in Iran on charges relating to his Christian activities. A former Muslim, he comes from Robat-Karim, 25 km southwest of Tehran. Following his release from prison in October 2019 he must spend almost three years in internal exile in the remote southeastern town of Sarbaz, where the authorities continue to harass him.
LATEST NEWS (SEPTEMBER 2020): On 27 September, Ebrahim was summoned to appear before the prosecutor in Rask, near Sarbaz, to answer fresh charges of “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state through promoting the Christian faith”. After listening to Ebrahim for just ten minutes, the prosecutor dismissed the claims against him.
Ebrahim was born in Hamedan in 1987 and lived there until the age of twenty, when he moved with his family to Tehran. He became a Christian there, and was living in Robat-Karim at the time of his first arrest.
In 2013, Ebrahim was arrested and sentenced to one year in prison and two years of internal exile in Sarbaz on numerous charges including “propaganda against the Islamic regime, evangelism, contact with anti-Islamic agents abroad and running a Christian website“. Sarbaz is a small town of just over 1,000 inhabitants, located 1,600 km from Tehran in Sistan and Baluchestan province, near the Pakistan border.
When he had served his prison sentence, Ebrahim was not released but was kept in prison and retried in March 2015, when he was convicted of “actions against national security, being present at an illegal gathering and collusion with foreign entities”. He was sentenced to an additional five years in prison and was due for release in January 2020, to be followed by two years in Sarbaz. In 2016, the Iranian Court of Appeal upheld Ebrahim’s five-year sentence and confirmed that after release he would be exiled to Sarbaz.
Ebrahim suffered ill-health in prison, including acute chest pain in 2015 and severe toothache in 2018 that spread through his jaw and left him unable to eat solid food, but the authorities denied him medical treatment. He went on hunger strike several times to protest against prison conditions. When Ebrahim’s elderly mother became terminally ill the authorities refused to let him visit her, and when she died in December 2018 he was not able to attend the funeral.
In October 2019, Ebrahim was released from prison and sent into internal exile in Sarbaz. In January 2020, he was interviewed by Joseph Hovsepian, son of Iranian martyr Haik Hovsepian, a Christian leader who was murdered in 1994 after protesting the government’s persecution of Christian converts. Joseph asked Ebrahim if he had a Bible in prison, and he replied that the authorities were legally obliged to give him a Bible and that he did eventually get one, and had it and other Christian books throughout his time in prison. He said he even started a small library at his own expense. Ebrahim also told Joseph that judges often offered to dismiss charges against him if he renounced his faith, but he said that in prison he learned “endurance and submission“.
Describing his initial experiences of exile to Joseph, Ebrahim said he must report to local police each morning and that they helped him to settle in. He said he found local people to be kind and hospitable, and they helped him to find a place to live. However, the authorities have continued to harass him in exile.
Ebrahim’s mother Kobra Kamrani, who was visually impaired, died of cancer on 3 December 2018. She had surgery in April 2017, followed by chemotherapy. Ebrahim, who worked as a labourer in a lathe workshop, was the breadwinner for his mother and his sister, and without him at home they struggled. His younger brother helped to care for their mother.
Ebrahim’s mother appealed several times to the courts for her son to be allowed to visit her on compassionate grounds as she was too sick to go to the prison. In July 2016, she sent a video message to court officials appealing for them to handle her son’s case fairly and to release him. Crying as she delivered her message, she said that because of her disability she was not able to go from court to court to follow the case, nor to visit her son in prison.
11 January 2011 Ebrahim was accused of evangelising, apostasy and association with foreign organisations. He was interrogated and held in Ghezel-Hessar prison in Karaj for 154 days before being released conditionally.
7 March 2013 Ebrahim was arrested again, when four plain-clothes security agents raided his workplace. He was held for 53 days in the notorious ward 209 of Evin prison in Tehran and subjected to intense interrogation for ten consecutive days. He was temporarily released on bail of property title deeds.
13 July 2013 The Revolutionary Court in Robat-Karim sentenced Ebrahim to one year in prison and two years’ internal exile in Sarbaz on numerous charges including propaganda against the Islamic regime, evangelism, contact with anti-Islamic agents abroad and running a Christian website. Ebrahim was tried without representation, as his family could not afford to hire a lawyer.
21 August 2013 While Ebrahim was on a short leave from Rajai-Shahr prison in Karaj, he was arrested again, in a meeting at a friend’s office. Security authorities accused him of spying for the Israeli Intelligence service, Mossad. He was held in Evin prison until 2 October 2014, when he was transferred back to Rajai Shahr prison. Also known as Gohardasht, Rajai-Shahr is a maximum-security prison housing Iran’s most violent criminals and terrorists. Some Christian prisoners, including Ebrahim, were moved there from Evin prison in 2013 following a clash between guards and prisoners.
13 January 2015 Ebrahim was due for release, but was kept in detention and a new case was opened against him.
5 March 2015 Ebrahim was retried and convicted of “actions against national security, being present at an illegal gathering and collusion with foreign entities”. He was sentenced the next month to an additional five years in prison.
6 June 2015 Ebrahim went on hunger strike to protest against being held in a ward of dangerous criminals (ward 10 of Rajai-Shahr prison), which is against Iranian laws for separation of convicts, and to demand a transfer to ward 12, where political prisoners and prisoners of conscience are held.
11 June 2015 Ebrahim ended his hunger strike after the authorities promised a partial improvement in his situation. He was moved to ward 12.
11 December 2016 The Iranian Court of Appeal upheld Ebrahim’s five-year sentence and confirmed that after release he would be exiled to Sarbaz.
16 July 2017 Ebrahim wrote a letter to the Prosecutor General of Tehran declaring a ten-day hunger strike, to begin the next day, in protest at the judicial authorities’ actions against Christians, notably the long prison sentences handed down in recent months. He also drew attention to the refusal to allow Christian prisoners access to Christian literature. In late July, the prison authorities transferred Ebrahim along with a group of about twenty other prisoners to another section of the prison under high security with very few facilities. They confiscated Ebrahim’s glasses and other personal items.
30 July 2017 Ebrahim went on hunger strike again, to protest these new conditions. His physical condition continued to deteriorate.
11 October 2017 Ebrahim ended his hunger strike, after about forty days. The prison authorities had not taken any action in relation to his protest.
18 October 2018 It was reported that Ebrahim had been continually refused medical treatment for severe toothache, which spread throughout his jaw and face to the point that he was unable to eat solid food.
3 December 2018 Ebrahim’s mother Kobra Kamrani died on 3 December. The authorities refused to allow Ebrahim to visit her before she died. The funeral was held on 4 December, before Ebrahim had an opportunity to apply for permission to attend.
26 October 2019 Ebrahim was released from Rajai-Shahr prison. Following his imprisonment, he must serve two years’ internal exile in the remote southeastern town of Sarbaz.
11 November 2019 Ebrahim went into internal exile in Sarbaz, following temporary leave to sort out his personal affairs after his release from prison.
12 November 2019 After the long journey from northern Iran, Ebrahim arrived in Sarbaz, where he is renting a small house. He is required to sign at the court office every day to prove his residence in the city.
12 March 2020 Ebrahim was notified that his sentence of two years’ internal exile had been extended by eleven months because the authorities said he took unauthorised leave of absence from exile. He took brief leave in December to sort out affairs relating to his mother’s death.
27 September 2020 Ebrahim was summoned to appear before the prosecutor in Rask, near Sarbaz, to answer fresh charges of “insulting the sacred” and “propaganda against the state through promoting the Christian faith”. After listening to Ebrahim for just ten minutes, the prosecutor dismissed the claims against him.
(Article 18, Hovsepian Ministries, Middle East Concern, Mohabat News, Release International, Voice of the Martyrs)