Iran: ‘I carry the grief of my son’s death like a suppressed cry’

July 27, 2023

The U.S. State Department has classified Iran as a “country of particular concern” for “having engaged in or tolerated particularly severe violations of religious freedom.”

For previous coverage of Iran, see here.

“‘I carry the grief of my son’s death like a suppressed cry,’” Article 18, July 17, 2023:

An Iranian Christian prisoner of conscience has written about his grief at the loss of his only son and his struggle to understand the reason for his imprisonment, in a letter smuggled out of prison.

In the letter, first shared by the Mirror newspaper and now seen by Article18, Mehdi Akbari, who prefers to be known as Yasser, says he carries the grief within him “like a suppressed cry and an unexpressed sorrow”.

He is also brutally honest about the difficulties he has faced since his 2019 arrest, such as being detained for a month in solitary confinement, denied access to a lawyer, and convicted in a five-minute sham trial.

The Christian convert says that even after three years in Tehran’s Evin Prison, he is still unable to understand how his membership of a house-church could have been viewed as an “action against national security” – the charge for which he was sentenced in 2020 to 10 years’ imprisonment.

“Is worshipping God a crime?” he asks. “When I was accused of ‘action against the country’s security’, I did not have a lawyer to ask him about the meaning of this accusation and what crimes are included in the definition.”

Yasser says that before he was taken to the Revolutionary Court, he had thought “a fair judge, well aware of what constitutes a crime, especially the serious crime I was accused of, would examine the evidence presented before him and realise I have only worshipped God according to my Christian faith, permissible under Article 13 of the Iranian Constitution, and therefore acquit me of any crime and save me from prison”.

Amir-Ali had cerebral palsy.

“But what an illusion that was!” he adds.

Yasser describes his court hearing as “hundreds of times worse than the interrogations”, explaining: “If the interrogators tried to impose one crime on me, in this court the judge attributed many more crimes to me that beforehand I could never have imagined.

He labelled Christianity a ‘false sect’, of which he said I was a follower. He expanded the boundaries of criminalisation against me so ignorantly that he even mistakenly seemed to consider Jews and Christians as followers of the same religion. He declared me a follower of ‘the deviant religion of Christianity’, and also ‘a Jewish person affiliated to Israel’.”

“Now that I have spent three years in prison,” Yasser says, “I still do not know how I was able to act against Iran’s national security by being a follower of Christ.

“Having no lawyer, I still don’t know how to defend myself within the framework of the law, considering what they did to me. I don’t know what to say if someone asked me how I acted against national security. I only know that I am, and will remain, a Christian, and that I will preach about the light of God and kingdom of heaven to everyone.”…