For many, September 25, 2011, will come and pass without incident. But for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, September 25, 2011, marks the day when the Iranian regime decides his fate: to live or to die. On that day, Pastor Youcef faces his last chance to plead his fate before the same court that previously ordered his execution for his faith in Jesus Christ.
As we previously reported, Pastor Youcef was sentenced to death for his conversion to Christianity. The Supreme Revolutionary Court in Qom, without reversing this decision, sent the case back to the trial court for additional findings of fact. The trial court is set to review the case again on September 25, 2011. If he is found to have been a Muslim before his conversion, the court can carry out his execution.
Pastor Youcef’s lawyer, a notable Human Rights attorney, Mohammad Ali Dadkhah, stated that he is hopeful the trial judge will recognize the verdict as inconsistent with the Iranian Constitution and the nation’s obligations under international law. As a result of Mr. Dadkhah’s advocacy for human rights, which at present includes representation of roughly 20 alleged apostates, an Iranian court recently sentenced him to 9 years imprisonment. Despite this tremendous setback for human rights in Iran, Mr. Dadkhah says he remains committed to the cause, because in his view, “Democracy can only exist under the shadow of the human rights.”
A member of the Council of Elders for the Church of Iran and a close personal friend of Pastor Youcef, who for security reasons will remain anonymous, stated that there is an active religious apartheid taking place in the Middle East. He described the current situation for Christians in the Middle East as akin to “the final decision in Germany” – the strategic eradication of Jews under Hitler’s regime. Tragically, he also said that “international reaction [to the religious apartheid in the Middle East] is also like the time of Hitler. They waited and didn’t react until it was too late . . . we are in the same situation.” He believes the politically driven verdict against Youcef reflects this religious apartheid and Pastor Youcef’s only hope for freedom is if the international community rallies and cries out for his release.
The religious cleansing in Iran is apparent. Various religious and political leaders, including Ayatollah Hosseini Booshehri, a religious leader and member of the Assembly of Experts, and Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have publicly declared Christians enemies to Islam and enemies to Iran. A senior religious expert affiliated with the Islamic Republic recently stated that Christianity poses more of a threat to Iran than Satanism. The level of public approval of persecution of Christians in Iran is also apparent, as at least 285 Christians were arrested in 35 different cities in Iran during the first six months of 2011 without reaction. Many of the crimes charged carry death sentences. According to multiple sources, the Iranian regime executed approximately 312 individuals for various charges in summary executions during 2010, and is on pace to meet or surpass this number for 2011.
We continue to encourage members of Congress and the Department of State to engage Iran on this life-or-death issue. We remain committed to the cause of religious freedom and ask that you stand with us in that pledge. In a world where religious persecution results in roughly 120,000 Christian martyrs each year, please remember Youcef Nadarkhani on September 25, 2011.