The story of Mohammadreza Omidi, a member of the Church of Iran house church network, sheds light on the immense challenges faced by religious minorities in Iran. From his initial arrest to a retrial that resulted in reduced sentences, Mohammadreza’s journey has been marred by persecution and injustice. This blog post delves into the timeline of events, highlighting the hardships endured by Mohammadreza, his family, and his fellow believers.
Arrest and Sentencing: In May 2016, Ministry of Intelligence agents conducted raids on Christian homes in Rasht, resulting in the arrest of Mohammadreza Omidi, along with Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Yasser Mossayebzadeh, and Saheb Fadaie. The arrests occurred during a communion service held in Yasser’s home, where agents confiscated Bibles, computers, and mobile phones. Mohammadreza and Saheb were later summoned to the agents’ office by phone and arrested. Subsequently, they were sentenced to eighty lashes each for consuming alcohol (communion wine) during the raid.
Unjust Convictions: In June 2017, Mohammadreza, Youcef, Yasser, and Saheb faced trial in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, where they were found guilty of “acting against national security” by propagating house churches and promoting Zionist Christianity. They received ten-year prison sentences, with Mohammadreza and Youcef also being sentenced to two years of internal exile in southern Iran. Despite their appeals, the convictions were upheld in December 2017, leading to Mohammadreza’s arrest in July 2018.
Imprisonment and Release: Mohammadreza served his sentence in Evin prison, enduring the hardships of incarceration. However, in June 2020, following a retrial, his sentence was reduced to two years. Despite the initial hope of release, authorities unexpectedly extended his sentence to six years, causing further anguish. Finally, in August 2020, Mohammadreza was released from prison.
Internal Exile: The ordeal did not end with his release, as Mohammadreza was sent into internal exile in Borazjan, a city over 1,000 km away from his home in Rasht. The exile disrupted his family life, with his wife Maryam and their two teenage daughters joining him in Borazjan. Mohammadreza endured this exile for 21 months before being granted a 14-day leave in June 2022, marking the completion of his term in exile.
A Family’s Sacrifice: Throughout these trying times, Mohammadreza’s wife, Maryam, and their daughters, Sara and Sandra, stood by his side. They faced separation, uncertainties, and the challenges of living in a different city during his exile. Their resilience and commitment to supporting Mohammadreza serve as a testament to the strength of their faith and love.
Mohammadreza Omidi’s story highlights the systematic persecution faced by religious minorities in Iran. The journey of arrest, sentencing, imprisonment, and internal exile has tested his faith and endurance. As we reflect on his plight, let us remember the ongoing struggles faced by individuals like Mohammadreza and advocate for religious freedom, justice, and equality for all.