Pastor Yusuf Nadarkhani, who was declared a ‘national enemy’ of Iran, was finally released. Pastor Nadarkhani was originally imprisoned in 2010 after being sentenced to death for apostasy a decade earlier. His death sentence was commuted a few years later. Over the next decade, he was later arrested again and released. The latest release on February 26 was after five years in prison.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reported that Pastor Youssef Nadarkhani was among three Christian prisoners freed in Iran’s national amnesty to mark the 44th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
“This amnesty does not address the injustice of the real punishment and suffering suffered by Iranian Christians and their families. “But we, along with his family, are happy that he is free,” Middle East Concern (MEC), a Christian persecution watchdog, said in a statement.
Pastor Nadarkhani was arrested while leading a 400-member house church chain in the northern city of Rash in Gilan province. Iran views house churches as an attempt by the West to undermine Islam and the authority of the country’s state. The release was made possible by international pressure for Nadarkhani’s release after he was sentenced to death for apostasy and evangelism in 2012.
Pastor Nadarkhani was born and raised in a Muslim family, but he converted to Christianity at the age of 19. His wife Tina was arrested along with him in 2010. Later he was released. The couple has two sons.
In fundamentalist Iran, the constitution does not recognize evangelical Christian communities and only nominally recognizes other Christian groups. Iran specifically aims to persecute Christians who have converted from Islam.
In November 2022, the US State Department declared Iran a ‘Country of Special Concern’ citing systematic, ongoing and egregious violations of religious freedom. Open Doors International ranked Iran as the eighth most dangerous country for Christians in their 2023 World Watch list.