Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, an Iranian pastor from the Church of Iran denomination who is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence in Evin prison in Tehran, began a hunger strike on 23 September to protest against his children being prohibited from continuing with their education.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports Pastor Nadarkhani’s 15 year-old son Yoel was informed on 23 September that he could not return to school because he had not completed Islamic studies. In addition, and despite a 2017 court ruling that had allowed him to continue school by attending Islamic studies classes in a non-participatory manner, the pastor’s older son Daniel, 17, has been denied a school report card which would enable him to enroll in higher education.
According to CSW, members of recognised religious minorities, including Christians, are normally exempt from attending classes in Islamic studies, but children of converts to Christianity are considered by the authorities to be Muslims. However, Pastor Nadarkhani never practised Islam prior to espousing Christianity, and was acquitted of apostasy in 2012. Moreover, according to a fatwa issued by Iran’s Supreme Leader in 2009, children born into a Christian family whose parents may be deemed apostate still have the right to receive Christian religious education.
CSW said that in a letter to the authorities of the ward in which he is imprisoned, Pastor Nadarkhani states that his decision to embark on a hunger strike “is motivated by the necessity to defend my children as members of the Christian minority who are violated by discriminatory measures taken at the initiative of officials of the Ministries of Information and National Education.”
Pastor Nadarkhani described his actions as “the cry of a father, unjustly imprisoned.” The letter also refers to the pastor’s 11-year legal battle to secure the right to education for children from the Persian-speaking Christian community.
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SOURCE: Assist News