A pastor who fled to Turkey after spending over a month in Iran’s most notorious prison is desperate for help as he and his family are facing deportation, which would result in his imprisonment and possible torture.
Pastor Esmaeil Falahati, a former Muslim who came to Christ at age 23 and planted house churches across Tehran for a decade, told The Christian Post that his family might soon have to flee after four years in Turkey or run the risk of being sent back to the Islamic Republic.
In Iran, Falahati is a convicted man set to serve years in prison because he preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a community of ex-Muslims trying to live out their new faith in peace.
Along with his wife, Falahati secretly led worship services and traveled to the homes of fellow convert believers.
But in August 2015, plainclothes police officers interrupted a prayer service attended by over 30 people in a garden in west Tehran. Falahati has suspicion to believe that they had been “ratted out” as Iran’s Shia theocratic regime bans Christians from sharing their faith with non-Christians.
All were arrested and questioned for hours, he said, while police searched the pastor’s house, gathered Bibles and other Christian items. Eventually, Falahati, the owner of the garden and two others were transferred to section 209 of Evin Prison.
Falahati spent 33 days in solitary confinement and was eventually charged with propagating against the Islamic regime and intent to disrupt national security.
“I was tortured and questioned about my services and preaching the Bible,” the pastor said through a translator, adding that he lost a lot of weight and suffered from medical problems during imprisonment.
During his imprisonment, his wife and family were also arrested, tortured and questioned for 12 hours for supporting his case.
On Sept. 9, 2015, Falahati was temporarily released on bail by the Revolutionary Court. He said he was told by guards that it would be better for him to leave Iran or run the risk of being harmed.
About 40 days later, Falahati, his wife and two children fled their native land. And a month after that, the family arrived in Turkey and registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The family has been in Muslim-majority Turkey, a NATO ally, for nearly four years.
However, Falahati contends that the Turkish immigration department has not given his family a fair shake, especially after Turkish authorities found out about his new ministry work preaching to families in Turkey.
“We don’t receive any services which are provided for other refugees,” Falahati said. “We have no security, identity and nationality only for the crime of being Christian. It seems that we are in a bigger prison.”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith