Iran (MNN) — The official coronavirus death toll soared past 200 yesterday in Iran, and critics claim the number is much higher. To stem the tide of new infections, officials have released more than 100,000 prisoners to date – including at least six believers.
Middle East Concern’s Daniel Hoffman says 21-year old Mary Mohammadi was among them. “She is active in a movement that tries to get official recognition or Iranians who converted to Christianity,” he says.
“Most of these are based outside of Iran, but she is one of the very few who is involved with this movement very publicly inside the country.”
Coronavirus in Iran
As previously noted, Iranian officials tried to minimize the extent of coronavirus infections from the beginning. However, as more high-level officials become ill and subsequently die, it’s harder to cover up.
On Sunday, government health officials announced 49 new deaths related to the coronavirus, bringing the total death toll to 194 and the number of infections to 6,566. The following day, those numbers climbed again to 237 deaths and 7,161 infections.
Reporting from Tehran, FRANCE 24’s Reza Sayah says schools and universities have been closed until early April:
“In less than two weeks, it’s Nowruz, the Persian New Year, perhaps the biggest and most popular national holiday when Iranians get together and socialise with family and friends. That’s not going to happen the way it usually does, and that’s another hit to this country that has seen many crises over the past couple of years.”
Trouble may be widespread, but there are a few glimmers of hope.
Who is Mary Mohammadi?
Authorities arrested 21-year-old Christian convert and social activist Mary (Fatemeh) Mohammadi in January during protests in Tehran. “She was kept without any access to family or lawyers… she was beaten. She was humiliated in the way that she was processed by the authorities,” Hoffman says.
At the end of February, authorities released Mohammadi on 30 million Tomans bail (more than $2,000 USD). Last week, authorities postponed her hearing due to the coronavirus. It’s a temporary comfort, but there could be more trouble ahead.
“No new date has been set for the hearing, and she has been charged with… acting against the regime,” Hoffman says.
“She’s not the only one who’s in prison or before a court at the moment…but I think they’re definitely trying to scare her into toning down her activities.”
Mohammadi stands boldly for her faith, following the example set by martyrs who went before her. She conducted this interview with Arian Soodmand, youngest daughter of Pastor Hossein Soodmand, who was executed for apostasy in 1990.
Whenever you see Iran in the headlines this week, would you pray? “Pray for God’s encouragement, provision, and protection over those who are currently in the prison system or who are before the courts,” Hoffman requests.
“[Iranian believers] are praying not just for themselves but for the wider situation [and for] God’s mercy on their country. The Iranian Christians would appreciate if we prayed with them along these lines as well.”
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Header image is a representative stock photo obtained via Pixabay.