08/16/2020 Iran (International Christian Concern) – Concerns are rising as news comes out that at least 12 prisoners in Ward 8 of Evin Prison in Tehran tested positive for COVID-19. Christian convert Yasser Mossayebzadeh is one of the 12, and is now reportedly gravely ill. Two other converts, Saheb Fadaee and Nasser Navard Gol-Tapeh, did not test positive but are beginning to show symptoms. Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani and convert Youhan Omidi are at risk.
Prisoners in Ward 8 recently staged a sit-in to protest the poor living conditions that are putting them at risk of the virus. Rooms are overcrowded with few opportunities for social distancing, and the prison does not give the prisoners quality access to hygiene. It is estimated that there are at least another 10 Christian prisoners of conscience being held in other wards with no reports of their health status.
As the pandemic reached its peak in March, Iran released around 100,000 prisoners, six of them Christian, as authorities began to fear the spread of the virus within the overcrowded prisons. Despite this, the prisons are now overcrowded once more and there are even more Christian prisoners of conscience than there were before the pandemic. Iran must release these Christian prisoners before the infection toll rises throughout these prisons.