Posted on 24th February 2015

 

Syrian Christians have requested prayer for a developing situation in north-east Syria in which large numbers of Assyrian Christians have been abducted by Daesh ('Islamic State') militants.

 

The abductions began at around 4.00am local time yesterday (23rd February) when Daesh launched an offensive on a 40km front along the River Khabour in Hassaka Governorate. There are around 35 predominantly Christian villages along the river in that area. The Daesh offensive follows clashes in which Kurdish and Syriac militias claim to have 'liberated' villages from Daesh control in neighbouring Raqqa Governorate.

 

According to one source, more than 600 families managed to flee from these villages. However, many Christians were abducted by Daesh militants. There is still some uncertainty about the exact numbers being held; one source refers to 56 Christians having been taken from the village of Tal-Shamiram and 'dozens' from other villages. Some refer to up to 100 having been abducted.

 

There are reports that churches in two villages were set on fire, and that a 17 year-old Christian was murdered. Examples of Muslim neighbours showing solidarity and assisting Christians have also emerged.

 

The reason for the abductions has not been stated. There is speculation that the abductees may be used in negotiations for the release of Daesh militants captured by Kurdish militias. However, there is grave concern over the fate of the Christians, especially in view of the recent murder of 21 Christians by Daesh-affiliated militants in Libya.

 

Syrian Christians ask us to pray that:

 

a.  Those abducted will know the presence and protection of Jesus, and will be released soon

b.  Those displaced from their homes will know the Father's care and provision, and will be able to return to their villages soon

c.  Violence will cease, peace will be restored and the clear rule of law will be applied equally for all in Syria

d. Those responsible for the abductions will know the Spirit's conviction of sin, seek the Father's forgiveness and find new life in the Son

 

 

May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

Latest Requests

  • Turkey: update on Malatya Zirve trial

    Posted on 28th June

    Turkish Christians are disappointed that no verdict was given today in a long-standing murder trial following the killing of three Christians in Malatya in 2007. Today (28th June) the 114th hearing took place and court officials had informed a relative and a Turkish church leader that a verdict would be given, but the trial was adjourned until 28th September.

    Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske were murdered on 18th April 2007 at the Zirve Christian publishing house in Malatya in eastern Turkey. Five men, aged 19 and 20 at the time, were arrested at the scene and charged with the murders. Their trial became increasingly complicated as a result of efforts to identify those behind the perpetrators and to link the trial to political events in Turkey. The reassignment of judges, prosecutors and other court officials also resulted in significant delays.

    On 10th March 2014 the five perpetrators were released from prison and put under house arrest with electronic tags. However, they have been seen moving around freely - to the dismay of relatives of the victims and the small Christian community in Malatya.

    Relatives of the victims expressed their disappointment in the Turkish justice system. In an interview with journalists, Tilmann’s widow Susanne Geske, who was present with her children, made it clear that she had expected a verdict to be issued. She said: “Nine years have now passed and I haven’t seen anything. A lot of things have changed. I now only have confidence in God’s justice. I will be surprised if a fair decision will be given."
     
    The mother of Ugur Yuksel, Hatice Yuksel, was also present and commented that she was very tired of coming and going over the last nine years. She said: "I lost my child. On this holy day at least won’t they (the defendants) speak the truth? How is it that the murderers remain free?”
     
    The trial was adjourned until 28th September with the expectation that a verdict will be given then.
     
    Turkish Christians request our intercession, asking that:
    a. family members and others close to the victims will continue to know the peace and protection of Jesus and not be too disappointed by the delay in giving the verdict
    b. just sentences will be handed out to those responsible for the crime
    c. all those responsible for the murders would have a deep conviction about what they have done, and seek Jesus' forgiveness
    d. the Christian community in Turkey will be encouraged and strengthened as the trial reaches a conclusion
    e. all judges, other officials, lawyers and journalists involved will be drawn to the Father's love, forgiveness and acceptance

    May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     

     
  • Iran: Christian returns to prison after medical furlough

    Posted on 28th June

     

    Yesterday (27th June) Maryam Naghash Zargaran returned to Evin Prison after the prosecutor’s office refused to extend her medical leave to complete her treatment.

    Maryam, a believer from a Muslim background, has been held for nearly three years in Evin Prison in Tehran and has been suffering from a variety of health issues, including nausea, headaches and severe weight loss, to the concern of family members and fellow prisoners. Initially, the prosecutor's office refused to grant Maryam medical leave. However, following a hunger strike to protest against the lack of medical care, Maryam was granted permission to leave prison on 6th June to receive treatment on deposit of a bond of 350 million toman (US$100,000).
     
    On 19th June the court ordered Maryam to return to prison. As Maryam was still not well enough, her family applied for an extension. However, the prosecutor’s office refused to extend her leave and threatened to retain the money submitted as a bond. On 27th June Maryam was escorted back to Evin Prison by members of her family.

    Maryam was arrested in January 2013 in connection with her work on an orphanage with the Christian ex-prisoner Saeed Abedini. She was charged with "acting against national security" and was sentenced to four years' imprisonment, which she started serving on 15th July 2013 in the women's ward of Evin Prison. A request for a re-trial was refused.

    Family and friends are thankful that Maryam was able to receive medical care and spend valuable time at home. They request our prayers that:
    a. Maryam will continue to receive proper treatment, and will be restored to good health
    b. the Lord will help Maryam and her family now that Maryam is back in prison
    c. Maryam will be released unconditionally from prison soon
    d. God will move the Iranian authorities and officials to love mercy and act justly

    May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     

     
  • Turkey: verdict imminent in Malatya Zirve trial?

    Posted on 27th June

    Turkish Christians request prayer for what could be the final hearing in a long-standing murder trial following the killing of three Christians in Malatya in 2007. Court officials informed a relative and a Turkish church leader that a verdict will be issued at the end of the 114th hearing on 28th June.

    Necati Aydin, Ugur Yuksel and Tilmann Geske were murdered on 18th April 2007 at the Zirve Christian publishing house in Malatya in eastern Turkey. Five men, aged 19 and 20 at the time, were arrested at the scene and charged with the murders. Their trial became increasingly complicated as a result of efforts to identify those behind the perpetrators. Many more people were arrested and brought to court, including a colonel in the gendarmerie and three army officers, although these additional defendants are likely to be acquitted, according to local press sources.

    On 10th March 2014 the five perpetrators were released from prison and put under house arrest with electronic tags.However, they have been seen moving around freely - to the dismay of relatives of the victims and the small Christian community in Malatya.

    It is anticipated that many family members of the victims as well as consular officials and members of the press will be present at the hearing tomorrow. The prosecutor has demanded that each of the five men caught at the scene of the crime receive three life sentences.

    Despite the horror of the murders, Turkish Christians recognise that the incident led to a change in the attitude of Turkish society through greater acceptance of the church and of believers from Muslim backgrounds. The mainstream Turkish press also responded and refrained from using hate speech against Christians - something that had occurred frequently prior to the murders in Malatya.

    Turkish Christians request our intercession, asking that:
    a. family members and others close to the victims will continue to know the peace and protection of Jesus
    b. just sentences will be handed out to those responsible for the crime
    c. all those responsible for the murders would have a deep conviction about what they have done, and seek Jesus' forgiveness
    d. the Christian community in Turkey will be encouraged and strengthened as the trial reaches a conclusion
    e. all judges, other officials, lawyers and journalists involved will be drawn to the Father's love, forgiveness and acceptance

    May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     

     
  • Iran: update on Rasht arrests - release of Mohammedreza

    Posted on 10th June

    Iranian Christians are pleased to report that the third Iranian Christian arrested in Rasht on 13th May has also been released.

    On 31st May Middle East Concern issued a prayer update giving notice that Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Saheb Fadaie had both been released at the end of May, but the third Christian, Mohammedreza Omidi, remained in detention. On 7th June Mohammedreza was also released on posting bail.

    The three men were arrested after security agents raided the home of Yousef Nadarkhani, a church leader who attracted international attention when charged with apostasy and sentenced to death in 2010, although he was acquitted and released in 2013. Yousef and his wife Tina were arrested along with Yasser Mossayebzadeh. Yousef and Tina were released later that day, but Yasser remained in detention. Two other Christians, Saheb Fadaie and Mohammedreza Omidi, were then summoned to security offices and also detained in connection with the initial arrests.

    Mohammedreza was initially not given the option of posting bail, but his application for conditional release was later approved and he was allowed to leave Lakan Prison in Rasht on Tuesday 7th June after posting bail equivalent to approximately US$33,000 – the same amount as Yasser and Saheb had posted. He was told that he would be summoned again, although the charges he and the others could face remain unclear.

    Those close to the three men thank all who have been praying and rejoice that Mohammedreza has also been released. They request prayer that:
    a. the three men will not need to face charges regarding their faith in Jesus or their Christian activity
    b. God will give His peace to the men and their families, and they will not come under undue pressure to leave the country
    c. there will be no further action taken against Yousef Nadarkhani and his wife Tina
    d. all officials involved will love mercy, act justly, learn about Jesus and choose to follow Him

     

    May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.

     

     
  • Iran: release of Christian prisoner on medical furlough

    Posted on 6th June

    Family and friends of Maryam (Naseem) Naghash Zargaran are delighted to say that Maryam has been allowed out of prison to receive medical treatment.
     
    Maryam, a believer from a Muslim background, has been held for nearly three years in Evin Prison in Tehran and has been suffering from a variety of ailments, most recently nausea, severe headaches and pain in her ears. Previously the prosecutor’s office had refused to grant permission for Maryam to be treated outside the prison, even though the medical authorities in the prison recognised the severity of her condition and advised that she needs hospital care.

    On Thursday 26th May Maryam started a hunger strike as a protest against the lack of medical care for her. On 30th May Maryam was taken briefly to hospital, but was returned to prison the same day without receiving the necessary treatment. According to sources close to the family, Maryam’s physical condition was becoming increasingly serious and she was close to becoming comatose. The anxieties suffered by Maryam’s family and friends were compounded by the refusal of prison authorities to provide information on Maryam and her condition.
     
    It is reported that permission was granted for Maryam to leave prison on medical furlough on 5th June, but due to problems in bureaucratic procedure her release on bond was delayed until today (6th June).

    Maryam was arrested in January 2013 in connection with her work on an orphanage with former Christian prisoner Saeed Abedini. She was charged with "acting against national security" and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, which she started serving on 15th July 2013 in the women's ward of Evin Prison. A request for a re-trial was refused.

    Family and friends are thankful that Maryam has been released, but please continue to pray that:
    a. Maryam will receive proper treatment, and will be restored to good health
    b. the Lord will bless Maryam and her family during this time they will have together
    c. Maryam will be fully released from prison soon
    d. God will move the Iranian authorities and officials to love mercy and act justly

    May be circulated to general mailing lists and outside organisations, and quoted from freely in reports citing "Middle East Concern" as the source of the information.