An Iranian Christian convert is serving a six-year prison sentence for drinking wine as part of communion. Zaman Fadaee, who goes by Saheb, received 80 lashes, making him the second convert to receive such a punishment in just over a month.
Although religious minorities are allowed to drink alcohol in Iran, it is illegal for Muslims to do so. However, Iran does not recognize former Muslim converts as Christian.
Fadaee, Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, and four other members of Nadarkhani's Rasht-based church were arrested in May 2016. Fadaee, Yasser Mossayebzadeh and Youhan Omidi, who are all converts, were sentenced to 80 lashes by a court in Rasht in September 2016 for drinking communion wine.
The converts were each given 10-year prison sentences, which were reduced during a retrial earlier this year.
"It had been assumed that both Saheb and Yasser would be flogged after their release from prison, as happened in Youhan's case," reports Article 18. "However, Saheb was summoned to the Shahid Moghadas Revolutionary Court next to Evin Prison yesterday, and told his sentence must be carried out then and there."
News of Fadaee's flogging was condemned by State Department official Gabriel Noronha.
"Deeply disturbed by reports Iran lashed Mohammad Reza Omidi 80 times for drinking communion wine," State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said of the reported flogging of Omidi. "He already served two years in prison for belonging to a house church. We condemn these unjust punishments and urge Iran to allow all Iranians the freedom to practice their beliefs."
Iran has been ranked by Open Doors USA as the ninth worst country in the world regarding Christian persecution. Christian converts who participate in house churches know they could be arrested for doing so.
Open Doors said that at least 169 Christians were arrested in Iran during the 2020 reporting period.