Iran has bulldozed over the grave of a pastor who was executed by the regime in 1990 for leaving Islam for Christianity.
Rev Hossein Soodmand, who converted before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, was arrested and tortured before being hanged after a sharia court convicted him of apostasy.
The last person ever to be executed for the crime of abandoning one’s religion, Rev Soodmand was buried in ‘cursed ground’ in the city of Mashhad.
In early December his unmarked grave, over which his family could only lay a simple slab of stone, was bulldozed.
His daughter Rashin Soodmand told Article 18, a group which promotes religious liberty in Iran: ‘For years we had to travel to this remote place to visit his unmarked grave, and we were not even allowed to construct a gravestone bearing his name.
‘And now they want to completely remove the only sign of him left for us. We will take our appeal to any relevant national or international institution about this disrespect and cruelty.’
A spokesman for Article 18 told Fox News the decision to desecrate Rev Soodmand’s grave would have been made by officials.
‘The Iranian authorities certainly made the call,’ he told the broadcaster, ‘We don’t know who exactly – perhaps the local mayor – but our understanding is they are expanding the cemetery and selling off plots to wealthy families who can afford them.’
Rev Soodmand grew up on the outskirts of Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city, in a middle-class, fairly religious family.
As a youth he and his friends would spend afternoons teasing Christians, telling them they were ‘unclean’ and hurling stones at them.
On one occasion when he was seven he threw one that smashed a woman’s water bucket, before fleeing, tripping over and hurting his knee.
He expected the Christian woman to punish him, but she helped him up, cleaned his wound and gave him some sweets.
According to one obituary of Rev Soodmand, he never forgot the act of kindness and it was the seeds of what turned him to Christianity.
It continued to germinate when he joined Ahvaz for military service, where he was once taken to hospital where an Armenian Christian saw him and left him a cross.
Rev Soodmand reportedly said that night Jesus was in his dream, where he was given something to eat and woke up feeling better and left the hospital.
But the pastor told his family of his decision to turn to Christianity and was asked to leave.
After moving to Tehran, he became a street vendor and lived with Christians, while devoting himself to studying the Bible.
He became the top student at Bible classes, going on to sell books for the Bible Society across the country.
Rev Soodmand married a blind woman he looked after called Mahtab Noorvash in 1970 and they lived in Isfahan.
He joined the Assemblies of God and became an assistant pastor, before taking over as pastor in 1977.
The pastor moved his family – with two children – to Mashad and he was ordained in 1988.
But his church was forced to close under a cloud of persecution and he was arrested by religious police and tortured.
Hossein continued to work when he was freed, so was re-arrested in 1990 and put in solitary confinement before he was later executed.
Source » dailymail