The family of an executed Christian pastor said his grave was bulldozed by Iranian authorities last month.
Rev. Hussein Soodmand is the only Christian pastor to have been confirmed to have been formally executed by the Iranian regime. He was executed in December 1990 and buried at the Beheshte-Reza cemetery in Mashhad.
His daughter Rashin Soodmand, who lives in exile in Europe, told Article18, a human rights organization that promotes religious freedom in Iran, about the situation. Article18 posted photos of the grave and wrote that “all that now remains of the pastor’s unmarked grave is the soil under which he was once buried.”
“I can say that the recent disrespect shown to our father’s grave wounded our hearts yet again,” she said, according to the website. “Our father was killed cruelly and contrary to the law. They buried him in a place they called la’anatabad [accursed place], without our knowledge, and did not even give our family the opportunity to say goodbye to him, or to see his lifeless body.”
Over the years, she said that his family had to travel to the remote area to visit his grave, saying Iranian officials would not allow them to construct a gravestone with his name.
But now, Iranian officials “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,” the younger Soodmand remarked.
The grave of the only #Iranian #Christian to have been executed on official charges of #apostasy has been demolished. Since Rev. Hussein Soodmand’s burial in 1990, the only sign anyone was buried there was a concrete slab. Now, even that has been removed. https://t.co/HpQvVTObR8
— Article 18 (@articleeighteen) January 9, 2020
A spokesperson for Article18 told Fox News that his grave was found desecrated when his family visited it on the anniversary of his death last December.
“The Iranian authorities certainly made the call,” a spokesman for the organization told Fox. “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.”
The pastor converted to Christianity before the 1979 revolution that placed the current regime in power, according to his family. In 1990, he was arrested and tortured before being held in solitary confinement. “Two weeks after resubmitting himself to prison, the pastor was executed after being convicted of apostasy by a special court of clergy. His family was informed after the execution had been carried out,” the website noted.
In an article from Amnesty International in 2018, Christians, including converts, consistently face harassment in Iran. They also face arbitrary arrests, detentions, and prison sentences.
The UK-based rights group noted that Iran’s overall human rights situation severely declined in 2017 and 2018, with officials suppressing basic freedoms.
“Floggings, amputations and other cruel, inhuman, and degrading punishments were carried out,” according to the group.