Several weeks ago, many of us rejoiced as Iran — against all odds — released Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani after first condemning him to death for apostasy. Pastor Nadarkhani faced a nightmare that Western Christians (thankfully) have not faced for centuries — a demand to recant his faith or face execution. Pastor Nadarkhani again and again refused to renounce Christ, and just when many of us thought his death was imminent, Iran freed him from prison.
But Iran is still Iran, and now it has moved against Pastor Nadarkhani’s heroic Muslim lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah, detaining him and ordering him to serve a lengthy prison term. His crime? Providing pro bono legal representation to persecuted religious minorities. In the perverse logic of Iran’s theocratic regime, this representation constitutes “aiding and abetting” his clients alleged (and often imaginary) crimes.
It’s worth knowing more about Mr. Dadkhah. If Pastor Nadarkhani is a hero of the Christian faith, then Mr. Dadkhah certainly is a hero of the Islamic faith. From our ACLJ blog on his detention:
He co-founded the Defenders of Human Rights Center along with Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi and others to defend human rights in Iran. In addition to defending Pastor Youcef, Dadkhah has bravely defended numerous political and religious prisoners, including 12 Christians who were tried this past Easter Sunday in Iran for their faith.
Mr. Dadakhah is not the only freedom-loving Muslim suffering Iranian persecution:
As Amnesty International reports, Iranian authorities closed the CDHR in 2008. Other lawyers from the center including Abdolfattah Soltani and Mohammad Seyfzade are serving multi-year sentences for their work. Iran has also imprisoned Narges Mohammadi, a mother of two, who had served as the executive chairperson of CDHR – only recently temporarily releasing her for medical treatment. In fact, the Nobel laureate who co-founded the CDHR with Dadkhah fled Iran in 2009, remaining in exile ever since.
As we see the Middle East burn (once again) with jihadist rage, Americans rightly ask, “Where are the Islamic defenders of liberty?” The answer — sadly — is often “in jail” or “dead.” In Iraq I saw al-Qaeda’s awful retribution against anyone who dared question their rule, and in Iran we see the regime’s response to those courageous Muslims who defend the most basic human rights.
The U.N. High Commission for Human Rights has issued a statement condemning Iran’s actions, but that’s only a start. An overwhelming international outcry helped free Pastor Nadarkhani. It’s time for that same outcry on behalf of his attorney.