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A spokesman for Article 18 told Fox News the family discovered the desecrated grave when they went to visit on the anniversary of his hanging --December 3.

The family of the Rev. Hossein Soodmand, the only Iranian pastor confirmed to have been hanged for quitting Islam, found his graved bulldozed in early December.

The pastor’s daughter, Rashin Soodmand, who now lives in exile in Europe, told Article 18, an organization that promotes religious freedom, “As a member of the family of this martyred pastor, I can say that the recent disrespect shown to our father’s grave wounded our hearts yet again.

“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,” Soodmand said.

She continued, “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.”

Article 18 first reported on the desecration of Soodmand’s grave, which was located on the edge of the Behesht-e Reza cemetery in Mashhad, Iran’s second-largest city. The Christian leader was executed by Iran’s regime in December 1990.

A spokesman for Article 18 told Fox News the family discovered the desecrated grave when they went to visit on the anniversary of his hanging – December 3.

“The Iranian authorities certainly made the call,” the spokesman added. “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.”

Soodmand converted to Christianity before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. According to Article 18, he was active in the Christian organization the Bible Society, and oversaw the Episcopalian church of Isfahan and later the Assemblies of God church in Mashhad.

Iran’s radical Islamic regime arrested Soodmand in 1990. He was “tortured and held in solitary confinement for one month,” wrote Article 18.

Nila Behzadi, an Iranian-German based on Berlin who is a democracy activist, told The Jerusalem Post: “This regime has a long history of destroying the graves of dissidents and religious minorities. The destruction began from the beginning of the [1979 Islamic] Revolution with the demolition of Reza Shah’s tomb, under the direct command of the then-leader of the Islamic Republic, [Ruhollah] Khomeini, and by [Sadeq] Khalkhali.”

She added, “They also have destroyed the Baha’i tombs for years. After the massacre of the 1980s, they repeatedly destroyed the Khavaran cemetery with bulldozers. This regime knows nothing of humanity, and these atrocities include all factions of the Islamic Republic. Many victims of the 1980s massacre are not even allowed to have a tombstone. There are also converted Christians who are not safe in the Islamic Republic at all.”

Iran’s regime executed at least 20,000 imprisoned Iranians in the 1980s, according to one estimate. Iranian exiles believe 20,000-30,000 prisoners died in total. The then-supreme leader Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa authorizing the executions.

Behzadi said that many tombstones and crosses had been broken in the Armenian graveyard in Isfahan, and that the Historical Church in the city of Kerman, which was also listed in the National Iranian List of Monuments, was completely destroyed.

“An attack on the Ahvaz Christian cemetery by the municipality and the destruction and robbery of the crosses of Armenian cemeteries... in recent years are examples of barbarity and savagery of the Islamic Regime,” she added.

Shortly before his execution, Soodmand wrote to friends who had fled Iran: “By following the example of the great shepherd of the flock, the Lord Jesus Christ, I am willing to sacrifice my life for my sheep. My escape from these dangers would weaken the flock of God and discourage them. I don’t want to be a bad example to them, so I am ready to go to jail again and, if necessary, even to give my life for them.”
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