Iranian converts freed, still face charges

Baptist Press
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Posted: Nov 18, 2009 4:30 PM
WASHINGTON (BP)--Two Iranian women who are converts to Christianity were released Nov. 18 after being held in Tehran's notorious Evin Prison since March 5.

Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, and Maryam Rostampour, 27, were released without bail after 256 days in jail, but they still face charges of apostasy (conversion from Islam to Christianity), the human rights organization International Christian Concern reported within hours after their release. No court date has been set by Iranian authorities.

While at Evin Prison, Amirizadeh and Rostampour were kept in solitary confinement and endured extended interrogations, all the while suffering from poor health, ICC stated in a news release.

Iran issued no statement explaining the women's release, ICC said, but "the decision follows international pressure and prayers from Christians throughout the world."

The two women, in a brief statement, said, "Words are not enough to express our gratitude to the Lord and to His people who have prayed and worked for our release."

ICC voiced its dismay over government action against the women, noting, "Although released, eight months of abuse and mistreatment by Iranian security forces have undoubtedly taken a toll on Maryam and Marzieh's health. Marzieh has suffered intense headaches, toothaches and spinal pain, while both women have been denied medical treatment."

Aidan Clay, ICC regional manager of the Middle East, said, "We celebrate with Maryam and Marzieh, and with all Christians upon hearing the news of their release. Yet, we continue to hold Iran accountable for having unjustly imprisoned and degraded two women who committed no crime. We condemn Iran's tactics of intimidation and harassment used to terrorize Christians throughout the country. We call upon Iran to uphold religious freedom by allowing all Iranians to practice the religion of their choice, and to be allowed to worship freely without being threatened or discriminated against."

Amirizadeh and Rostampour, in an Aug. 9 court hearing, refused to renounce their faith.

The Farsi Christian News Network recounted that the women were questioned by a deputy prosecutor identified as "Mr Haddad."

According to FCNN:

"Mr. Haddad asked the two women if they were Christians. 'We love Jesus,' they replied. He repeated his question and they said, 'Yes, we are Christians.'

"Mr. Haddad then said, 'You were Muslims and now you have become Christians.'

"'We were born in Muslim families, but we were not Muslims' was their reply.

"Mr. Haddad's questioning continued and he asked them if they regretted becoming Christians, to which they replied, 'We have no regrets.'

"Then he stated emphatically, 'You should renounce your faith verbally and in written form.' They stood firm and replied, 'We will not deny our faith.'

"During one tense moment in the questioning, Maryam and Marzieh made reference to their belief that God had convicted them through the Holy Spirit. Mr. Haddad told them, 'It is impossible for God to speak with humans.'

"Marzieh asked him in return, 'Are you questioning whether God is Almighty?'

"Mr. Haddad then replied, 'You are not worthy for God to speak to you.'

"Marzieh said, 'It is God, and not you, who determines if I am worthy.'

"Mr. Haddad told the women to return to prison and think about the options they were given and come back to him when they are ready . Maryam and Marzieh said, 'We have already done our thinking.'"

Compiled by Baptist Press editor Art Toalston.

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