Maryam Rustampoor, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30
After millions of prayers and numerous petitions from around the world, two Iranian women jailed for no other reason than being Christian were released from a Tehran prison today.
Maryam Rustampoor, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, were imprisoned for 259 days – since March 5. They were repeatedly told to recant their faith and that they would be executed as “apostates,” solely because they are Christians.
But now Open Doors USA has confirmed the women have been released from the notorious Evin prison with no bail, a rarity for Christians released from prison in Iran.
“I am glad to let you know that Maryam and Marzieh are now set free without bail and they are currently at home,” an Open Doors field worker announced.
In a statement to Elam Ministries, the women declared, “Words are not enough to express our gratitude to the Lord and to His people who have prayed and worked for our release.”
Open Doors said it is still unknown whether there are conditions on their release.
“Praise the Lord for the great news out of Iran today of the release of Maryam and Marzieh,” Open Doors President and CEO Carl Moeller said in a statement. “Literally millions of Christians around the world have been praying for their release.”
He continued, “Their future is still uncertain. So we must keep these two brave women in our prayers – and all the Christians who are imprisoned in Iran and other countries.”
Tehran’s Evin prison (photo: Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty)
Compass Direct News noted that the women may still face charges of proselytizing and “apostasy,” or leaving Islam.
An Iranian source told Compass the Iranian government faced intense public pressure for imprisoning the women.
“It was from the international pressure, and also the government couldn’t handle it anymore,” said the source. “Already their detention was illegal. At the same time, the government wasn’t ready to prosecute them for apostasy. They already have many headaches. They cannot handle everything.”
According to Facebook groups that support the women, Rustampoor and Amirizadeh had been participating in religious gatherings and handing out Bibles prior to their detention. Iranian security officials searched their apartments in March, confiscated their Bibles and arrested them.
As WND reported, Rustampoor and Amirizadeh appeared before a court in Iran and were charged with “crimes of apostasy, and propagation of the Christian faith.” In a display of raw courage, they told a government prosecutor that not only are they Christian, it is up to God, not a bureaucrat, to whom He talks.
According to Elam, a dramatic part of the hearing came when they refused to deny their Christian faith.
They explained that God had convicted them through the Holy Spirit.
“It is impossible for God to speak with humans,” Haddad, a deputy prosecutor identified only by his surname, stated.
“Are you questioning whether God is Almighty?” Amirizadeh asked him.
To which Haddad then replied. “You are not worthy for God to speak to you.”
“It is God, and not you, who determines if I am worthy,” she said.
Haddad earlier had asked if the women were Christian.
“We love Jesus,” they replied.
“You were Muslims and now you have become Christians,” Haddad stated.
“We were born in Muslim families, but we were not Muslims,” the women said.
The deputy prosecutor asked about their regrets, and they said, “We have no regrets.”
“You should renounce your faith verbally and in written form,” he warned.
According to various reports, both woman suffered from lack of proper health care after they became sick and lost weight during their prison stay. They were subjected to solitary confinement and extended interrogations, with health problems resulting. According to an October Elam report, both women had become frail with ill health, and Rostampour recently had a severe bout with food poisoning. Amirizadeh suffered from ongoing problems with her spine, an infected tooth and severe headaches. Mission Network News reported the women have been in an overcrowded cell with more than 20 women.
Evin prison is notorious for its hanging executions and brutal torture tactics. It is the same facility where Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died only three weeks after she was arrested for simply photographing the prison during a student protest in 2003. According to CBC News, Iranian officials claimed she had died after suffering a stroke while she was being interrogated. Kazemi showed signs of torture, including evidence of a brutal rape, skull fracture, broken fingers, missing fingernails, crushed toe, broken nose, severe abdominal bruising, head swelling, bruising, deep scratches on the neck and evidence of flogging on her legs.
Under Shariah law, the penalty for apostasy often is death or life imprisonment. According to reports about the punishment system within Iran, for women the execution often is preceded by rape. Open Doors USA reported that the U.S. State Department designated Iran, and seven other countries, as “countries of particular concern” on Oct. 26 due to their track records of religious repression.
Carl Moeller with Open Doors told Mission Network News, “This is a highly problematic case for [Iran] because if they treat these women inhumanely and the world watches, the whole world will call Iran what it is – a horrible regime. If they let them go, or in some way are seen internally as being soft on this, they’re going to face a domestic backlash. So it’s really a difficult situation.”
As WND reported, an October petition to the U.S. Senate cited the “clear violation of globally recognized principles of freedom of religion and conscience” and argued Iranian leaders have made “numerous public claims … that they represent a just government.”
We, the undersigned, whether conservative or liberal, right-wing or left-wing, Christian or Muslim, American, Iranian and righteous people from all across the world, all who agree that human rights, women’s rights, freedom of religion, conscience and a value for all human life are universal principles demand of the Iranian government to release Maryam Rustampoor and Marzieh Amirizadeh immediately without charges.
Elam reported that the women are now “doing as well as could be expected and are rejoicing in the Lord’s faithfulness to them.”
“Maryam and Marzieh have greatly inspired us all,” Elam Director Sam Yeghnazar said in a statement. “Their love for the Lord Jesus and their faithfulness to God has been an amazing testimony.”