Bishop Nazir Pleads for Imprisoned Female Converts in Iran

Bishop of Rochester, Dr. Michael Nazir-Ali is calling upon President of Iran to have mercy on two female converts who are now imprisoned due embracing Christianity and leaving Islam.

Two Iranian women - Maryam Rustampoor, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, were arrested on 5 March for leaving Islam; and there put in the notorious Evin deprived of medical attention and often blindfolded for interrogations for several hours. They were tried after five months on 9 August, they were told to recant their faith which they said they will not do so. They were sent back to the prison where they face charge of apostasy which is death in Iran.

“Maryam and Marzieh are being held simply because they have changed their belief. The UN Declaration on Human Rights says people everywhere should be free to do this and the Iranian Constitution guarantees freedom of religion,” Bishop Nazir-Ali was quoted as saying by The Times Online.

“I appeal to the Iranian President to have mercy and to release these two young women forthwith so that they can receive the medical treatment which they so desperately need,” said Dr. Nazir-Ali, who steps down soon as a diocesan to concentrate on helping persecuted Christians around the world.

Elam Ministries, a ministry that specializes in serving the growing church in Iran, reported on 10 August that “though great pressure was put on them, both women declared that they would not deny their faith” when they appeared before the court on Aug. 9.

The report said, the chief interrogator had recommended a verdict of apostasy, however no verdict was pronounced and they were rather questioned if they were Christians which they said they were, they were told to renounce their faith verbally and in writing which the two women said they will not do, because they “love Jesus.”

The prosecutor told them to think about the options they were given and come back to him when they are ready to comply though they women said they had already made up their mind not to recant their faith in Christ.

Earlier, in a statement from Washington, D.C., International Christian Concern (ICC) also appealed to the Iranian officials to free the Christian duo.

“We ask Iranian officials to free Maryam and Marzieh. Iran must respect their right to follow the religion of their choice. In this century, it’s unconscionable for any country to force its citizens to adhere to any particular religion,” said Jonathan Racho, ICC’s regional manager for African and the Middle East.

When Esha Momeni, an American student visiting Iran, was arrested and placed in solitary confinement in the notorious section 209 of Tehran’s Evin prison for daring to campaign for women’s rights. Her story drew an international attention. She is now back in the U.S. “The case of Maryam and Marzieh is equally horrific,” said Ruth Gledhill, the Times Religion correspondent. But “it has received less international publicity,” she lamented.

In an interview on Monday, Bishop Nazir-Ali also told ENI: “It is very important that we speak out on this issue and ask: What crime have these women committed? We are told that there is religious freedom in Iran. I hope so.”

The bishop urged Christians to send protest letters to the Iranian ambassador in London, letters to newspapers and to human rights organizations and to human rights officials at the United Nations. “And of course pray – the power of prayer is enormous.”

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