Iran (ICNA)— According to the Iranian Christian News Agency, Maryam Naghash-Zargaran (also known as Nasim), is an Iranian Christian convert currently serving her four year prison sentence in the women’s ward of Evin prison.
ICNA reports that Nasim was transferred to Modares hospital on Sunday, September 29, to be treated for her heart disease. Having had heart surgery before, mental pressures in prison resulted in her heart attack, and as a result she was transferred to hospital. As of now, there is no detailed news about her condition.
In addition to that, she suffered depression due to inappropriate conditions in prison.
The 35 years old Christian lady was first arrested in the winter of 2013 for “acting against national security”. On the day of her arrest she received a phone call from the intelligence police on Vozara Street in Tehran and summoned there, where she was immediately arrested and kept for three days. Then she was transferred to Evin prison and remained there for 19 days. After that she was released on bail.
Since the time of her arrest, security authorities have searched her house several times, confiscating her personal belongings as well as any Christian related material.
Later she was called for her trial at branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. There, Judge Mohammad Moghiseh sentenced her to four years in prison for “propagating against the Islamic regime, and colluding to undermine national security”. She appealed the ruling but the appeals court upheld her sentence. Nasim was summoned to prison to start serving her sentence on July 15, 2013 in the women’s ward of Evin prison.
Her name hadn’t been published before among Christian prisoners in Evin, which raises speculation that there are more unknown Christian prisoners in Iranian prisons.
At the same time, reports indicate that three other Christian convert activists, Somayeh Bakhtiari, Ronak Samavat, and Nasim Zanjani are still being held in prison. These Christian convert women had been arrested and imprisoned in the first half of the Persian year (March – September). They were accused of holding prayer and worship meetings in house-churches.
The court verdict for Nasim, a copy of which was provided to Mohabat News, states that “She converted from Islam to Protestant Christianity through her sister who lives abroad. She is an active member of the Central Assemblies of God Church as well. Through Pastor Saeed, she started a house-church to proselytize Muslim youth. She is an evangelist herself and is in contact with … ministries”.
(Some names of individuals and places mentioned in this verdict will not be made public for security reasons.)
Another part of this verdict states, “She has traveled to Turkey several times with Christian related intentions and stayed at … Hotel where Christians often assemble for evangelical purposes. In July, she took 20 women with her on a trip to Ramsar and held classes for them to attract them to Christianity. Additionally, although she had signed a disclaimer not to collaborate with the Assemblies of God Church, she went to the church on Sundays and Tuesdays and is still in contact with Pastor … . The court considers her actions as supporting the anti-security intentions of England and Israel to spread house churches in Iran and to divert the Islamic society from the way of truth. Based on these allegations, and according to articles 46 and 610 of the Islamic penal code, she will be sentenced to four years in prison which includes the time she has been under detention”.
To counter non-Shi’ite religions in Iran, especially Christianity, the Islamic regime of Iran raises unfounded allegations against Christians, including moral and financial accusations, and spying for England and Israel.
Iranian judicial and security authorities have repeatedly tried to make up false allegations against Christian converts to pressure them and distort public opinion about them. Most of these false allegations are political and argue that house-churches are actually political groups which are in contact with/spy for foreign countries like England and Israel. In most of the Christian cases, Iranian authorities try to downplay the religious aspect of these cases and make them appear as political cases, in order to unmercifully sentence them and avoid international pressure.
It is interesting to note that just before President Hassan Rouhani’s trip to New York to attend the UN General Assembly, two Christian woman prisoners, Maryam Jalili and Mitra Rahmati, were released together with a number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. The women had been sentenced to two and a half years in prison. When they were released, only one month remained on their prison sentence.
Pray that Nasim would recover. Pray for the strength of Christians in similar situations in Iranian prisons. Pray that the spread of the gospel would continue in Iran despite the resistance to it.