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
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 the hospital. As of now, there are no details
about her condition.
Nasim also suffered depression due to
inappropriate conditions in prison.
The 35-year-old Christian 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. When summoned there, 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 previously had not been published 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 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
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 awareness of
Christians like Nasim, and for their strength. Pray that the spread of the
gospel would continue in Iran despite the resistance to it.