Iran (MNN) — It is with great joy that Open Doors confirms the release of Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, today. For around nine months, the two Iranian Christian women have been held in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran.
A field worker from Open Doors shares: "I am glad to let you know that Maryam and Marzieh are now set free without bail and that they are currently at home."
Although the release is great news for Maryam and Marzieh, it is not known if the release is unconditional.
In recent releases of detained Christians, Open Doors notes that it seems almost common practice by the Iranian authorities to indicate that there will be court hearings in the future or that former prisoners had to sign restricting documents. The procedure then could take from months up to several years before any action is undertaken.
"Praise the Lord for the great news out of Iran today of the release of Maryam and Marzieh," said Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller. "Literally millions of Christians around the world have been praying for their release.
"Their future still is uncertain. So we must keep these two brave women in our prayers…and all the Christians who are being imprisoned in Iran and in other countries."
In recent years, Evin prison has drawn criticism by various human rights organizations for the violations of basic human rights and capital punishments that are being carried out in the detention center. As far as we know at this time, Maryam and Marzieh have not faced direct physical torture while being detained, but they have suffered from the lack of proper health care.
Their physical condition has deteriorated over time. No medical attention was given when suffering from infections, high fever and stomach aches. Marzieh was in pain because of an ongoing problem with her spine, an infected tooth only treated by painkillers, and severe headaches.
Both women were arrested March 5 by Iranian authorities without filing official charges against them. Only after a month of detention, the accusations of "taking part in illegal gatherings" and "acting against state security" were made known to them.
On August 9 they had to appear in court, and they firmly responded to the warning that they should recant their Christian faith: "We love Jesus," they replied when asked if they were Christians. When the question was repeated, they said; "Yes, we are Christians." They emphatically responded: "We will not deny our faith" when directed by the deputy prosecutor to renounce their faith in both verbal and written form.
On October 7, Maryam and Marzieh were unexpectedly taken to appear before the court. There they learned three charges were put against them: anti-state activities, propagation of the Christian faith, and apostasy. A new judge was presiding, and unlike the previous judges, he was sympathetic. He acquitted Maryam and Marzieh from the charge of anti-state activities, which rarely happens. As a result, their case was transferred from the revolutionary court to the civil court.
Moeller says persecution, or the release of Christians like these two women, sends a clear message. "God is still building His church, and it empowered the Christians in the first century to be more bold in their witness. Today it's empowering Christians in the 21st Century in places like Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan."
Please keep praying for Maryam and Marzieh. Their release does not automatically mean that they will be living in complete freedom. Also pray for their health, that they can receive proper health care.
Also remember the Iranian church in your prayers as the church is under a lot of pressure. The Assemblies of God Church in central Tehran was summoned to stop organizing services in Farsi on Friday afternoons.
Over the last few months, Open Doors urged supporters to pray for the women and launched an e-mail campaign on their behalf. Moeller says the mainstream press didn't cover this. "Thank you so much, Mission Network News, for getting these stories out. Mainstream press hasn't covered this, but you guys have. It's been such a blessing, and God has certainly used you in helping release the captives."
An estimated 100 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with millions more facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry, and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535), or go to our Web site at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.