Two Christian women held in Tehran prison


PASADENA, Calif. — Two Christian women remain jailed in Tehran, Iran, after refusing to renounce their faith during an Aug. 9 court hearing.

According to Elam Ministries, the women, Maryam Rustampoor, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, were arrested on apostasy-related charges on March 5 and have suffered poor health, solitary confinement and hours-long interrogations while blindfolded.

"The fire they have for God is unbelievable," said Cristina Voskian, who heads the Pasadena office for Elam and has known the two women for nearly three years. "Fear is not in their vocabulary. They have so much boldness when they talk about Jesus Christ. They desperately need our prayers and help."

Voskian, a Brazilian, said she was so taken with the fervor of those associated with Elam that she quit a career to work full time in the ministry.

Officials with Elam reported that the women were summoned to court to hear learn their fate. When they arrived, however, a deputy prosecutor identified only as Mr. Haddad began questioning the women about their faith.

Haddad focused on their conversion from Islam to Christianity, asking if they regretted their decision to follow Christ. Both responded by saying they had no regrets.

The report by Elam said that Haddad went on to pressure the women.

"You should renounce your faith verbally and in written form." They stood firm and replied, "We will not deny our faith."

During one tense moment in the questioning, Elam officials said Rustampoor and Amirizadeh made reference to their belief that God had convicted them through the Holy Spirit.

"It is impossible for God to speak with humans," the prosecutor responded.

Amirizadeh asked him in return, "Are you questioning whether God is Almighty?"

Haddad then replied, "You are not worthy for God to speak to you."

Amirizadeh said, "It is God, and not you, who determines if I am worthy."

Failing to get a retraction, Haddad ordered the women back to prison and told them to contact him when they were ready to recant their Christian faith.

"We have already done our thinking," the pair was quoted as saying.

At the end of the hearing, Haddad told them that a judge will issue a verdict in their case, but the prosecutor also told the pair to have a lawyer represent them, the first offer of its kind since their arrest.

After professing their love of Jesus, the women left the court, saying, "If we come out of prison, we want to do so with honor."

Citing a "harsh violation of human rights and religious liberty by Iran's authorities." Elam said the women have lost a significant amount of weight during their five-month captivity and that Amirizadeh is in pain due to an ongoing problem with her spine, as well as an infected tooth and intense headaches. Although prison authorities pledge proper medical treatment, none has been given, according to Elam.

The England-based Elam operates offices in Pasadena and Alpharetta, Ga. Founded in 1988 by senior Iranian church leaders, the ministry's heart is for Iranians to know and follow Jesus Christ. To meet that goal, the ministry trains leaders, equips churches and sends out people to build and support churches and serve the poor.

The increased pressure on the women comes at time when Iranian authorities are cracking down on Christians. Compass Direct News, which monitors the persecuted church, reported that more than 30 Christians—all converts from Islam—were arrested in a two-week span beginning at the end of July.

The arrests were made in two waves near Tehran and in the northern city of Rasht. Most were detained less than 24 hours, although eight remain in prison, Compass reported.

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