Iran Detains Christian Women

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News

TEHRAN, IRAN (Worthy News) -- Two Iranian Christian women have been detained because of their Christian activities, supporters of the Iranian Christians said Tuesday, March 31.

Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), which has close ties with churches in Iran, said Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad, 30, and Maryam Rustampoor, 27, were arrested by Iranian security forces March 5 for alleged involvement in anti-government activities.

However FCNN said the women were "unfairly labeled" as "anti-government activists." Their, "only crime is that they are committed Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus," the network added.

Iranian officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Christians said the women's shared apartment was searched and personal belongings confiscated.


FCNN said they were hand-cuffed and held at different locations before being moved to "the notorious Evin Prison" in Tehran, where they are being held without officially being charged.

It was unclear whether they would be able to meet jailed Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been reporting for Vatican Radio and other international news organizations.

Saberi was arrested in January for allegedly doing reporting work in Iran after her press credentials expired. Her parents found out about her arrest in a brief phone call from her February 10, they said.

Her father, Reza Saberi, said he and his wife, Akiko, would leave the United States in hope to be in Tehran by Wednesday, April 1, to visit their daughter and speed up her release.


There has been international concern over her situation and that of the Christian women detained this month. FCNN said that Marzieh Amirizadeh Esmaeilabad and Maryam Rustampoor were told they could be freed
on a bail of $400,000.

"This excessive bail level is unrealistic and is designed to intimidate and make the release impossible," FCNN said. "The families have subsequently been told on several occasions a judge is not available to discuss the case."

It said both women are allowed just a one minute telephone call every day to their immediate families. "Both are unwell and in need of urgent medical attention. During their last call on March 28 Marzieh said she was suffering from an infection and high fever.  She said ‘I am dying’".

Iranian Christians say there has been growing "government intimidation" of Christians in the strict Islamic country. In recent months dozens of Christians are known to have been imprisoned and there were reportedly some cases of torture.

Legislators have taken steps to mandate the death penalty for citizens who leave Islam and those who attempt to convert people to Christianity.

"Iranian Christian leaders from around the world are calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Marzieh and Maryam," FCNN said, and the United States also urged the release of the jailed female journalist.