By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)– Two young Iranian women who may face the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity have told a court that they will not abandon their faith in Christ, despite harsh treatment in one of Iran’s most notorious prisons, Christian trial observers confirmed to BosNewsLife Monday, August 10.
Maryam Rustampoor, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, appeared Sunday, August 9, in front of a ‘revolutionary court’ in the capital Tehran where they were pressured to return to Islam, according to well-informed Christians linked to Elam Ministries, a group supporting Iran’s growing church movement.
“Though great pressure was put on them, both women declared that they would not deny their faith,” the Christians said.
Both women, who reportedly suffer health problems, were detained March 5 for converting to Christianity. They endured solitary confinement, interrogations “for many hours while blindfolded” and other mistreatment in Tehran’s Evin prison, well-informed Christians said.
“During their five-month ordeal, both have been unwell and have lost much weight. Marzieh Amirizadeh is in pain due to an on-going problem with her spine, as well as an infected tooth and intense headaches,” they added.
“She desperately needs medical attention. Two months ago the prison officials told her the prison had proper medical equipment and that they will attend to her, but so far no proper treatment has been given.”
During Sunday’s court hearing the prosecution reportedly asked the two women if they were still Christians. “We love Jesus,” and “Yes, we are Christians,” they were overheard answering repeated questions.
Asked whether they “were Muslims and now have become Christians,” the women reportedly replied: “We were born in Muslim families, but we were not Muslims.” They also said they had “no regrets,” despite their imprisonment.
The prosecution allegedly demanded that the women “renounce” their faith “verbally and in written form,” but they refused saying: “We will not deny our faith [in Christ].”
During one tense moment in the questioning, Rustampoor and Amirizadeh made reference to their belief that God had spoken to them through the “Holy Spirit”, observers said. After a deputy prosecutor reportedly told them “It is impossible for God to speak with humans.” Amirizadeh apparently wondered: “Are you questioning whether God is Almighty?”
The prosecution was heard telling her that she is “not worthy for God to speak to you.” Amirizadeh reportedly countered: “It is God, and not you, who determines if I am worthy.”
After they were told to return to prison and think about their options, the two women were heard saying: “We have already done our thinking.”
It was not clear if and when a judge will give a verdict in the case, which has been monitored around the world. Under Iran’s strict apostasy laws, any Muslim who leaves Islam can face the death penalty.
However in what is seen as a positive development, the women have been allowed to be represented by a lawyer, for the first time since their detention earlier this year, observers said.
“Despite the concentrated effort of officials to pressure them into recanting their faith, Maryam and Marzieh love Jesus and they are determined to stand firm to the very end no matter whatever happens,” Iranian Christians added. “They have demonstrated their love for Jesus and would offer their lives for Him if they were called to do so.”
The women reportedly said after Sunday’s hearing: “If we come out of prison we want to do so with honor.” Rights groups have pressured Iran to release the women without charges. The case has come to symbolize the pressure faced by former Muslims in the Islamic nation, which has experienced calls for more reforms and violent anti-government protests following the recent disputed presidential election.