TEHRAN/LONDON (BosNewsLife)– Women dressed in white have gathered outside the Iranian embassy in London as part of a prayer vigil to highlight the plight of two female Christian converts from Islam who have been held at Evin Prison in Tehran “without charge” for the last six months, organizers said.
Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, were detained by Iranian security officers March 5 after their apartment had been searched and their Bibles and other items were confiscated, several Iranian Christians said.
“Neither woman has committed a crime under Iranian or international law,” said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), which supported Saturday’s demonstration.
At a hearing at Tehran’s Revolutionary Court on August 9, both women refused to recant their faith after being ordered to do so, trial observers said. They were subsequently returned to their cells, where Christians said, their health is rapidly deteriorating due to overcrowded conditions and limited facilities.
CONVERTS FACE DIFFICULTIES
In Iran, Muslims who convert to another religion, often face arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention and other human rights abuses, rights groups say.
“We wholeheartedly stand in solidarity with Maryam and Marzieh, who are being held solely on the basis of exercising their most basic right: freedom of thought, conscience and belief,” added CSW Chief Executive Mervyn Thomas in a statement monitored by BosNewsLife Sunday, September 13.
Thomas said that “scores of illegal detentions of Christian converts in Iran” have been reported this year. “We strongly urge the Iranian Government to release these innocent women immediately”.
There was no immediate comment from Iranian officials.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide has produced a report on apostasy from Islam:
Apostasy is the renunciation of religious faith, and apostasy from Islam in particular has always been a contentious issue. Although the Qur’an does not prescribe a temporal punishment for apostasy, the vast majority of traditional Islamic theology and jurisprudence has advocated the death penalty for a mentally sane male apostate and life-long imprisonment or harsh treatment for a female apostate. Proponents of the death penalty have legitimised their stance from the sayings and deeds attributed to the Prophet Muhammad, his companions and subsequent caliphs.
An increasing number of contemporary Muslim thinkers, particularly those residing in the West, have called for a re-evaluation of the shari’a position on the death penalty for apostasy and a return to a more faithful interpretation based on the Qur’an. Although the views of these reforming scholars are encouraging, traditional views on apostasy continue to dominate popular Muslim opinion.
Apostates are subject to gross and wide-ranging human rights abuses including extra judicial killings by state-related agents or mobs; honour killings by family members; detention, imprisonment, torture, physical and psychological intimidation by security forces; the denial of access to judicial services and social services; the denial of equal employment or education opportunities; social pressure resulting in loss of housing and employment; and day-to-day discrimination and ostracism in education, finance and social activities. The affect of all this on the personal lives of apostates and their families can be significant and far-reaching. As the number of apostate communities has significantly increased in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia over the past twenty years, human rights abuses have been more regularly reported.