In 2005, Marziyeh Amirizadeh and Maryam Rostampour met when they were both studying theology in Turkey. Born into traditional Iranian families, the two women became devoted Christians in young adulthood. Back in their home country, the Iranian government arrested Amirizadeh and Rostampour in 2009 for practicing their Christian faith. For a heart-wrenching 259 days, the two women occupied Evin prison, one of the most dangerous jails in the Islamic country.
During their imprisonment, Amirizadeh and Rostampour continuously underwent interrogations and mental torture due to their supposed “offenses” against Iran. They were charged with blasphemy and apostasy. The two women were also accused of promoting Christianity, which resulted in them being sentenced to death by hanging. Besides threatening Amirizadeh and Rostampour, law enforcement officials also threatened the women’s families. They did so in the hopes the women and their loved ones would renounce their Christian faith. While in jail, Amirizadeh and Rostampour were forced to participate in Islamic prayers. They also had no access to Bibles.
After other governments, advocacy groups, and Christian organizations intensely pressured the Iranian government, the two friends were released from prison. They were forced out of their home country in 2010. While addressing the State Department for the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom this summer, Amirizadeh stated, “The only thing that helped us stand on our faith was our personal relationship with Jesus and the love of God that we have experienced in our lives. We told them many times that Jesus is our Lord and you cannot take Him away from us.”
“We believe we are alive today because of Jesus’ power and His miracles,” she said.
In a book the two friends co-authored, Captive in Iran: A Remarkable True Story of Hope and Triumph amid the Horror of Tehran’s Brutal Evin Prison, Amirizadeh and Rostampour recounted their horrifying experiences and other travesties occurring in their home country.
At the State Department for the Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom event, Rostampour said, “Hundreds of Christians have been arrested by Iranian authorities and charged with disrupting national security for being a Christian and participating in home churches, receiving prison sentences of 2 to 10 years. Our hope and prayer for our country is that one day Iran will be a free country ruled by a democratic government. We hope for a day when all religious minorities can meet together in peace without having the fear of getting harassed, arrested, tortured or killed by the government.”
After leaving Iran in 2010, the two women traveled to Turkey where they registered as refugees. The United States State Department selected them to be resettled in Atlanta, Georgia. In a recent op-ed for Fox News, Rostampour wrote, “We will forever be thankful to America for welcoming us and offering us the freedom to live out our faith without fear.” While Rostampour is grateful to her adopted homeland, she wishes the United States would allow more persecuted Christians in Iran to seek refuge in America.
In the op-ed, Rostampour stated, “Since 2008, according to the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center, more than 16,000 Iranian Christians have been able to come through the U.S. refugee resettlement program, as have an additional 10,000 other religious minorities, including adherents of the Jewish, Baha’i and Mandaean faiths, who also face mistreatment from the Islamic government of Iran.”
Rostampour lamented, “This year, however, those numbers have dropped dramatically. A mere five Iranian religious minorities have been allowed to enter the U.S. as refugees, down more than 99 percent from just two years ago. The same holds true of refugees from other countries.” The United States has halted immigration from several countries, including Iran, due to security concerns.
While Rostampour agreed that security is an important issue, she wrote, “What most Americans probably don’t realize is that the U.S. government already has an extremely thorough vetting process set up, including multiple biographic and biometric background checks and thorough interviews by Homeland Security officers.”
Closing the op-ed, she pleaded, “But until there truly is religious freedom in Iran and other parts of the globe, we’re praying the U.S. will not close its ‘golden door’ on persecuted Christians and other religious minorities who have been forced to flee.”
~ 1776 Christian