Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh, the authors of “Captive in Iran”, were forced to flee to the US in 2011 after the Iranian Regime arrested, imprisoned and sentenced them to death for their evangelical Christian faith two years before.
The pair, who testified before the US State Department’s first-ever Ministerial to Advance International Religious Freedom in August about the horrifying restrictions on religious freedom in Iran, converted to Christianity as adults and met while attending Christian seminars together in Turkey.
In 2009, they were both arrested and spent 259 days in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where they endured daily interrogations and threats. After an international advocacy campaign, they were released, but forced to move to Turkey, where they registered as refugees. In 2011, they were allowed to come to the US as religious refugees.
They wrote: “We will forever be thankful to America for welcoming us and offering us the freedom to live out our faith without fear.”
However, Rostampour and Amirizadeh caution that many more Christians and others besides are being persecuted in Iran.
The State Department’s Refugee Processing Center reports that since 2008, over 16,000 Iranian Christians and 10,000 more Iranians from other religious minorities, including adherents of the Jewish, Baha’i and Mandaean faiths have been resettled in the US because of the mistreatment they face from the Islamic government of Iran.
And that’s just the ones who have been allowed to apply as refugees and have made it through the strict vetting process to enter the US. There are hundreds of thousands more that never make it as far as applying.
Rostampour and Amirizadeh assessed that more needs to be done for these “victims of a corrupt and abusive government” and applauded all that Donald Trump and his administration are doing to “advance international religious freedom broadly, and in particular to hold the Iranian regime accountable for their abuses”.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he wants refugees “to experience religious freedom in their own countries, such that there will be fewer that have to travel to the United States to practice their faith”.
This is a good thing, but it must be clear that this will never happen under the Iranian Regime. If the US wants this to exist in Iran, then they will have to support the rule of the Iranian Resistance, who have prioritised religious freedom.