21-year-old Iranian Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi has been sentenced to three months plus one day in prison, and ten lashes.
The sentence comes after she was found guilty of participating in anti-government protests following Iran’s admission of guilt in the downing of a Ukranian passenger plane.
However, the sentence was suspended for a year, depending on the Christian activist’s conduct.
Mary has not appealed the verdict, calling Iran’s appeal courts “affirmative tribunals.” She told Article18.
“We have refrained from appealing against the verdict because the appeal courts have turned into affirmative tribunals.”
“There was no evidence against me, so I ought to have been acquitted, but instead I was sentenced not only to imprisonment, but also flogging.
“And it should be mentioned that even before the verdict was handed down, I and my family were forced to endure all kinds of torture, none of which was sanctioned by law, and which ought to be considered crimes in themselves. So even if I would have been acquitted, it wouldn’t have been a real acquittal!” she said.
The judge cited no evidence against Mary, saying that her presence in the area where the rally was taking place was “evidence in itself.”
Article18 reported that during the hearing, the judge questioned her about her religious views, even though the charges were unrelated to her faith.
Already, the young Christian activist has been arrested three times and has spent six months in prison for being a member of a house church in Tehran. Just before the arrest, she was kicked out of the university she was attending for no given reason and only a week later was arrested again.In an interview with Article 18 (before the recent arrest), she spoke about her expulsion.
“It appears that my religious beliefs and having a prior conviction [because of Christian activities] on security-related charges, as well as my human rights activism, are the reasons for banning me from further education.
“The denial of basic and fundamental rights, such as the right to education, certainly can act as a pressure mechanism and is used as a lever to apply pressure on religious minorities and human rights activists in the hope that individuals will halt their activities and abandon their beliefs.
Depriving me of my education is certainly intended to exert pressure upon me, and silence me.”
The young woman is seen as a threat. She boldly speaks out about believers’ rights, including the cruel treatment she received in prison. She also writes on a variety of social issues and has also run a campaign petitioning for all Christians, including converts, to be given the right to worship in a church.
Earlier this year, Fatemeh wrote an open letter to Iran’s Minister of Intelligence, accusing him of violating the constitution by targeting Christians. Specifically, Article 23 of the constitution, which states that “no one may be molested or taken to task simply for holding a certain belief.”
Fatemeh also questioned why Christians are prevented from “talking about their beliefs with their peers,” while Muslims can freely engage in “propaganda” at schools, universities, mosques and shrines
Last year, she was arrested again because she filed a complaint against a woman who assaulted her for not wearing her headscarf the right way. Her assailant was released, but Fatemeh once again found herself behind bars. She spent a night in prison and the next day was released with a warning.
Although the Iranian government insists that it offers religious freedom, persecution watchdog groups and human rights agencies have said the Islamic regime is very hostile toward minorities, including Christians, Baha’is, and others.
Iran ranks 9th on Christian support organization Open Doors 2020 World Watch list of the 50 countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian.