To make matters worse, the couple were condemned to prison because of their possession of Bibles and Christian symbols, also fined about $400 for the “crime” of attending a house church.
An appeals court in Iran has ruled that Christian parents Sam Khosravi and wife Maryam Falahi are “unfit” to be the parents of the baby girl they adopted over 18 months ago—simply because they are not Muslims.
Lydia was just three months old when she was adopted by Iranian Christian converts Sam Khosravi and wife Maryam Falahi.
Now, just one month before her second birthday, a court has ruled she must be taken away from them, as Sam and Maryam – who are currently appealing against convictions related to their membership of a house-church – are “not fit” to be her parents.
The original decision was handed down on 19 July, and the appeal was finalized on Tuesday, 22 September.
According to Article18, the appeal was denied despite the judge in the original case noting that the baby, Lydia, has an “intense emotional attachment” to Sam and Maryam. Lydia also has health challenges, and the judge admitted there was “zero chance” she would be adopted by a new family. The judge said Lydia faces an “uncertain future” and that there is a good chance she will spend the rest of her life in the care of the Iranian state.
It’s also a crystal-clear example of Iran’s hostility toward Christians, particularly toward believers who have converted from Islam. In Iran’s eyes, baby Lydia is a Muslim because they assume she was originally born to a Muslim woman and so by law must be cared for by Muslim parents.
Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, says the wording the judge used in his initial ruling suggests that the final decision was not actually up to him.
“The verdict clearly demonstrates the unwillingness of the judge to hand down this sentence,” he said, “and that he was coerced by the representative of the Ministry of Intelligence. It is another clear example of the lack of independence of the judiciary in cases involving Christians.”
Sam and Maryam did everything they could to keep their daughter. As Article18 reports, they even went as far as to get two fatwas—religious rulings—from Grand Ayatollahs, the highest level of Islamic cleric in Iran. These religious leaders provided the fatwas, saying it was “permissible” for Lydia to stay with Sam and Maryam; one Grand Ayatollah even said that Lydia should have the freedom to choose her own faith.
And yet, the appeal judges still rejected this reasoning. They didn’t make any reference to the fatwas in the court’s ruling, only saying they had not received “specific or reasonable evidence” to overturn the original ruling against Sam and Maryam.
It is now anticipated that Iran’s State and Welfare Organisation will seek to remove Lydia from Sam and Maryam’s care as soon as they are made aware of the failed appeal.
To make matters worse, Sam and Maryam are also battling their own court cases. Sam was recently sentenced to a year in prison and two years in internal exile for “propaganda against the state”—what that actually means is that the sentence is punishment for the couple’s attendance at an illegal house church in Iran, Open Doors reported.
“Condemning these people to prison because of their possession of Bibles and Christian symbols is a clear demonstration that Iran’s foreign minister and others aren’t telling the truth when they say that ‘no-one is put in prison in Iran simply because of their beliefs,’” Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, said.
Both Sam and Maryam were forbidden from working in their job sectors—if they lose their ongoing appeals, they will both be unable to work. Maryam was also fined about $400 for her “crime” of attending a house church.
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, but this does not stop the rate at which Jesus Christ is winning the heart of the people unto Himself.