By Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service (www.assistnews.net)
TEHRAN, IRAN (ANS – Aug. 2, 2017) — Maryam Naghash Zargaran (also known as “Nasim”) was released from the notorious Evin Prison in Tehran, Iran, yesterday (Aug. 1).
She had been incarcerated in Evin Prison in Tehran for over four years on charges related to her Christian faith and ministry.
“We thank you for your faithful prayers for Maryam over many years. She has remained faithful to the Lord. I would like to encourage ongoing prayer for her physical and emotional restoration after this time of intense trial and suffering, as well as for wisdom as she looks to the future,” said David Yeghnazar, Executive Director of Elam Ministries (www.elam.com), whose mission is to strengthen and expand the church in the Iran region and beyond.
Maryam, a convert from Islam, was originally arrested in January 2013 in connection with her work at an orphanage, alongside recently released Saeed Abedini. She was charged with “acting against national security” and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment, which she started serving on July 15, 2013 in the women’s ward of Evin Prison. A request for a re-trial was refused.
She completed her sentence at Tehran’s Evin Prison and has a history of heart problems, according to Open Doors www.opendoorsuk.org.
In October 2015, she was allowed to receive a few days’ treatment outside the prison, but forced to return before it was completed. Maryam had recently reported pain in her ears and head.
Family and friends asked for urgent prayer for Maryam, after she went on hunger strike on May 27, 2016. Sources close to her family said that her condition was serious and that Maryam was close to becoming comatose.
Maryam, who suffers from long-standing health issues, went on hunger strike to protest against the lack of adequate medical treatment. She refused to take solids, liquids and did not allow prison medical staff to give her serum.
In May, 2016, Middle East Concern (MEC) reported that she was briefly taken to hospital, after which, on her return to prison, she did start to drink water. MEC also said that a number of her fellow prisoners decided to forgo family visits on May 29 to show support.
Maryam, a believer from a Muslim background, had at that time been held for nearly three years in Evin Prison in Tehran and had been suffering from a variety of ailments, most recently nausea, severe headaches and pain in her ears. Previously the prosecutor’s office had refused to grant permission for Maryam to be treated outside the prison, even though the medical authorities in the prison recognized the severity of her condition and advised that she needed hospital care.
On May 26, 2016, Maryam started a hunger strike as a protest against the lack of medical care for her. On May 30, 2016, Maryam was taken briefly to hospital, but was returned to prison the same day without receiving the necessary treatment.
According to sources close to the family, Maryam’s physical condition was becoming increasingly serious and she was close to becoming comatose. The anxieties suffered by Maryam’s family and friends were compounded by the refusal of prison authorities to provide information on Maryam and her condition.
Middle East Concern reported that permission was granted for Maryam to leave prison on medical furlough on June 5, 2016, but due to problems in bureaucratic procedure her release on bond was delayed until June 6, 2016.
However, following the hunger strike, Maryam was granted permission to leave prison on June 6, 2016 to receive treatment on deposit of a bond of 350 million toman (£GBP75,000 or $USD99,000).
On June 19, 2016, the court ordered Maryam to return to prison, Middle East Concern reported. As Maryam was still not well enough, her family applied for an extension. However, the prosecutor’s office refused to extend her leave and threatened to retain the money submitted as a bond. On June 27, 2016, Maryam was escorted back to Evin Prison by members of her family.
On August 4, 2016, friends and family were relieved and pleased to report that Maryam had ended her recent hunger strike.
Maryam, who was granted medical furlough for a range of health issues in June 2016, returned to Evin Prison, Tehran on June 27 to continue serving a four-year prison sentence.
Middle East Concern reported that Maryam, who had previously gone on hunger strike when her request for medical leave had been denied, started another hunger strike on July 5, 2016. That latest hunger strike was initially in support of fellow prisoner and prominent human rights activist Narges Mohammadi (according to the Human Rights Activists News Agency), but later with the demand for her own ‘immediate and unconditional release’ in view of the inadequate treatment of her health issues.
Prison officials examined Maryam on July 20, 2016 and provided a medical report confirming the seriousness of her condition, but her demand for release was denied by an Iranian court at the request of the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS).
It was reported that Maryam’s health deteriorated considerably during the hunger strike, her blood pressure dropped, she had pains and numbness in her feet — possibly early signs of Multiple Sclerosis — and she suffered psychological issues as a consequence of her imprisonment.
Photo captions: 1) Maryam 2) Inside the women’s ward of Evin Prison in Tehran. 3) Michael Ireland.
About the Writer: Michael Ireland is a volunteer internet journalist serving as Chief Correspondent for the ASSIST News Service, as well as an Ordained Minister, and an award-winning local cable-TV program host/producer who has served with ASSIST Ministries and written for ANS since its beginning in 1989. He has reported for ANS from Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Israel, Jordan, China, and Russia. You may follow Michael on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Michael-Ireland-Media-Missionary-234951783610/ and on Twitter at @Michael_ASSIST. Please consider helping Michael cover his expenses in bringing news of the Persecuted Church, by logging-on to: https://actintl.givingfuel.com/ireland-michael
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