Iranian couple has daughter taken from them—just because they follow Jesus

September 30, 2020 by Christopher Summers in Persecution updates

In a devastating decision, an appeals court in Iran has declared 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.

 

The original decision was handed down in July, and the appeal was finalized last week.

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.

If this seems horrific and unjust: It is.

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.

Sam and Maryam were arrested earlier this year along with other Christian converts (l-r): Sam Khosravi, 36, and his wife, Maryam Falahi, 35; Sam’s brother, Sasan, 35, and his wife Marjan Falahi, 33; Sam and Sasan’s mother, Khatoon Fatolahzadeh, 61, released the same day; Pooriya Peyma, 27, and his wife, Fatemeh Talebi, 27; and Habib Heydari, 38.

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.

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.

Please join your brother and sister in prayer, along with the entire church in Iran.

  • Pray baby Lydia can stay with her parents. Pray God would do a miracle to keep this family together.
  • Pray God would comfort Sam and Maryam. We imagine they are devastated after the ruling, pray He would be their peace and their sustaining comfort.
  • Lift up your sisters and brothers in Iran as they seek to live out the gospel in a place that often regards them with suspicion and hate.
  • Pray God would be at work among His people in Iran. Ask Him to protect Christians, to provide for them and to equip them to do the good work He has given them to do.
  • Pray for the leaders of Iran, that their hearts would be softened and that they would see the love and hope of Jesus.
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