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Iran: Death Penalty for Apostasy May Be Dropped from Bill

Country/Region: IRAN

It has been reported that Iran, well known for its strict attitude towards Christian converts from Islam, may throw out the death penalty for apostasy from the Islamic Penal Code Bill, which had been provisionally approved by the Iranian Parliament in September 2008. Prior to this approval, Iranian judges could impose the death penalty for apostasy only on the basis of Islamic law and fatwas, not through Iranian law.

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Marzieh and Maryam, held in Evin prison since March 2009 for converting from Islam to Christianity

The Parliamentary Committee came under intense international scrutiny following the recent elections, and some feel that this may have prompted the Committee to drop the apostasy provisions from the Bill. However, there are still obstacles to clear, as all changes to the Bill must be approved by legislators.


Many Iranian Christians have experienced intense oppression under the regime, as Christians, whether from a Muslim background or from a Christian background, are expected to be loyal to the West rather than to Iran. Those who leave Islam to follow Christ are deemed traitors to their community. It is feared that Christians in Iran can expect even harsher treatment following the June 2009 elections, as the government has accused the West of “interfering and stirring up trouble”.


Of particular concern is the fate of Marzieh Amirizadeh and Maryam Rustampoor, two young Christian women who are being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison. The women were arrested in March 2009 for converting to Christianity from Islam, and it has been reported that a judge told them they will be “executed as ‘apostates’”. Maryam and Marzieh responded with courage to this, telling the judge to ‘expedite his sentence’. While the proposed changes to the Bill could mean that the women will not face death for converting, there is considerable concern that they will be forgotten as the world focuses its attention on the political turmoil in Iran.


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