Article18 has confirmed that Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi is being held in Qarchak detention centre, south of the Iranian capital Tehran.
It is a month today since Mary was arrested, as protests took place in central Tehran following the Iranian government’s admission of guilt in the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane.
Since that time, there has been no word from Mary, although last week the Persian-language HRANA news agency reported that she was being held in Qarchak Prison.
At that time, Article18 was unable to verify this, but a reliable source has now confirmed that Mary is indeed being held there and that her bail has been set at 30 million tomans (around $2,250).
Mary’s family have been able to put together the amount, even though it is equivalent to more than the annual salary for Iranians, under the country’s current economic challenges.
However, Article18’s source explained that during the time it took for the family to obtain the amount, “Mary’s case was transferred from the prosecutor’s office to the court, which will now decide whether or not to grant her temporary release from prison”.
Mary has been charged with “disturbing public order by participating in an illegal rally” and provided with a lawyer not of her choosing.
She has been able to call home a few times to reassure her family that she is OK.
As the Iranian government has held celebrations to mark the 41st anniversary of the revolution, the legal system has slowed. With the Iranian New Year (Nowruz) only a month away, it is not clear whether there will be sufficient time for Mary’s family to secure her release before the holidays, or whether she may be forced to remain detained for longer still.
Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, said that he was “extremely relieved” to know that Mary is OK, and hopes soon to be able to confirm her release – “albeit temporary” – from prison.
Who is Mary Mohammadi?
Mary’s case has captured the world’s attention, with even the US President, Donald Trump, citing her arrest during his recent National Prayer Breakfast speech.
Mary is a rare example of a Christian activist still living in Iran and, prior to her current detention, had already served six months in prison for her Christian activities, for which she was convicted of “action against national security” and “propaganda against the system”.
Last July, Mary faced fresh criminal charges relating to her “improper” wearing of hijab. Those charges, which were eventually quashed, were brought against her after she initially went to police to complain of an assault.
Then in December, Mary was kicked out of her Tehran university, without explanation, on the eve of her English-language exams.
Just a few weeks later, on 12 January, Mary was arrested as protests took place in Azadi Square.
HRANA reports that, during her detention, Mary has been beaten so badly – by male and female officers – that the bruises were visible for three weeks.
After her arrest, HRANA reports that she was taken to the Vozara detention centre in Tehran, where she was forced to sit in a yard, for hours, in extremely cold weather and opposite the toilets.
She was then interrogated by three officers, who gave her forms containing 30 questions. Mary refused to answer the questions in the absence of a lawyer.
Mary was not given any food until 24 hours after her arrest and her handcuffs were put on in a cross-shape, making them very uncomfortable.
Mary was also strip-searched twice by female officers, who told her that if she refused to remove her clothes, they would rip them from her.
The next day, she was taken to Evin Court, where she was charged. Her case was then transferred to the General and Criminal Court of Tehran.
Mary is now one of around 2,000 women prisoners in the overcrowded Qarchak Prison, which is considered the worst women’s prison in Iran and has been sanctioned by the US for “gross human rights violations”, including abuse, arbitrary beatings, little drinking water and “creating an environment for rape and murder”, noted Open Doors.
This article was updated on 13 February to include the new information from HRANA.
VOP Note: Please pray for Mary and Christian converts in Iran.