Date: July 3, 2016
TEHRAN, IRAN (BosNewsLife)-- A former Muslim who became an outspoken evangelical Christian has been forced to return to one of Iran's most notorious prisons because of her faith in Jesus Christ, despite concerns about her health, friends and supporters told BosNewsLife.
Maryam Naghash Zargaran, 38, returned to the women’s ward of Evin prison last Monday, June 27, after the prosecutor’s office refused to extend her medical leave, Christians said.
"When they threatened to seize the family home [to secure her temporary release] Maryam submitted herself back to prison," added Elam Ministries, a mission group founded by Iranian church leaders.
She had been freed from Evin on temporary medical leave June 6, following a near two-week hunger strike to demand medical treatment, BosNewsLife reported earlier.
"Maryam, a believer from a Muslim background, has been held for nearly three years in Evin Prison in Tehran and has been suffering from a variety of ailments, most recently nausea, severe headaches and pain in her ears," noted Middle East Concern (MEC) an advocacy group following her case.
"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 recognised the severity of her condition and advised that she needs hospital care," MEC added.
Family and friends said they were "thankful that Maryam was able to receive medical care and spend valuable time at home."
Though her health reportedly improved, Elam Ministries urged Christians to "continue to pray for her health, for access to medical treatment whenever needed, and an early release from prison."
The Christian still has a year remaining of her four year sentence on charges of "acting against national security." Friends have linked the charges to the Iranian woman's decision to abandon Islam and openly embrace faith in Jesus Christ.
She was detained in January 2013 while working with orphans with former Christian prisoner Saeed Abedini, according to Christians familiar with the situation, after a previous shorter detention.
Zargaran, a music teacher, is among several Christians known to be detained in Iran. Authorities have expressed concern about the increasing number of Muslims converting to Christianity in the strict Islamic nation.
In 1979, there were less than 500 known Christians from a Muslim background in Iran, according to Elam Ministries estimates.
"Today the most conservative estimate is that there are at least 360,000 believers in the nation," the group said.
"Church leaders believe that millions can be added to the church in the next few years-such is the spiritual hunger that exists and the disillusionment with the Islamic regime," Elam Ministries added.