Mary Mohamma-di

Name: Mary Mohammadi

Age: 21

Country/Area of Origin: Iran

Background: Christian convert

Reason for Arrest:

In January 2020 Mary was arrested for her participation in Tehran protests against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran’s attack on a Ukrainian passenger flight, leading to the untimely deaths of approximately 175 individuals. Upon her arrest, Mary was transported through a few different detention facilities during which she was subjected to physical abuse, starvation, and humiliation, before she was ultimately transferred to Qarchak Prison.

Mary’s formal charges were “disrupting public order by participating in an illegal gathering,” however she was released on a US$ 2,000 bail and was scheduled to have a court hearing in early March. On April 14, Mary’s court hearing was finally held after being postponed for just over a month amidst the spread of the novel coronavirus. Despite the high hopes for Mary’s acquittal, Middle East Concern reports that Mary was sentenced to three months in prison as well as flogging by 10 lashes to be suspended for one year. Mary stated that the judge presiding over her case had repeatedly interrogated her regarding her religious conversion, which had no relationship to her arrest this year or subsequent charges, which begs the question of whether the depth of Mary’s sentencing and punishment has more to do with her faith. NGOs in Iran report that the suspended sentence is a way to scare Mary into keeping silent about her faith and religious persecution.

Middle East Concern reported that Mary took to her personal Instagram account on April 21, stating that she was unjustly convicted “because of showing sympathy for the families of those who perished on the Ukraine airline crash…there was no evidence against me, so I ought to have been acquitted, but instead I was sentenced not only to imprisonment, but also flogging…”

Latest Updates:

  • In June 2021, Lela Gilbert conducted a follow-up interview with Mary to get some insight on her views regarding the upcoming presidential elections in Iran. Mary made the following remarks about the elections and also about the persecution of faith minorities:
    • “This is not a real election. The decision has been made. All Iranians already know who the next president will be: Ibrahim Reisi. And they also know what he is. In the summer of 1988, Reisi was the member of a committee called ‘Four Member Death Committee.’ In that capacity, he was known for having ordered the execution of hundreds of activists. I don’t recognize the Islamic Republic as a legitimate regime, so I don’t recognize its elections either.
    • “The regime only formally recognizes certain Christian denominations – Assyrians and Armenians. […] Furthermore, the regime prevents the rest of us from pursuing our education or finding work. Today they do not permit us to meet, to discuss, to worship, to talk about our faith, to have separate cemeteries, to hold funerals and marriage ceremonies in a Christian way, to publish and sell the Bible in any language except in Armenian and Assyrian languages, to have any official churches, to adopt a child and more. To sum up, we don’t have any rights. We are not citizens in our country.”
    • Lela Gilbert expressed her concern that Mary was endangering herself by speaking so critically about the regime in Iran, but Mary explained: “Why am I doing this? Because I am expected as a follower of Jesus to fight for justice. It is not just a choice but a command I have from Him. My primary objective is not to get rid of the regime but to gain justice for all Iranians. Yet that can never be done until the regime is gone, and until Iran has a government based on the rule of law.”
  • In February 2021, Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow for International Religious Freedom, Leila Gilbert, shared that she had conducted an interview with Mary. Mary shared the following remarks:
    • “Actually, nobody evangelized me. I had lots of questions about God and religions even as a child. I decided to start researching at the age of 17. I didn’t know anything about restrictions. For example, in Iran, filtering, censorship, and of course, security issues make such research absolutely difficult.
    • “Although at first, I didn’t have any special feelings for Christianity, I came to find truth, love, life, humanity, forgiveness, calmness. Whatever we need to make the best world I found in the message of Jesus Christ.”
    • When I go out, I’m not really sure that I’ll be able to return to my house. On 18 January 2021, as I was walking in Valiy-e asr square, the morality police stopped me and transferred me to Vozara Detention Center; the same place I’d found myself stripped of my clothes and abused the year before. This time I was there for 1.5 hours. The reasons authorities gave for my arrest? Headscarf wasn’t correctly adjusted, tight trousers, short and unbuttoned coat. Please, imagine wearing your normal clothes while you’re walking along the street and suddenly, you are arrested for it. How do you feel?
    • Then, on 27 October, I was summoned by telephone – without any specific details – by the security police. I refused to go.