Maryam and Mitra, both converts from Islam, were arrested on Christmas Eve in 2009, along with 13 others, after a raid by government officials on a house church in Pakdasht, south-east of Tehran. While most of the others were released shortly after being arrested, the two women were detained until 17 March 2010, when they were released temporarily. They were re-arrested in April 2011 and imprisoned after being convicted of ‘membership of an illegal group’.
During the presidential campaign, President Rouhani, viewed as a moderate and a pragmatist, promised to uphold the rights of women and religious minorities and to release political prisoners. The President also pledged to set up a ‘civil rights charter’, which would ensure equality without discrimination based on race, religion, or gender.
An investigation by the Guardian newspaper uncovered close to 800 political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Iran, including journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, feminists, Christian priests, Sunni clerics and Baha’i leaders.
Mervyn Thomas, Chief Executive of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said, “CSW welcomes the release of Maryam Jaiili and Mitra Rahmati, Nasrin Sotoudeh and the other prisoners. While this positive step by the Iranian government is to be commended, it is by no means sufficient given the vast number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience. CSW continues to call for the unconditional release of all of these prisoners, including Farshid Fathi, Benham Irani, Saeed Abedini, Shahin Lahooti, the seven Baha’i leaders, and others who belong to religious minorities and have been unjustly detained”