Christian Convert Released From Prison in Iran Slapped With Travel Ban
Zargaran Reports Being Given “Unnecessary” Anti-Psychotic Medication
Maryam (Nasim) Naghash Zargaran, who was released from Evin Prison on August 1, 2017 after serving more than four years for allegedly engaging in Christian missionary activities, has been banned from leaving Iran for six months, she told the Center for Human Rights in Iran (CHRI).
“With the completion of my sentence, there’s no reason for me to be banned from traveling abroad. It’s against the law,” said Zargaran in an interview with CHRI on August 18. “I wanted to go in front of the prison and sit there in protest until the ban was removed, but I was worried about what would happen to my family.”
The Christian convert added that immediately before her scheduled release, she was unexpectedly taken to a courtroom for having previously complained about the denial and quality of medical care in the prison.
“No one can imagine how much I suffered during the moments before I was freed,” said Zargaran. “I was scheduled to be released at 3 p.m. I was happy until five minutes to three when the authorities told me I had to go to court. They took me to court just minutes before I was supposed to see my family who were outside the prison gate waiting for me.”
“I was taken to the Evin [Prison] Court to hear testimony by prison medical staff, who accused me of insulting them during one of my visits to the clinic,” she added. “They said I was screaming mad.”
Continued Zargaran: “What happened was that I had gone to the prison clinic to get treatment for a meniscus tear in my knee, but the doctor rudely refused to see me. I told the doctor, who used to be a wrestler, that the clinic was not a wrestling ring. That’s why I was sued for supposedly insulting the prison clinic staff.”
Zargaran told CHRI that the judge decided not to try her: “They just wanted to raise trouble and scare me.”
Speaking to CHRI after her release, Zargaran said Evin Prison clinic staff are violating the rights of female prisoners by prescribing unnecessary anti-psychotic medication.
“The clinic staff lack experience and empathy. When I went there for depression, they gave me a medication that I think was called Haloperidol,” said Zargaran. “When I got out of prison, I did some research and found out that it was prescribed for seriously insane patients. These pills paralyzed me. I couldn’t even think. I could hardly stand up and I fell from the stairs several times. I smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and didn’t know why until my cellmates found out I was given the wrong medication.”
She added: “When I was on hunger strike, the attending doctor refused to see me and made snide remarks that I wasn’t really on hunger strike because if I was, I would be dead. He said he was sick of prisoners because they were all liars.”
Zargaran went on hunger strike in July 2016 to demand temporary release for medical treatment for heart disease that predated her incarceration and several issues that developed while she was imprisoned, including problems with her digestive tract and spine, and arthritis of the neck and hands.
The 39-year-old children’s music teacher was arrested on November 5, 2012, and accused of seeking to buy property in northern Iran for a Christian orphanage with converted Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini before he was also imprisoned in 2013.
Without access to a lawyer, Zargaran was sentenced to four years in prison in July 2013 by Branch 28 of the Revolutionary Court presided by Judge Mohammad Moghisseh for “assembly and collusion against national security.” The sentence was upheld upon appeal in October 2013.
The Islamic Republic views any alternative belief system, especially those seeking converts, as a threat to the prevailing Shia order. Despite President Hassan Rouhani’s election campaign promises in 2013 and 2017 that he would work to protect religious minorities, the targeting of Christian converts has continued unabated during his presidency.