After nine months in prison, the two young female converts who have gained international attention were freed Wednesday afternoon in Iran, sources inside the country reported.
Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, were released at 3:30 p.m. local time without bail, according to Elam Ministries. They are currently at home with their family, but could face more court hearings in the future.
"Words are not enough to express our gratitude to the Lord and to His people who have prayed and worked for our release," they said, according to Elam.
Open Doors USA President/CEO Dr. Carl Moeller, whose group works with persecuted Christians, responded to news of their release:
"Praise the Lord for the great news out of Iran today of the release of Maryam and Marzieh. Literally millions of Christians around the world have been praying for their release."
But Moeller warned that the two converts' future remains "uncertain" so Christians must continue to pray for them and other persecuted believers in Iran.
The two young females were arrested March 5 on charges of anti-state activity and "taking part in illegal gatherings" due to their involvement in house church activities. They were detained in Evin prison, the notorious facility known for its human rights violation and capital punishment, while their trial took place in Tehran.
Reports indicate that they were pressured by the judge to denounce their Christian faith and return to Islam. However, the women refused to deny Jesus Christ as their savior and as a result were sent back to prison for several more months.
At the Aug. 9 court hearing, they had told the judge, "We love Jesus," "Yes, we are Christians," and "We will not deny our faith." At an Oct. 7 hearing, they then learned about the addition of a third charge against them – apostasy. However, the new judge was sympathetic to their case and acquitted them of anti-state activities, which rarely happens.
Their case was then transferred from the revolutionary court to the civil court.
During their detainment, the women suffered psychological abuse, including sleep deprivation and intense interrogation for hours at a time. They also had health problems but were denied medical attention. Amirizadeh suffered from a previous spinal condition, but received no medical attention. She also had an infected tooth but was only given painkillers.
"Maryam and Marzieh have greatly inspired us all," said Sam Yeghnazar, director of Elam Ministries. "Their love for the Lord Jesus and their faithfulness to God has been an amazing testimony."
Open Doors noted that Iranian authorities are prone to release detained Christians and then summon them to court hearings or force them to sign restricting documents. The ministry cautioned that though the women were freed from jail it does not mean they are "living in complete freedom."
Christians are asked to pray for the women's health to be fully restored and for their continual freedom.