Iranian Christian convert and human rights activist Mary Mohammadi has been sentenced to three months in prison and torture for protesting the government’s downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane in January.
The 21-year-old took to social media on Tuesday to provide a case update for her followers.
“After suffering many types of torture and 46 days in jail in the terrible conditions of Vozara detention and Qarchak [women’s] Prison, I have been sentenced to 3 months and 1 day in prison and 10 lashes,” Mohammadi wrote on Instagram.
She had already served over one month in prison before being released on bail in February and charged with “disrupting public order by participating in an illegal rally.”
In her Instagram post, Mohammadi said she was sentenced because she had protested "against the slaughter of human beings” and because she showed "sympathy for the families of those who perished on the Ukraine airline crash.”
Mohammadi’s added that her sentence was suspended for one year depending on her conduct. However, Mohammadi contends that there was never any evidence against.
“So I ought to have been acquitted, but instead I was sentenced not only to imprisonment but also flogging,” she wrote. “And of course, even before the verdict was handed down, I was forced to endure all kinds of torture, none of which is sanctioned by law, and which ought to be considered crimes in themselves.”
Mohammadi explained in her post that she and her legal team have refrained from appealing the verdict because “the appeal courts have turned into affirmative tribunals.”
“I'm proud of attending and sympathizing with human beings in the real harsh environment of streets, this is my conviction and the costs,” Mohammadi assured.
According to the United States-based persecution watchdog group International Christian Concern, the Iranian regime has attempted to quash all criticisms of its actions after its forces launched two missiles at the passenger jet, killing everyone on board.
After her arrest in January, ICC reports that Mohammadi “disappeared” for almost one month before she was discovered at Qarchak Prison. ICC notes that the prison has developed a “reputation for various types of gender abuse.”
Mohammadi said she was beaten and suffered various kinds of mistreatment in prison.
ICC notes that a judge questioned Mohammadi during her hearing on April 17 about her conversion to Christianity even though the charges she faced did not relate to her faith.
According to ICC, Iran has not publicly sentenced a Christian to be flogged in over two years.
“The sentencing of Mary Mohammadi is alarming, but unfortunately, not surprising,” ICC regional manager Claire Evans said in a statement. “Iran’s government does not want human rights activism, and they do not want Christians exercising their voice publicly. Mary Mohammadi is an example of courage and bravery to us all. We must continue calling on Iran to respect human rights and allow its citizens to voice their convictions of conscience.”
Mohammadi is no stranger to the Iranian prison system. She spent over six months in the women’s ward of Evin Prison after she was arrested in 2017 during a raid on an underground house church meeting.
Open Doors USA’s 2020 World Watch List ranks Iran as the ninth-worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution.
As Iranian society is governed by Islamic law, Christian converts face severe persecution from the government. Meanwhile, Christians are forbidden from sharing their faith with non-Christians.
Christian converts who attend underground house churches risk arrest and torture and many converts are forced to keep their faith a secret.
Despite the persecution, the underground church in Iran continues to grow. Open Doors estimates that there are more than 800,000 Christians in the Shia-dominated country.
Iran has for years been labeled by the U.S. State Department as a “country of particular concern” for engaging in egregious religious freedom abuses.