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‘They’re pushing my parents to the limit so they leave Iran’ – Dabrina Bet-Tamraz

‘They’re pushing my parents to the limit so they leave Iran’ – Dabrina Bet-Tamraz

Dabrina Bet-Tamraz (Twitter)

The daughter of an Assyrian-Iranian couple facing jail time for their Christian activities has said she believes the authorities are trying to draw out court proceedings for as long as possible in the hope they leave the country.

An appeal hearing for Dabrina Bet-Tamraz’s mother, Shamiram, is set to take place on Tuesday, 3 September, but Dabrina says her family are disappointed her mother’s case has not been connected to her father’s, as was suggested at the previous appeal hearing in February.

Instead, the appeal hearing on Tuesday will only focus on her mother’s case, and there is as yet no further news as to when the appeals of her father, Victor, and brother, Ramil, will be heard.

“We were really hoping it was all going to be one case,” Dabrina told Article18. “Either they’re just delaying the process, they haven’t found any documents against my parents, or they are just trying to make them tired, not close the case.

“I think they’re really going to just push them to the limit so that they will leave the country. I don’t believe they [will] put them in prison, but to just let them go is not an option either. So I think they’ve stuck themselves in the process, and they don’t know what to do.”

Dabrina has been publicly advocating on behalf of her parents and other Christians in Iran, and added that she hoped her efforts wouldn’t “affect them negatively”.

Just last month, she spoke at the second annual Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom in Washington, DC, and met with US President Donald Trump. And last year, she addressed the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In May, Dabrina told the Gatestone Institute that her parents’ lives were “on hold” and that they were “trying to survive, not knowing what is going to happen next, not being able to make plans about their future”. 

“They are living with constant anxiety, powerless, not having security and safety even in their own home,” she said. “They are fully aware of the dangers around them but are not able to do anything to protect themselves. They are watched, controlled and wiretapped; it is their everyday life. Every time they get a phone call, they are filled with fear: It might be Iranian intelligence officers calling them for an interrogation session or a court hearing.”

Dabrina’s father and mother are facing ten and five years in prison, respectively.

Pastor Victor was sentenced in July 2017 alongside three converts to Christianity – Hadi Asgari and Kavian Fallah-Mohammadi, who also received ten-year sentences, and Amin Afshar-Naderi, who received an additional five years (so 15 in all) for “insulting the sacred” (blasphemy).

Shamiram was sentenced to five years in prison in January 2018.

Dabrina’s brother, Ramil, was also sentenced to four months in prison in July 2018, but then released owing to time already served. However, he is still appealing to have the sentence quashed.

In February 2019, a judge postponed an appeal hearing for Shamiram, ruling that her appeal should be heard alongside that of her husband’s.

But now, more than six months later, it seems that decision has come to nothing, as only Shamiram’s lawyers were informed of the appeal hearing on Tuesday, not her husband’s.

Pastor Victor’s case has received widespread international coverage and was the subject of a petition by Amnesty International in August last year.

Earlier this month, the US Vice-President, Mike Pence, specifically singled out his case, and that of 65-year-old convert Mahrokh Ghanbari, in calling persecution against Christians in Iran “an affront to religious freedom”.