The daughter of an Assyrian pastor and his wife still awaiting the outcome of their appeals against prison sentences for their Christian activities says their lives are “on hold”.
Dabrina Bet-Tamraz told the Gatestone Institute that her father, Victor, and mother, Shamiram, are “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.”
Last year, Dabrina told the UN Human Rights Council the charges against her parents were “baseless”.
Her father, Victor, was sentenced to ten years in prison in July 2017 for “action against national security by organising and conducting house-churches”. In January 2018, her mother, Shamiram, was sentenced to five years in prison on similar charges.
Now, Dabrina says all her father’s money has been “frozen”.
“He has no income now and is not allowed to have a government job,” she said. “He is 65 years old and is living on a pension that is not even enough to pay for food.
“Also, my brother [who was also given a prison sentence] was constantly accused by his interrogators of carrying on my father’s ministry – of teaching and preaching the Bible, since my father is no longer able to do so.”
Dabrina noted that the judge who recently took over her mother’s appeal “has not even found enough evidence to sentence my mother”.
“The case was not clear to him,” she said. “He requested more information and documents from the interrogators. He will most likely take all the cases – of my father, mother and brother – together and call them all in for the next court hearing.”
Dabrina, who now lives in Switzerland, said that she too had been “arrested many times in Iran, threatened [and] forced to cooperate with the government against pastors, Christian leaders and church members”.
She said she was “kept in custody with no legal permit, with no female officer present and in male surroundings”.
Although she said she now feels “safe” in Switzerland, Dabrina was recently forced to move home after “Iranian MOIS [intelligence agency] officers published an article on social media with my pictures and home address, encouraging Iranian men living in Switzerland to ‘pay me a visit’”.