According to Article18, the appeal was denied despite the judge in the original case noting that the baby, Lydia, has an “intense emotional attachment” to Sam and Maryam. Lydia also has health challenges, and the judge admitted there was “zero chance” she would be adopted by a new family. The judge said Lydia faces an “uncertain future” and that there is a good chance she will spend the rest of her life in the care of the Iranian state.
If this seems horrific and unjust: It is.
It’s also a crystal-clear example of Iran’s hostility toward Christians, particularly toward believers who have converted from Islam. In Iran’s eyes, baby Lydia is a Muslim because they assume she was originally born to a Muslim woman and so by law must be cared for by Muslim parents.
Article18’s advocacy director, Mansour Borji, says the wording the judge used in his initial ruling suggests that the final decision was not actually up to him.
“The verdict clearly demonstrates the unwillingness of the judge to hand down this sentence,” he said, “and that he was coerced by the representative of the Ministry of Intelligence. It is another clear example of the lack of independence of the judiciary in cases involving Christians.”
Sam and Maryam did everything they could to keep their daughter. As Article18 reports, they even went as far as to get two fatwas—religious rulings—from Grand Ayatollahs, the highest level of Islamic cleric in Iran. These religious leaders provided the fatwas, saying it was “permissible” for Lydia to stay with Sam and Maryam; one Grand Ayatollah even said that Lydia should have the freedom to choose her own faith.
And yet, the appeal judges still rejected this reasoning. They didn’t make any reference to the fatwas in the court’s ruling, only saying they had not received “specific or reasonable evidence” to overturn the original ruling against Sam and Maryam.