An Iranian appeals court has ruled in favor of separating a two-year-old child from her adoptive parents due to their Christian faith, a non-profit Christian watchdog reported on Thursday.
The court’s decision to separate Lydia from her adoptive parents – Christian converts Sam Khosravi and Maryam Fallahi – was issued in July by a court in their hometown in the southwestern city of Bushehr, the watchdog Article 18 said.
An appeals court upheld the decision on Wednesday, Article 18, reported.
The ruling states that “because the child was born a Muslim,” she cannot be placed in the care of a Christian family.
The court had accused the Christian couple of falsely claiming to be Shia Muslims when filling out the adoption paperwork. The couple dismissed the accusation as “baseless,” stressing that they had “never concealed our Christian faith.”
Lydia, who suffers from heart and gastrointestinal problems, was adopted by Khosravi and Fallahi when she was two months old.
The ruling has been upheld despite an acknowledgment from the judge in his initial verdict that Lydia felt an “intense emotional attachment” to her adoptive parents. The judge said there was “zero chance” another family would adopt her given her health problems, according to Article 18.
The judge had also said that an “uncertain future” awaits Lydia should she be returned to the orphanage, the report added.
The couple’s lawyer was able to obtain “fatwas” (religious edicts) from two senior Iranian clerics that stated Lydia could stay with her Christian adoptive parents, but the court reportedly dismissed them.
Mansour Borji, advocacy director at Article 18, believes the court was under pressure from Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence.
“The verdict clearly demonstrates the unwillingness of the judge to hand down this sentence … 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,” Borji told Article 18.
Lydia’s adoptive parents were among seven Christian converts detained by agents from the Ministry of Intelligence in Bushehr in 2019.
In June, Bushehr’s Revolutionary Court accused the seven converts of “propaganda against the state.”
Fallahi was jailed for 17 days, where interrogators threatened to take Lydia away from her, the report said.
Khosravi was sentenced to a year in prison, followed by a two-year internal exile. Both he and Fallahi were also banned from working within their specialist professions.
Religious minorities in Iran, including Christians, Sunni Muslims, Jews, Baha’is, and others, are frequently subject to discrimination, harassment, detention, and even execution.