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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Let's be the voice for tortured Iranian Prisoners!

  Becoming a voice for tortured Iranian prisoners is the passion of Mehnoush's life.  In her latest blog, Mehnoush takes us behind the scenes into the dark and horrific torture chamber of Evin Prison. 
  Mehnoush is an Iranian refugee currently living in Sweden awaiting an interview to determine her residency. She is a human rights activist for her people living in Iran, the biggest prison in the world since 1979.

   Unfortunately, during the last 38 years that the dictator Islamic regime has been ruling Iran, the vicious authorities have imposed any possible kind of harassment and torture on Iranian people, especially those who are imprisoned. Sometimes we get to hear the news of both physical and spiritual tortures of Iranian prisoners and sometimes don't. Now, let's be the voice of these captive people and let the rest of the world know about them, the people who get tortured, physically as well as spiritually,in the worst possible way ever!

    One such significant torture is long-term solitary confinement during which darkness rules every corner and no light can penetrate into or no news from the outer world is heard. In this situation, the prisoner delves into the cell's darkness and undergoes silent breakdowns. In other circumstances, along with such spiritual tortures, the physical torture of other prisoners and their moans of pain gets silenced by the thick walls of the prison. There are heartless executioners who hang men and women prisoners from the ceiling, make them lie down on so-called "miracle beds" and torture them by whipping, electric shocks, heating men's penis by scorching skewers, ironing women's breasts and pulling finger or toenails off savagely. If one survives these beds and confesses to doing whatever she or he has not actually committed, he or she may rise up, but many people cannot tolerate the pressure and die very quickly.. These are some of the tortures applied to the prisoners.

    Of the worst physical tortures one may mention is "rape". Several girls and young women are reported to have been raped by groups of jailors or objects like coke bottles. One of the most disastrous samples of such a dehumanizing torture is that of Taraneh Mousavi. They not only raped her in group, but burned her half-dead body to remove any possible evidence of their crime and buried it afterward. Moreover, it is sometimes reported that men prisoners are threatened to observe their wives and daughters being raped before their eyes if they refuse to confess. Hearing this could be regarded as the worst mental and spiritual torture for a man.
   Most political prisoners sentenced to long imprisonments or capital punishment in Iran's prisons have finally obliged to confess by hearing just this single sentence and then said goodbye to their lives. One of these victims was the Kurdish political prisoner, Ramin Hossein Panahi who was severely wounded on his detention day and spent 200 days in  solitary confinement suffering the most horrible physical torture and is now about to face  the death penalty.


These are only few of the physical and spiritual tortures of Iran's horrendous prisons. So let's be the voice of all these defenseless prisoners

Saturday, June 2, 2018

                                                                  Shole Pakravan:
                                                        A powerful voice for humanity

        My dear Iranian friend Mehnoush's latest blog is a tribute to a courageous freedom fighter, Shole Pakravan, who is a powerful voice standing up against executions in Iran. On October 25, 2014, her daughter Reyhaneh was unjustly hanged after a long seven year imprisonment for defending herself against a government rapist. Shole and her other daughter, Shahrzad, now reside safely in Berlin, Germany after successfully fleeing from 
Iran in 2017.

   Shole Pakravan is a well-educated, open-minded woman and a real fighter; she fights for righteousness, humanity, freedom and more importantly against capital punishment, the very thing that had shadowed both her life and her family's for 7 years, the darkness that harassed her spirituality while being captured behind Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj and distanced her from her beloved daughter, Reyhaneh. It was then when she intended to take serious steps to fight against capital punishment in support of many other Reyhanehs and thousands of young people who are hanged and silenced in the Islamic Republic every day. Today this liberal woman recognized as a human rights and anti-death penalty campaign activist stands on behalf of the mothers who have lost their children in unjust and fake courts controlled by cruel and governmental judges. Moreover, Shole's voice is widely spread on behalf of those mothers who struggle to save their children from a probable execution, the ones who silently break within themselves and the nightmarish image of their children being hanged has haunted them days and nights.

   Shole Pakravan, a dramatic actress and director, is a passionate and loyal family woman. Unfortunately one summer day in July 2007, her older daughter, Reyhaneh, was assaulted by  a former intelligence agent in an empty and abandoned old house.Terrified of being raped at any moment, she managed to stab him in the shoulder with a knife simply to defend herself and then escaped away. Nevertheless, she was probably unaware that the Islamic authorities are always prepared enough to victimize one innocent figure to conceal their own devilish deeds. Finally, despite her young age and all the hope her family had developed, Reyhaneh Jabbari, who was arrested at 19, said goodbye to her life in the early morning hours of October 25, 2014 after her 7-year imprisonment. She proudly and courageously faced the noose on the gallows and her spirit flew away to rest in peace.

  In fact, the Islamic regime had intended to scare Iranian girls and women by executing Reyhaneh to let them know they are not allowed to resist the harassments of government agents. Otherwise, as women are all regarded as the government's captives, they would be imprisoned, punished severely and then executed. They killed Reyhaneh, the beautiful and kind girl who was described by many prisoners and even jailors as the one with a bright sign of hope and taught many solitary women prisoners the ways of mutual respect and progress. They murdered her in order to put hope, generosity and kindness to death! However, they did not realize she was actually a seed planted throughout Iran's soil. They only killed one Reyhaneh, whereas thousands of Reyhanehs grew fast afterwards. Consequently, Atena Daemi was found guilty for objecting to Reyhaneh's execution, but she simply grew stronger. As such, these objections along with several other public protests by women against capital punishment and for retrieving their lost rights were spread through.

   As a conclusion, let's read one of the emotional but heartbreaking notes Shole Pakravan wrote in the memory of her darling daughter, Reyhaneh:

My dear, beloved, sweetheart Reyhan,

   In spite of all the agony I have gone through, I am well-prepared to fight for your right. I'll never stop going the way you opened my eyes to. As I promised you, now, my hands are your hands, my feet are your feet, my eyes are your eyes and my throat is your throat even if one day the deadly ropes of gallows surround your delicate throat, my beloved, buried beauty.
You have already forgiven your judges and tormentors and murderers in this world and postponed your rights reclamation to the afterworld. But I will never ever forgive the one who suppressed you, made up those fake investigations and hearings, signed your execution sentence, prepared the gallows and pulled the trigger that stopped you breathing. I want them to be punished in this world as well as the other one in which a divine court will sentence them to eternal torture so that no mother would see her child being executed before her own eyes.

    Now, like any other time, I claim your soul is integrated into my whole body and my life seems to depend on reclaiming your rights. It feels as if I've been living with the memory of your existence for thousands of days. Even in a thousand-years’ time, every single particle and dust of my essence will call your name out loud amidst unruly and free winds. I'll witness your eternal victory against the aggressor government. Your seven year battle with the supporters of the intelligence agency offenders peaked magnificently up on the gallows. On the dawn of 25 October 2014, you were standing in the middle of the execution field of Rajaee Shahr Prison with tied hands. Staring at your murderers with your big bright eyes and without a single sign of doubt in their villainy, you shouted, "You may take my life, but you can never pollute it with the shame of surrender and agreement." Although you're gone, the path you've taken is safely maintained, the path that you yourself let me know about; you, my everlasting companion.

   Now is the time to announce proudly that "Reyhan Foundation" in Europe is formally registered. Reyhan Foundation supports all the ones sentenced to capital punishment, the family of executed prisoners as well as rape victims or prisoners. I feel certain enough that the foundation will be endorsed by kindhearted people, institutions and many activists in the realms of women's rights and anti-death penalty advocates. Disregarding any particular ideology or tendency pertaining to a political party or so, Reyhan Foundation will surely proceed against rape and execution as decisively as possible and motivate Iranian people contributing to rub capital punishment off Iranian society forever.  


                                                      "The Plight of Iranian refugees."

   Mehnoush is my dear Iranian refugee friend who currently resides in Sweden, waiting patiently to be interviewed for permanent residency. She is a frequent contributor to my radio program writing powerful stories about the struggle for human rights in Iran.

The formation of the dictator Islamic regime in Iran led to a new wave of Iranian citizens taking refuge in European countries as well as Turkey. The fate of a large number of Iranian immigrants and refugees has been
 tied to the very Islamic regime. A multitude of immigration and escape from Iran is due to the lack of political, social, religious and economic freedom along with a severe suppression of transgender minority.

Iranian people have a highly rich culture behind them and are nationalist; they honor family values and adore their mother land, but because of all the pressure and suppression imposed by the authorities of the Islamic regime, despite their heartfelt feeling, some of them have been obliged to leave their land and family and take refuge in Turkey and other European countries hoping for a better future with freedom of expression, religion and attitude.

One of the mental pressures of the Islamic regime on Iranian people is to make sure they remain a Muslim. In Islam, the ones who intend to ignore Islam and convert to other religions like Christianity, Bahá'í Faith, etc. are called "atheist" and are often sentenced to harsh punishments like long imprisonment and capital punishment. Unfortunately, the dictator, mullah-based regime in Iran refuses to respect the values of the religious minorities. As such, the number of Iranian people who intend to escape from their country and take refuge in other countries and then convert to another religion has been rising significantly. Almost all the Iranian refugees who have converted to Christianity are the ones who hate Islam and being a Muslim; a remarkable number of them has undergone serious spiritual and mental breakdowns suffering from long-term depression.

Every Sunday, when I go to a magnificent church in Stockholm to say my prayers, I face several Iranian refugees there who tell me about the inner peace and calmness Christianity has bestowed on them; they talk about the peaceful feeling they find in the name of Jesus and are certain enough that they now have a fresh spirit with a life full of hope and passion. They even believe, after their conversion to Christianity, that there is hope for a change in Iran's dark and ambiguous situation.

As Christian people, we feel very fortunate to have been able to choose our own way and due to our sincere faith in Jesus Christ, we currently benefit from a safe and secure life in such a free land like Sweden which is a strong advocate of women and children's rights. Let's hope for the day when all of us, with any kind of political and religious attitude, may live together as happily as possible in our own land ruled by a true democratic government.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Iranians desperately need a regime change immediately!

It is my pleasure to introduce my dear Iranian friend, Mehnoush. Mehnoush escaped from Iran and ended up in Sweden as a refugee awaiting a decision from the immigration board to determine if she will remain there or be deported.
After arriving in Sweden, Mehnoush eagerly converted to Christianity discovering the true God of love and eternal life revealed in Jesus Christ. This is her first blog on my website and I'm very excited to share it with you. Mehnoush is a regular contributor, writing excellent articles about human rights for Iranians.

The fall of the Islamic regime is certain. The way you have already picked will soon drown you in a swamp of collapse. The entire world has turned against you. The international pressure has grown wider; the economic status has become worse, the number of the unemployed has proved to be more and more and more people have been abandoning you; you are about to undergo a fate similar to that of Gaddafi and the like sooner or later. After 38 years, you have not only failed to provide people with enough support and welfare, but you have helped poverty, social class gaps and embezzlement grows. Now, you do not seem to be able to silence people anymore with the power of your poniards and bullets, censorship and prisons; if such suppressions worked, many other previous dictatorships had been survived in history!
 Do not treat the Iranian and other nations as stupid people with your false and misleading statistics. You are not allowed to ruin this country anymore. Do not rely on Hezbollah warriors and your Russian and Chinese supporters. This is Iran, not Syria. This is the land of Kaveh the Blacksmith, Achaemenid Cyrus and Darius the Great and the land of a thousand-year history of full-blooded people. You have turned the forests into deserts, the rivers into sheer dry lands and the seas into complete brackish grounds.
Our factories have gone bankrupt and the economy is utterly paralyzed. The rate of suicide has increased and the lack of joy and happiness along with imposing severe restrictions and prohibitions, physical violence against some certain groups of the society, especially women, spiritual, mental and economical harassment, unemployment, poverty, lack of hope to the future, anxiety and stress have all brought about mentionable violence and anger throughout the society. Did you just see how Trump made the nuclear deal - the one you boasted to have achieved proudly- as worthless as possible?! Now is the age of computers and the Internet and the whole world is observing your evil deeds! 
You simply eradicated a precious forty years of opportunity and stole the state budget, replaced the right with the wrong, obliged women to accept obligatory hijab, ruined the nation's culture, forced many people to leave and live in stranger lands, shattered a multitude of families, devalued the importance of Iranian passport and currency, executed hundreds of young people in groups, raped virgin girls in prisons, sent the country's young people for nothing to shout about as an acceptable excuse to fight ISIL. But enough is enough! We’re fed up to the teeth!
 We will not be silent any more until we make sure this evil regime will collapse for certain! And of course we are aware enough not to let any other Islamic government hold the power including People’s Mujahedin of Iran, a treacherous party which agreed to sell the whole and country and its people cheap to murderous Khomeini. Although they still feel ready to reappear and take power, they should bear in mind that today there is no place for any other Islamist traitors any longer.

Re-examining our motives for being a voice for the voiceless!

My dear Iranian friend Paymaneh, who is refugee currently residing in Malaysia,  is a writing contributor to my radio program, "The Cross in the Desert: Speaking hope and freedom to Iran." She is currently waiting for a very important interview with the UNHCR to determine her future in a country where she can worship and live in freedom. Paymaneh has written numerous articles that deal with the issue of human rights in Iran. This is her latest installment that challenges those of us who are Christian human rights activist, to re-think the motives for why we are the voice of the voiceless!

Dear Internet world!

Now that the world is sinking deep in much ado, war here and protest there, campaign here and sanction there, terrorist attacks here and negotiations there, many of us are focusing on this issue and that issue. Some of us support this wing and some are advocate of that political group, some criticize this leader and some have been enemies of that group. Some think that a regime must be overthrown and some believe that such and such’s money must be blocked. Some, like the regime in Iran, curse this and that country and in the optimistic way, some pray for a groups success.
The fact is that the current situation has distracted many of us from God. We claim that we are standing for God, we are serving God, we have consecrated ourselves to God, but how true our claim is? Is our supporting a person or a group according to God’s desire? Or for our own selves or our friend’s satisfaction? Are the protests in Iran for God’s will and people’s salvation or just for the nation’s freedom and better life?

You might say’ “humanity matters, human rights matters, liberty and having a good life matters.” Yes, you are right. They all matter but do they bring salvation to those people whose success and liberty we love to see? Do they bring eternal life to them?
We have our options for the regime change in Iran, but will the next person on the power open the doors for the gospel or will them still remain closed tight by another Islamic government? How much will God be pleased by our involvement in their regime change? How much can we prepare the way for the Lord’s second coming? People in Iran will be free again, whether they are supported by the world or not as it is God’s promise in Jeremiah and God never changes His words and promises. But do we have a positive role in fulfilling this promise?

How about our supporting Syrians inside the country and Syrian refugees? Do we pray and try our best for them to be exposed to the gospel and get to know the truth? Or is it for letting them make more mosques in our non-Islamic countries to Islamicize the country?
Are our prayers for women in Saudi Arabia for just their freedom from the tyranny of their Muslim men and religion-based law or are the prayers for their knowing the real source of freedom?
 How about our fame? Are we making new video series or telegram voice files to support Inqelab Avenue girls or are they an opportunity for ourselves to be known by the world?
Many of us easily put God’s name on our activities and claim that we are walking with God in our political stands, But we need to remember that Jesus was killed in the name of God by those who believed in God and claimed that they had faith in God. They crucified Jesus to serve God, they thought. When Jesus prayed for the murderers and mockers, He said, “Father! Forgive then. They don’t know what they are doing.” Are we sure that we know what we are doing? Are we sure that we are not offending God with our activities and are not hindering His work?
Many of political leaders are enjoying their freedom and safety abroad and encouraging people imprisoned inside their countries to fight, to break things, to destroy certain buildings, to burn banks, even to self-immolate (believe me) and promise that they would be their voice from outside the country. Would they do the same if they were inside the country? Would they give their loved ones the advice? Consciously or unconsciously we might help their voice be heard. They might get happy and be thankful, but will God be pleased too?

Our roles in the issue in the world, especially Middle East might be very important, we might be a TV star with thousands of fans who can burn every corner of the corner saying yes to our advice or might be a Hollywood star getting thousands of likes under our posts supporting Hillary in the US, or a free journalist whom majority of women support in Facebook because or supporting women. But how much will God say yes to us, hits a like button under our actions and intentions and support us? I don’t intend to advise or criticize anybody as I am not the right person for that. It was just what God instilled into me during long hours of prayers and I felt I need to share them with you. I felt Maybe it’s time to think and re-think a little bit differently (not to be left behind by….).

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Donya Jam: Being a voice for the voiceless

Donya Jam is an Iranian-American human rights activist and also a dear friend of mine. She dedicates all of her passion and energy to writing and protesting against the current regime in Iran. I have had the pleasure of interviewing Donya on my radio program. Recently she attended the annual "Free Iran Rally" in Paris. The story you are about to read appears in my book, "The Cross in the Desert: Speaking hope and freedom to Iran."

 “Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves.” (Proverbs 31:8)

 Donya is one of my newest Iranian friends. She is an Iranian American who uses her freedom in a very unique way. Persian names have very special meanings that relate to one’s lifestyle. The name, “Donya” in Persian literally means, “world.” The meaning of Donya’s name fits perfectly with who Donya is. Donya is a powerful voice of hope for the world and most importantly for her people, her friends, her family, that still live under the oppression and fear of the Iranian Regime. Donya and her family have not forgotten their people. Just recently at a demonstration in front of the White House, Donya joined a group of protesters from “Iran resistance” to denounce and speak out against the increase of executions since Rouhani became President of Iran. One of her favorite Scriptures is Proverbs 31:8, which commands us to, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Donya is a voice of hope for Iranians, who because of imprisonment, torture and death, have to remain silent for fear of their lives.
I recently asked Donya to share her story so that her voice would be heard all over the world through my books. This is Donya’s story in her own words:

 Since the barbaric regime of Iran came into power in 1979, there have been nonstop executions and torture against the Iranian people. Shortly after the Revolution, its war against Christians began. A Christian Pastor by the name of Arasto Sayaah was killed by the Iranian Regime. Bahram William Dehqani-Tafti was another Christian shot to death by the Iranian Regime. Anyone who simply spoke their mind and did not agree with the regime was quickly arrested, thrown into jail, and put in danger of execution. Over 120,000 supporters of the Iranian Resistance, who supported 73 freedom and democracy for Iran, have been executed by the regime. My family had to flee from Iran because of their brutality. It was a very difficult decision. Either you start a new life as a refugee and face the difficulty it brings or live under barbaric cruelty. Life as a refugee has been very tough because you still feel the regime is trying to silence you. Since my family came out of Iran, Iran and the Iranian people are still in our hearts. My family and I continually think about the plight of the people of Iran. We began working with our Muslim friends side by side in the Senate, Congress and churches, speaking out and educating people about what is really happening inside of Iran. It is our responsibility as a Iranians to be a voice of hope for our people.
 My mother is an Iranian-Christian pastor. My family is serving the Lord. I have been raised in the church and I remember asking my mom one day if I could be baptized. That was truly an amazing day! Now as a Christian and an Iranian, I do my very best to give Iranians a voice. The Bible says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves,” (Proverbs 31:8)

 In September of this year, 2014, my family and I joined other protesters in confronting President Rouhani during his trip to the United Nations. Just recently, we attended a demonstration in front of the White House to protest against executions in Iran. The Iranian Regime is a very dangerous terrorist entity in the Middle East, even aiding the blood-thirsty dictator, Bashar al-Assad in Syria. I believe that this regime cannot be reformed. They are playing political games with the world. It is very plain to see that since Rouhani became President of Iran, the executions have increased, averaging one execution every seven hours. There is only one solution for Iran and that is a democratic regime change by the Iranian people and its resistance movement led by Mrs. Maryam Rajavi. I pray and hope that very soon Iran will be freed from this evil regime and that one day a democratic government will be established

"The sun is gonna shine again: The rose is gonna live again."

The passion of my life is being a voice for my dear Iranian friends. Four years ago, I published a novel depicting the dangerous life of an Iranian freedom fighter named Bahareh. The name of the novel was "The rose of Nowruz: dreams of hope and freedom."
Bahareh was a concert violinist who became a powerful freedom fighter after witnessing a horrible scene on the streets of Tehran from her bedroom window.
The novel opens with that scene while Bahareh is practicing her violin.

"Bahareh continued to play her violin with passion and precision. The beautiful notes soared through the air of her tiny, quiet bedroom and out through the open window into Englehab street. In her mind’s eye, Bahareh could see the faces of her friends. They were laughing, smiling, rejoicing and having fun. Women were free to walk the streets without wearing their hijabs. There was an incredible celebration in the streets of Iran. There was no more violence or protests or arrests! The streets were filled with Iranians celebrating life once again.

“Take your hands off of me! Leave me alone. Help!”

The sounds of desperate screams coming from the streets rudely interrupted the joyous sounds of Bahareh’s violin. She immediately stopped playing and set her violin down on the bed and ran toward the window. She lifted up the blinds and gazed down below on Englehab Street. A security officer dressed in a blue uniform was struggling with a young girl. The young girl was fighting for her life and trying to resist being arrested. Finally, another officer joined in the struggle and they both began dragging her toward a green and white van parked along the curb. It was the Gasht Ershad, once again out on the streets of Tehran. The Gasht Ershad was the “morality police” of Iran that daily patrolled the streets enforcing the Islamic dress code. A group of six Iranian police officers drove a green and white van daily to inspect men and women, making sure they were wearing proper clothing in compliance with the dress code. Most women, when they spotted the van on the street, would immediately take off running to avoid the frightening confrontation. Women were instructed to wear a hijab whenever going out publicly. They had to make sure that the hijab was properly put on so it would fully cover their hair. In some cases women would a chador that fully covered their whole body and arms. In the summer heat, this was very uncomfortable; so many women refused to wear it and instead would do their best to avoid the Gasht Ershad. Women had to make sure that their skin was fully covered by their clothing or else they would risk a nasty confrontation with the “morality police!” Displaying too much skin because of inadequate clothing could result in a fine or even an arrest. Women were forbidden to wear nail polish or too much make up publicly as this was not appropriate under strict Islamic law.
The law stated that a woman could not reveal her hair or ankles or wear loose-fitting trousers that would expose skin. Violators of the Islamic dress code resulted in both minor and serious consequences. A woman could receive a verbal warning by a female interrogator in the streets and be forced to sign a written agreement to dress more appropriately and explicitly follow the dress code. The more severe consequences resulted in women being lashed, imprisoned for up to three months and forced to attend special classes on respecting the rules. Bahareh watched in horror as the two security officers physically dragged the screaming and distraught young girl and finally forced her into the green and white parked van. Two young men who had been watching the violent scene, began pushing the officers demanding them to let her go. “Leave her alone you medieval bastards!!” one of the young men shouted in protest. One of the officers pulled out a large baton from his belt and began savagely beating the young man. Another officer joined in and soon the young man was sprawled out on the sidewalk with blood streaming down his face, no longer resisting. Bahareh could no longer watch the horror from her window. She covered her face with her hands and sat down on the bed next to her violin. The once beautiful song of hope that she had been playing had been silenced by the violent tactics of the Gasht Ershad. The rose had been silenced and crushed just like the lyrics to the chorus of her song. A Free Iran seemed so far away. Despair and depression like a dark cloud filled Bahareh’s mind. She sat on the edge of her bed and wept and began to doubt. Bahareh lifted her face out of her hands. The screaming and yelling had finally stopped. The crowd below her window had dispersed. The Gasht Ershad had arrested another woman and severely beat a young Iranian protestor. They were moving on now to another section of Tehran looking for more violators.

 Bahareh wiped the tears from her eyes and stared down at her violin. She reached over and touched the strings with the tips of her fingers, whispering in a tearful voice,  “The sun is gonna shine again. The rose is gonna live again.”