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Thursday, June 4, 2020

"Like lambs to slaughter."


 The November Uprising in Iran was the bloodiest confrontation betwen the government and protesters since the 1979 Revolution. Over 1500 peaceful protesters were executed by a dictatorship government. This article will appear in  my new book, "Shout Freedom: The desperate cry of 
Iranians."


                                                     
                             


    Friday, November 15, 2019 is a day that Iranians will not soon forget! The government announced that is was hiking the gas prices by more than 200 percent! The new fuel tax outraged Iranians who were already struggling to make ends meet in a desperate economic situation burdened by the U.S. sanctions. Refusing to comply with the oppressive new regulations, Iranians took to the streets in massive protests across 200 cities and towns, demanding their rights and confronting the sins of the regime, shouting, “Death to the dictator!”

    Supreme leader Ali Khamenei summoned his inner circle after watching the massive uprising and gave a stern command to them, “The Islamic Republic is in danger. Do whatever it takes to end it. You have my order!”

    What transpired after the Supreme Leader’s command, resulted in one of the bloodiest episodes since the Islamic Revolution of 1979!

     In order to conceal their savagery, the government shut down the internet nationwide to confuse the protesters and hide from the world, the evil they were about to do. The IRGC, (Iran Revolutionary Guard) descended upon the innocent, peaceful protesters, intending to crush the revolt, and began shooting them in the head and heart. In the end, after two bloody and violent weeks, over 1,500 Iranians lay dead in the streets and hospital beds, 17 of them young teenagers, and 400 of them women! Over 4,000 had been wounded and 7,000 arrested. The IRGC had successfully carried out the direct orders of the Supreme Leader, sparing no mercy! Bodies of protesters were later found floating in rivers, while the wounded lay critically injured in hospital beds, some snatched up by security forces, and immediately dragged away to prison. 

    After the internet was finally restored, the world saw shocking videos of the military perched high above the roofs of apartment buildings and shooting directly into the crowds of peaceful protesters. Families of the victims were denied access to their loved one’s bodies and were told by security that they must first pay for the cost of the bullets that had killed their sons or daughters!


     Supreme Leader Khamenei described the protesters as, “thugs and hooligans,” while Assembly of Experts official, Ahmad Khatmai, speaking at a Friday prayer on November 22, called them “saboteurs waging war against God,” declaring that, “execution by hanging for the leaders of the riots are certain!”


     The innocent protesters, discouraged and despaired over the economic chaos, had taken to the streets, most of them in a peaceful manner, simply to let their voices be heard, demanding relief from the oppressive tax hikes. Some of the protesters were unfortunately caught in the line of fire while performing acts of kindness. One such innocent victim was 34-year-old Ameneh Shahbazi, a housewife and mother residing in the city of Karaj. Ameneh left home on Sunday, November 17 to buy medicine only to be thrust into the chaos of the protests. She noticed a man near her had been shot and immediately responded to give him first aid. Removing her hijab, Ameneh began wrapping it around his wounded leg, when suddenly she was shot in the back of the head. Her body was withheld from the family for two days until they agreed that that no special ceremonies would be performed at the graveside and no interviews given to the media.

                                                                            ***********

   “We had been engaged for three days. They were the best days of my life. We were to marry on January 16, but they took my Mesyam away from me! I wish that I were dead, too!”

      A devastated and tearful, Samieh Shirdel, will never experience the joy of that special wedding day. The IRGC made sure of that! Meysam was shot in the abdomen on Saturday, November 16 in Karaj City, near Tehran, on his way home from work. Samieh last spoke to her fiancĂ© at around 5 pm and informed him about the chaotic protest situation. The situation was so dangerous that cab drivers refused to take on passengers, which forced Meysam to walk home. It was on his way home, that Meysam was fired upon. His friends rushed him to the hospital from the repair shop where he worked as a mechanic. His hands were still greasy from work as he lay struggling for his life in a dirty hospital bed.

     Meysam was in excruciating pain. His body was black and blue. His eyes were puffy. Samieh visited him the next day. It was two days before his 28th birthday. The fatal bullet had cut through his intestines and damaged his spine. Four days later Meysam died from his wounds. This unjust tragedy came at time when the couple were experiencing the happiest moments of their lives.

     The memories of those days are all that I have left,” Samieh tearfully explained.

     The evil regime had been successful in crushing the protests and also crushing forever the lives of so many innocent young children and women, who will never see the reality of their dreams come true. Their dreams of freedom and democracy ended with a stern reminder that The Islamic Republic of Iran is an iron-fisted dictatorship that forbids the exercise of free speech. Like lambs led to the slaughter, the peaceful protesters had been brutally murdered by a government intent on controlling their minds and hearts from the cradle to the grave. However, the world will never forget their cause, and I will never stop being their voice!




                           “Lambs to slaughter. Sons and daughters
                              Tears are falling. We haven’t forgotten.
                             Lambs to slaughter. Made to order.
                           Tears are falling. We haven’t forgotten you."

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Shima and Dariush, "Exiled to Turkey."






   I'm Shima Babaei, a 24-year-old Iranian human rights activist. I was arrested several times by the security forces for my peaceful activities and sentenced to six years in prison. At the present time, I’m living in Turkey as a refugee with my husband Dariush Zand, who is also a human rights activist. Unfortunately, we have both been forced to leave our country for our safety.

     I was in the first year of my high school when the bloody election protests of 2009 began in Iran. I was fifteen years old at the time. My father, who has an extensive background of arrests and torture due to his activism, had recently been arrested once again, after the interrogators forced his friend to confess to them about his political activities.

     My father had been in solitary confinement for four months and was severely tortured.  During those four months, we had been deprived from visiting him. Watching him suffer had a huge impact on me. I became familiar with the meaning of the words, injustice, oppression, and torture. His imprisonment determined the path for the rest of my life. I knew I could no longer be silent. I must stand up against oppression!  My activism began with writing anti-government slogans on the walls of my school. When I turned 17, I was outraged when watching the films of those killed in the 2009 protests, especially the death of Neda Agha-Soltan. I was so inspired by her courage that I wished that I could die like her in order for my country to gain freedom.

       I remember that the first time I went with a friend to the gravesites of those killed in the 2009 protests, we were immediately arrested by government agents. We were interrogated for several hours and then transferred to Evin prison. They found out about my father’s background and forced me to sign a pledge to never engage in these activities again and then they released us.

       A few weeks later, I decided I could not abide by this pledge and had to continue speaking out. I began attending the meetings of political activist Atena Daemi.  Atena was very outspoken against forced child labor and the death penalty. Unfortunately, our meetings were raided by government agents and five of my best friends were arrested. However, since I was employed at the time and unable to attend all of the meetings, I was very fortunate to escape arrest.

       My first official detention took place in 2016. I was transferred to solitary confinement by the Revolutionary Guards and subjected to several days of intense interrogation and psychological torture. Due to intense pressure by the Media, I was released.

       My last arrest by the Ministry of Intelligence took place in 2018. I was transferred to Evin Prison and kept in solitary confinement. My husband, Dariush had also been arrested and sent to prison by security forces. Upon my arrival to prison, a prison officer demanded me to remove my clothes and get naked. When I resisted, she violently ripped my clothes off and gave me a pair of dirty prison garments to wear. One of my biggest problems in prison was insomnia. They refused to give me any drugs, but toward the end they began injecting me with an unknown drug that caused me to be extremely ill.

        During the interrogations I was blindfolded and only allowed to raise it up from covering my eyes in order to write down the answers to their questions. I was in Ward 2A and every morning after breakfast I was escorted to the detention room for another 10-hour day of grueling interrogations. During my eight-day imprisonment, I was interrogated for 80 hours by the IRGC (Iran Revolutionary Guard) After my temporary release, I was summoned to the IRGC’s Provisional Bureau twelve times and interrogated face to face for three to four hours at a time. Fortunately, I was not physically beaten, but my interrogator would severely kick the base of the chair I was sitting on and strike me in the head with his pen, demanding me to write out my confession of political activities. After my release I couldn’t trust anyone and became paranoid that security guards were eavesdropping on my conversations. I isolated myself from people at this time and became depressed because of the trauma I had endured.

                                                            **************


        I could see myself sitting in the cold and in the darkness, waiting for my husband to be released from prison. I anxiously paced back and forth in the waiting room and suddenly saw my father rushing towards me. I saw intense sadness in my mother’s eyes as she extended her hand toward me. I looked down and saw myself handcuffed and began running in fear. I gasped for breath and suddenly awoke. Darius was tugging at my clothes, struggling to wake me up from my nightmare!

          “The smuggler is here. We must go!”

        I forced myself to get up because of my husband’s urgings, but I didn’t want to go! I was hoping someone would come and say, “You can both stay in Iran. There is no danger for you!” All I wanted to do was hug my mother and cry, but reality set in and we both quickly left with the smuggler.

        The smuggler had to leave us in the border mountains of Iran and Turkey and we were arrested by border guards. This was the darkest trial of my life. I had resisted leaving my homeland and now once again I had been arrested. After five days we were both handed over to the Immigration Police. Dariush and I were separated. For one month, I couldn’t eat and became violently ill. The horrifying reality of being deported back to Iran took a heavy psychological toll on me. It was because of the Islamic Republic that we had been banned from education, tortured and arrested. Our lives had become a living hell!

        Finally, after six months, we were released and agreed to seek asylum. However, now we have become second class citizens in Turkey and forced to find work on the black market. We have no idea how long our stay in Turkey will be. There are many Iranians presently living here and sometimes it takes up to four years before they can find a country that will sponsor them. The Islamic Republic of Iran has made us prisoners. Darisuh and I are fighting every day to tear down the walls of this big prison and achieve freedom.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Atena Daemi: "I stand for life and humanity."




      In Iran, remaining silent is what the evil regime prefers every slave of the dictatorship to abide by. However, one such brave woman refuses to obey this requirement and her name is Atena Daemi. Atena is well known for her “anti execution” campaign and this is one of the reasons that she is treated so harshly by the government!

      Atena stands strong for life and humanity, which is the total opposite of this “culture of death!” She is passionate about fighting for women’s rights, children’s rights, and for the vulnerable victims suffering on death row. Even while in prison, she is busy writing letters to the government protesting against the inhumane conditions and letting her voice be heard all over the internet.

      Atena’s father was alongside her when she was sentenced in the Islamic’s court of justice. Her father Hosein wrote, “I’ll never forget when they brought Atena to court!”

      Judge Moghiseh: “Are you against execution?”
      Atena: “Yes, I am against execution."
      Judge Moghiseh: “It’s none of your business. We execute whoever we want! And those human rights people can’t stop us!”
      Atena: “One day you will answer for those innocent people you hang. And that day is coming soon!”

      Judge Moghiseh expelled Atena from the courtroom and sentenced her to 14 years in prison.

      For more than 41 years, this evil regime has terrorized and murdered its own people. Atena has refused to remain silent, trying to restore hope and freedom to her homeland. In her never-ending battle against this dictatorship, Atena has also been fighting a personal battle of her own. She has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, while also suffering with persistent dizziness and numbness in her right eye. The medical physician in Qarchak Prison requested that she be given an MRI to confirm his diagnosis and the prison officials vehemently denied his request. In addition to her recent suspected illness, Atena has also been suffering with high blood pressure, kidney stones, and gall bladder problems brought on by hunger strikes. Atena, now 31, has been behind bars since 2016, serving a seven-year prison sentence for meeting with the families of political prisoners, criticizing the Iranian regime on Facebook, and condemning the 1988 mass execution.

       Atena’s parents are deeply concerned about their daughter and have been publicly outspoken to the international communities, begging human rights defenders to be her voice. Her mother longs for the day when she can once again hug her daughter in a free Iran. Atena also longs for the day when her homeland will be free from gender apartheid and its rules, and where women will once again be respected instead of being treated like second-class citizens. Hosein Daemi knows how courageous his daughter is and that she will never give up in the fight.

    “Atena is strong and she will not give up against her oppressors!”





     Despite all of her chronic health issues, Atena continues her fight against a dictatorship government. She has not lost her hope and envisions a free Iran on the horizon.

      These arrests, detentions, threats, and intimidations are the sacrifices we need to make to gain our freedom and rights…..We should never stop resisting or standing up against oppression. No victory comes easily, and no injustice lasts forever!”

        Atena is shouting freedom while in chains. Do you hear her desperate cry? Stand with this fearless human rights defender and be her voice. Don’t take your freedoms for granted. We have a responsibility to stand in solidarity with those who suffer. It is our duty to humanity!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

"Freedom without Jesus is just another wall."




      On June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan gave a powerful and memorable challenge to the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as he proudly stood in front of the Berlin Wall to a cheering crowd, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

      Two years later, on November 9, 1989, Reagan’s challenge became a reality! The concrete barrier of the cold war that had separated communist East Berlin from the West collapsed as thousands of people in mass droves crossed to the other side in jubilant celebration! Communism had finally collapsed and freedom had arrived. There would no longer be a death strip between the East and the West. No more machine guns, no more guard dogs. Although it would take another two full years before the complete physical demolition of the wall was complete, the celebration had begun! The death of Communism was now a reality!

      Freedom….This powerful seven-letter word has been the passionate driving force in the hearts of humanity for thousands of years and has caused the death of millions of people fleeing oppression. This seven-letter word is one of the most precious words in the English language, one of the most powerful words on the lips of those giving their lives to be free from dictatorship governments.

      Christian artist, Wayne Watson, reflecting on the historical fall of the Berlin Wall, composed a thought-provoking song on the subject of freedom, that causes us to think deeply about what true liberty really is. The chorus of the song gets right to the point about what Wayne believes true freedom really is……

        "Freedom. People cry for freedom. 
          But freedom without Jesus is just another wall.
         Oh-oh. Freedom. Give the people freedom.
          But give the people Jesus or they got nothing at all."
                                                                                                                                   
        Wayne is challenging us to think about what true freedom really is. Millions of people celebrated the destruction of a physical wall that tore down the barriers of an oppressive political philosophy that had kept them in bondage for many years. Humanity was no longer bound by the chains of a dictatorship that enslaved them to a government that ruled their lives from the cradle to the grave. Now people were finally free to believe and think for themselves. Surely this is what true freedom is all about!

        Two thousand years before the historic collapse of the Berlin Wall, another powerful and life-changing speech was given to a mass of people. Jesus stood before his disciples and a crowd of religious leaders and made an astounding proclamation. He declared:

                      “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free!”

       Jesus also taught about freedom and the impact it would have on our lives. However, we need to look closely at the kind of freedom that he was speaking about.

       Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

                      But we are descendants of Abraham,” they said. “We have never been slaves of anyone. What do you mean, “You will be set free?”

                      Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. So, if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”

      Notice carefully, the reaction of the religious leaders. In Jewish heritage, being a part of the great patriarchal family of Abraham conferred a very special status on an individual. The religious leaders were astonished at what Jesus had just told them. Being in the family of Abraham gave them great dignity and value. How can Jesus dare to question that heritage? They believed they were truly free. There was no corruption and bondage to break free from!

       However, Jesus points directly at the heart of their problem, which is also our problem. Slavery to sin. The Pharisees and the Scribes looked pure and clean on the outside. They loved to boast about their own righteousness and spirituality. In their eyes they were perfectly obedient to God’s Law and they constantly looked down on the masses of other people.

       The outward image of true freedom can be very deceptive. That image of freedom was celebrated on a fall day in November when the Berlin Wall collapsed, but as Wayne Watson aptly points out in his song, “Freedom without Jesus is just another wall.”  The physical wall has been demolished but there is another wall, the wall within our souls, that is still holding humanity in bondage. That bondage is the death grip of sin!
         The human heart is in the death grip of sin until it is set free and the chains are broken by the power of Christ. Physical freedom is not enough. Humanity can celebrate freedom from oppressive governments when they fall, but “Freedom without Jesus is just another wall.”  

          Jesus offers us a freedom that no government of the world can ever give us. It is a freedom that breaks the power of corruption and sin in our hearts. It is a freedom that opens our eyes to what it means to have a living and vibrant relationship with the God of the universe! It is a freedom that allows us to dream big and experience a life of true joy beyond anything we can imagine or think! As a Christian author and a human rights activist for Iranians, I have a passion to be a voice for their freedom. It is my pleasure to fight for their human rights and write books to bring awareness to the world about their plight for freedom and justice. However, I have a very important responsibility to make sure that I also persuade them of a freedom that transcends the oppression of physical governments. The Gospel is the true freedom that every Iranian needs. It is the power of the gospel that breaks the chains of sin and liberates us from the inward corruption that is keeping us in bondage.

          I will never stop speaking out for my Iranian friends. I will always email government leaders and be a voice for political prisoners on death row, demanding their freedom. All of this is good and absolutely necessary! But I must balance out my passion with the truth of God’s Word. Jesus said, “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

         This is the true freedom that humanity needs. We can never be truly free until the “walls of sin” are torn down in our hearts.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

"A Revival of National Socialism?"






     I love going to the movies, especially on the opening night of a film when it first hits the theaters.  One such night was Friday, August 3, 2018, when the controversial political thriller, “Death of a nation,” premiered across the country. Conservative filmmaker and author, Dinesh D’Souza, had produced an “in- your-face” documentary responding to the bogus criticisms of President Trump being a racist, fascist, and white supremacist. The first few opening minutes chronicled the Liberal media’s meltdown on Election night, where they whined, complained, and twisted themselves into pretzels trying to explain the Trump Avalanche that had buried Hillary Clinton. What followed was the left throwing a temper tantrum with violent protests and dubious attempts to discredit Trump and thwart the will of the people.


     D’Souza then proceeded to answer the accusations against Trump being a racist by demonstrating from history that the real party of racism were the Democrats. When it came to Fascism, D’Souza revealed how Roosevelt admired Mussolini embracing his economic principles of an industrial act to help America recover from the Great Depression. However, the main thrust of the film was to show how Hitler implemented his core strategies by studying the Democratic Party.  One such principle was creating a racist state in Germany. Hitler implemented the Nuremberg Laws of 1935 against the Jews, taking his cue from the Democrats of the American South and their segregation laws against blacks. The law against racial intermarriage between Jews and Germans was taken directly from the Democratic playbook. Hitler also borrowed from the anti-human philosophy of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s sterilization laws, which he used in euthanizing social undesirables such as gypsies and the mentally retarded. Margaret Sanger is of course an icon of Liberals, admired and praised by Hillary Clinton.

     As the movie drew to a dramatic conclusion, D’Souza asked the all-important question, “How do we fight the tyranny of the Left?” The answer to his own question left me mesmerized! D’Souza introduced the brave and heroic efforts of Sophie Scholl and the White Rose. Sophie was a 21-year-old university student who joined forces with her brother to peacefully protest against the racist dictatorship policies of Hitler through the publication of anti-Nazi leaflets distributed all over Germany. In the end, they were both arrested and executed.

     This part of the film left me breathless. I always know when I’m supposed to write about a particular topic, because it begins to burn in my soul and ignite my passions, and it’s all I can think about for days. However, what I was watching frightened me and caused me to wonder was D’Souza trying to tell conservatives how dangerous this fight against progressive democrats and their socialist agenda is going to become?

     Sophie and her brother Hans, including the other members of the White Rose, were engaged in a very dangerous struggle against the demonic ideology of Hitler’s National Socialism. Hitler wanted to create a pure Aryan Race and restore the greatness of Germany that had been stolen by their loss in World War I and the limitations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles.  He blamed all of the economic and socials woes on the Jews and Communists and was determined to rid Germany of their influences. The White Rose spoke out against racism and discrimination, and the evils of Hitler that silenced freedom of speech and unfortunately in the end, the anti-God philosophy of National Socialism put to death the courageous voices of Hans and Sophie.

    Is this the price we conservatives will have to pay today in our culture where it seems like the philosophy of National Socialism is once again rearing its ugly head up from the ashes?

   Extremist progressives inside of the Democratic Party are pushing a socialist agenda aimed at swaying our country away from its roots of capitalism. Bernie Sanders, who has announced his candidacy for president in the 2020 election, along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Representative for New York’s 14th district, have been busy promoting redistribution of wealth, attacking corporations, and devising plans to economically and environmentally transform our country. However, history has demonstrated the utter failure of socialism. All one has to do is look at the Soviet Union and Venezuela to see the devastating results of adopting this corrupt philosophy. Socialism is one step away from Communism and there are no “free lunches” but instead a system where the State becomes your god and an elite few rules from the top down. This is exactly what happened in Germany in 1933, when Hitler plunged the National Socialist German Worker’s Party (The Nazis) into the political spotlight and ascended the throne to become its Chancellor and Fuhrer. It all began with promises of economic transformation and ended up with total control over the mass media, over free speech, and demonization of any other political viewpoint.

    Progressives frighten me! They are adopting principles, viewpoints, and ideas once held sacred by the Nazi party. Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar and Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, have both displayed contempt for the Jewish people with their anti-Semitic remarks since being elected to Congress as Muslim Americans. When their anti-Semitic attitudes were challenged by other conservatives, The Democratic Party refused to hold them personally accountable. It is a well known fact that the Democratic party has never been a true supporter of Israel, but instead always rushes to defend the Palestinian cause. Liberals have always embraced Islam in their so-called politics of diversity. The Nazis understood the connection between Islam and Anti-Semitism very well! Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the grand mufti of Jerusalem, broadcasted anti-Semitic messages from Berlin with Hitler’s approval from 1941 until the end of World War II. Al-Husseini was also a close ally of Hassan al-Banna, the Muslim Brotherhood’s founder. The parallels could not be clearer! The extremists of the Democratic Party are a close ally to the Nazi’s in their anti-Semitic behavior toward the Jew.

    Promoting the destruction of human life beyond abortion, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, endorsed for re-election by Planned Parenthood, signed legislation allowing mentally ill patients to be denied food and water unless that patient issued an advanced directive before becoming debilitated. Previously only caregivers with the power of attorney could make such a decision.

    In January, Oregon Democrats introduced another bill expanding the state’s law governing medically assisted suicide to include any patient with an incurable disease or intolerable pain. These laws parallel the same logic of The Nazi’s euthanasia program to eliminate those they determined were unworthy of life, like the mentally ill, the elderly, and the disabled. The Aktion T4 program, initiated by Hitler in 1939, was responsible for the death of more than 70,000 human beings from starvation, lethal injection, and gassing.

    Another powerful parallel to Nazism played out by the progressives is their obsession with identity politics and the treatment of oppressed groups. Democratic Socialists view women, African Americans, Latinos, Muslims, and gays as needing special protection from Whites, Christians, and capitalists. Ironically the Nazi’s viewed “the Aryans,” the superior race, as also needing special protection from, Jews, socialists, and capitalists.

    The chief propagandist of Hitler was Joseph Goebbels. He was in charge of fashioning the media to broadcast a specific narrative to the German people that promoted the Fuhrer’s agenda and portrayed him as a master military leader even when the war was being lost in Stalingrad. In the same way, liberal elites control the thinking of much of the media today and the moment a conservative rocks the boat with a different opinion, he or she is demonized and silenced with smear tactics, reminding them of the rules for political correctness!

     I believe our culture is ripe for a terrifying revival of National Socialism much like the political climate in pre-war Nazi Germany. The example of Sophie and Hans Scholl, used by D’Souza, in “Death of a nation,” is a wake up call for me. If Hans and Sophie were both still alive today, I know they would be tirelessly and courageously fighting against the intolerance, racism, and the identity politics of the left.

     They didn’t worry about their own personal safety, but instead they put the dignity, values, and freedom of the German people above themselves and fought day and night to awaken them to the horrible realities happening before their very eyes. A social and political transformation is happening before our very eyes, too! Like Hans and Sophie, we cannot be silent. We need to awaken to the reality that our blood-bought freedoms are at risk! They are being resisted and challenged by extremists who don’t love our country but instead love the power and prestige they receive from deceiving millennials with empty promises that will poison their souls.

     The very last words of Hans and Sophie before their execution was, "Long Live Freedom!"



                  




















Saturday, February 8, 2020

Mary Mohammadi: "I refuse to keep silent in Iran."

 
 
       "I am ready to return to prison if necessary, in order to fight for the rights of Christians."
                (Mary Mohammadi-Interview Article 18, December 2019)





    I can vividly remember the last message that I received from my Iranian friend Mary on her Telegram account just two days before her arrest. I had just finished dressing and was late to work, but stopped for just a moment to read her message. It was a petition she wanted me to post on my Facebook protesting against the film on Netflix that portrayed Jesus as a homosexual. I smiled and nodded my head, “That is my friend, Mary,” I mumbled to myself, “She is so outspoken and dedicated!”

   Right below the petition was a question, “Randy, how do you feel and react about the death of Soleimani as a Christian?”

    I was pleasantly surprised by Mary’s thoughtful question. It had been just a few days since President Trump had given the order for a drone missile strike on the jeep carrying Iran’s top military General which had instantly killed him. I carefully pondered Mary’s question and then began texting her back:

      “I am happy for you and for all Iranians, that this terrorist can no longer kill people. However, I’m also saddened because even God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked. He desires that unbelievers repent, because if not, He knows they will spend eternity in Hell apart from Christ.”

                                     That was the last message I had sent Mary……

   One week later, On January 16, while browsing the internet, I came across a story from Article 18 that sent shock waves through my whole body. The article explained that Mary Mohammadi had been arrested in Azadi Square in Tehran on January 12, during the time when thousands of Iranians were protesting the downing of the Ukrainian jet airliner. It was unknown at the time where she had been taken.

    I dropped my cellphone in my lap and bowed my head in prayer. A few minutes later, after composing myself, I quickly began sharing Mary’s story on my Facebook pages requesting urgent prayer.

                                                    ************
    
    I had become good friends with Mary over a year ago through my Iranian friend Mehnoush. She shared her incredible story and I knew right away that it would be featured in our new book, “Dear God, please bring freedom to Iran.”

    In 2017, at the age of 17, Mary converted from Islam to Christianity. In Iran, that is a very dangerous thing to do! Converts face arrest, imprisonment, and sometimes even the death penalty. That is exactly what happened to Mary. She was arrested, interrogated, and put in Evin Prison for six months. During that time, her interrogators, psychologically abused her and tried to force her to recant her faith and return to Islam. Mary stood firm in her convictions and refused!

   After her release in May of 2018, Mary refused to keep quiet about her faith. She began a ministry on her Instagram account entitled, “Campaign KHMA.” The campaign was dedicated to religious freedom in Iran and featured videos and articles from Christians and human rights activists all over the world. For the next several months, Mary would send me articles for the campaign that had been translated from Persian into English and asked me to proof check the spelling. I happily agreed, knowing that her campaign was sending a powerful message to the world supporting Christians in Iran. I remember that during Easter I recorded a worship song at my church for her campaign. Mary wanted to feature Christian worship videos to her audience showing the joy of true worship in churches that were free from arrest and imprisonment. Mary’s campaign on Instagram truly challenged my Christian faith and my commitment to Christ. Her courage deeply touched my heart and reminded me to not take for granted my freedom to worship as a Christian.

    In December 2019, for the second time in a year, Mary was expelled from University in Tehran.  A few days later she gave an interview to Article 18. Article 18 is a non-profit organization in London, dedicated to the protection and promotion of religious freedom in Iran and advocating on the behalf of persecuted Christians. Mary was asked whether she believed her Tweets supporting Christians may have led to her expulsion from university.

    “Of course, Mary declared, all the activities, statements, and any action taken by members of minority groups, and activists, especially those living in Iran, is constantly monitored by the Islamic Republic. Any such activism could lead to being denied a right, and my recent tweets may have made the authorities even more determined.”

     On the day of her arrest, Mary had been very busy on Twitter, tweeting support for Christians in prison in Iran, and criticizing the government for misleading the people about their involvement in shooting down the Ukrainian Jet airliner. Shortly after tweeting, Mary disappeared! The security forces converged on the crowd of protesters In Azadi Square and promptly arrested my dear friend.

      According the HRANA ( Human rights activist news agency) in a story published on February 12, 2020, at the time of her arrest, Mary was severely beaten by male and female agents and then transferred to Vozara Detention center, where she continued to be abused and physically assaulted. The beatings were so severe that the bruises on her body were visible for more than three weeks. Before her interrogation at Vozara, Mary was forced to sit outside in the bitter cold in front of the toilets. Officers demanded that she answer thirty questions but Mary refused until a lawyer was present.

       At the time of this writing, HRANA, (Human rights activists’ new agency) published a report on the internet that Mary Mohammadi has been detained in Qarchak Prison, in the south of Tehran. Qarchak Prison has a reputation of being, “hell on earth.” It is one of the most dangerous and filthy women’s prisons in Iran, housing more than 2,000 women with very limited access to showers, toilets, and decent food.  It is a dangerous environment for rape, murder, and torture. Her bail has been set at 30 million Tomans (equivalent to 2,250 in U.S. money) and her family has managed to raise the money. 


      I was devastated when I read where my dear friend Mary is being imprisoned at! Mary’s whole life has inspired and challenged my Christian faith. Her heart’s desire is for herself and all Christians in Iran to have the freedom to worship without fear of arrest and imprisonment. Reflecting on her courage and refusal to keep silent in one of the most dangerous places on earth to be a Christian, causes me to ask all of us a very important question!


    Where is your church? Is it safely inside four walls and padded pews? Or is your church “outside of the box” among the broken and helpless, where it is dangerous, risky, and inconvenient? The church in the west is far too insulated from the real world. We are safe, protected, and, in some cases spoon fed pep-talk sermons that are guaranteed to get us out on time for the start of a major sporting event on Sunday.

     In contrast, Mary’s church is located on the cold, dark broken concrete floors of a disease infested prison filled with drug dealers and prostitutes. A prison that has a reputation of beating and torturing, and even raping its prisoners. For the last several weeks I have been fervently praying that God would protect and strengthen my dear friend and give her boldness to be a light in the darkness of Qarchak Prison. Later this week, I was overwhelmed with joy when I watched in a video, President Donald Trump mention Mary’s captivity during the 68th Annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington DC.  President Trump said,

      “Weeks ago, a 21-year-old woman, who goes by the name of Mary, was seized and imprisoned in Iran because she converted to Christianity and shared the gospel with others.”

       Mary’s incredible story has reached the White House, and President Trump, who is a strong voice and supporter of the Iranian people. If it was possible to talk face to face with my dear Iranian friend, this is exactly what I would say to her:

      “Mary, I am so inspired and proud of your incredible courage! This government is very afraid of you! They arrested you because they are afraid of you, Mary. They are afraid of who you are and what you represent. You represent Christ and this government fears Christianity. Islam is dying inside of Iran, while Christianity is growing by leaps and bounds!

      They’re afraid of you Mary because you are a woman and a woman is leading the masses of Iranians to find their hope in Jesus instead of Mohammed. Don’t give up the fight, Mary! They will never stop or destroy you! Jesus will never leave or forsake you. He has promised that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church and your mission is guaranteed to succeed. Your prayer for Iranians to have the freedom to worship will most certainly one day come true!”

     Soon after being elected President of Iran in 2005, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad publicly pledged to Iranians, “I will stop Christianity in this country!”

     Since that public speech, millions of Iranians have converted to Christianity and are secretly meeting in house churches, unafraid and unashamed to be called by the name of Christ. The fastest growing church in the world is the underground church in Iran. In her last interview before her arrest, Mary said, “I hope one day all Christians in Iran will be able to have a place to praise God without security guards.”

     Mary, I promise to support you, speak for you, and pray for you, to see your vision of a free Iran come true!


*Editor’s update…..




     On February 27, 2020, I was overjoyed to read the news that Mary had been released on temporary bail from Qarchak Prison. With the recent outbreak of the coronavirus sweeping across Iran claiming the lives of hundreds of people, the government stepped in and began releasing prisoners whose sentences were less than five years and those that tested negative for the virus. Mary was one of them! I will never forget a few days later that we connected on Telegram. I texted Mary anxious to know how she was doing and asked her how she was feeling. Mary quickly texted back with a very positive reply.

“I am fine, dear. Jesus and Christians are behind me!   

   I was not surprised by her answer. Mary has always maintained a very positive and hopeful attitude through all of her struggles. She explained to me that Qarchak Prison was a horrible experience, very dangerous, and that the food was awful!

    However, there was one more hurdle to overcome. Mary had to return to court a few days later and face the judge. She told me that she believed she would be sentenced and that it “was her duty to go to prison and stand up for Christians in Iran.”

   Mary’s attitude toward a possible future sentence really surprised me at first, but after a few moments, I understood why she felt that way. Being a voice of hope for Christians in Iran is her passion. She feels that its her duty to represent them even if it means that she will have endure more suffering. I told Mary I would pray for her and we ended our conversation.

   Monday, March 2 at 2 am my time, I received a text from Mary on Telegram. She explained to me that her court date had been postponed because the Judge was suffering from the coronavirus! I literally screamed for joy, hopefully not waking up my wife Becky, asleep in the other room! I texted Mary back with tears of joy in my eyes, telling her how happy I was that God had answered all of our prayers. 

   Mary must return to court on Tuesday, April 14, probably after the coronavirus has subsided. At the time of this writing, thousands of Iranians have been infected with the virus, and many have died due to the incompetence of the government. Mary is resting comfortable at home uncertain of her future but determined to continue being a voice for Christians in Iran. Mary challenges and inspires my Christian faith. She is in the hands of a sovereign, loving God who promises his people a “hope and a future.”

 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”
                                                                                      (Jeremiah 29:11)

  No matter the outcome, I am trusting in the Lord that he will use Mary for his glory, whether in captivity or in freedom. Mary is not afraid. She is also trusting in God for the future of her life. She has submitted herself into his sovereign care and awaits her return to court. One thing is for certain. Mary refuses to keep silent in Iran. She will never stop, “shouting freedom!”

*Update.....

On April 21, 2020, The judge gave Mary a suspended prison sentence of 3 months and one day, plus 10 lashes. Mary will begin serving her sentence on April 21, 2021 due to the deadly outbreak of the coronavirus which has infected all of the major prisons in Iran.