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Monday, July 28, 2014

"Please don't hang my daddy!"

"You are Sunni dogs who must be hanged!"

    ( Iranian trail Judge Moghisseh)

 Children are gifted with amazing creative abilities to draw pictures of the things in life that bring them great joy. They draw pictures of beautiful rainbows, picnics in the park with mommy and daddy, their favorite pets, and the list goes on....but rarely does one see a picture that depicts sadness, suffering and death.....
One such rare exception was a drawing by four year-old Mohanna Ahmadi. Mohanna didn't draw the usual picture that four year-olds commonly draw..she didn't draw a picture of her dog and cat or a picture of playing with her best friend, or a bright colored picture of the sun shining..instead she drew a picture of her father being hanged!
Mohanna drew a picture of her standing next to her mother, holding hands and watching her father being hanged in Iran.
When I gazed upon this heartbreaking drawing, I was driven to tears!
 Mohanna, an innocent four year-old child, was doing her best to understand the cruel and suffering world all around her. She picked up a crayon and said to the world, "Please don't let them hang my daddy!"
The heart of their precious four year-old was desperately crying out to you and me over the internet and pleading with the government not to hang her father.
 Hamed Ahmadi was one among three other Sunni Muslims, on death row for the alleged crime of murdering a pro-government Sunni cleric.
Ironically the murder of the cleric did not take place until long after the four were arrested and so the Iranian regime dropped the original charges and instead tried them on charges of  Moharebeh (enmity with God) and acting against national security by supporting opposition Kurdish parties.
However when one understands the contentious history between the Sunnis and Shias, then it becomes obvious the real reason these four Sunnis are on death row is because of their religious orientation.
Soon after the death of Mohammed in 632 A.D., there arose a dispute of who would be his successor. 
The Shia party declared that Mohammed had appointed Ali, his cousin and son-in-law, to be the rightful successor. The Sunni's disputed this claim and that's when the contentious wars began.
During the battle of Karbala in 680 A.D. Ali's son, Hussein was killed and this further deepened the division between Shia's and Sunni's.
The Sunnis, the largest majority group of Islam, reject the teachings of the Shiites because they venerate the Imams and look to them for spiritual guidance. Sunnis consider this as blasphemous and idolatrous and reject any religious association with them.
After the Iranian Revolution in 1979, the remaining Sunni population suffered intense discrimination in employment and were prohibited from broadcasting and expressing their opinions. Thus, began the long and bitter history of discrimination against Sunni Muslims in Iran.

After their trial, Iranian judge Moghisseh warned The four Sunnis to be quiet and declared, "You are Sunni dogs who must be hanged!"
He warned them to be quiet and ordered them to quickly leave the courtroom.
Intelligence agents began threatening their families and cautioned them to remain silent or else face dire consequences.
Gazing upon this innocent, beautiful and yet sad drawing by Mohanna, I felt so broken inside. I quickly consulted with my dear friend Shadi Paveh, a powerful Iranian human rights activist and together we began speaking out for the four Sunnis and sending out numerous petitions for people to sign. Shadi was a guest on my "Cross in the Deseret," radio program and we talked about the dire situation of the four Sunni prisoners, pleading with people on Facebook to sign the petition.

We spoke out and prayed and waited.......

Two weeks ago, while I was at work at the bookstore, my friend Shadi greeted me with some incredible news!! She shared a post that the Four Sunni prisoners, who had been on a hunger strike, had been taken off of death row and returned to their normal prison cells!
I was overjoyed beyond words. I quickly excused myself and ran into the back stockroom at the bookstore and cried for joy!
Our praying and petitioning had been heard!
I believe with all of my heart that four year-old Mohnna's drawing had touched the heart of our compassionate God! I tried to visualize and imagine how she was feeling at that moment..I thought, Mohanna, you can make another can draw a new picture of your father without a noose around his neck!
Although Hamed Ahmadi is still not free, he is still a prisoner of Iran, he is at least still alive..Mohanna still has a daddy..and my prayer is that one day, she can draw a new picture of holding hands with her father once again..only this time its a picture of him free, alive and out of prison!