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Saturday, July 1, 2017

"A prison of fear: Mehrnoosh's story."

     “A Prison of Fear.”                                      Mehrnoosh’s story      

“I was suffocating! I couldn’t breathe! My house was like a prison to me!”
 Unlike most marriages, Mehrnoosh’s marriage was as she describes, a prison of fear.
 Growing up in Iran, at the age of 20, Mehrnoosh met Abbas. He seemed like the perfect man, handsome, wealthy, educated, and yet as the old cliché goes, “looks can be deceiving!”
 Abbas went to work every day, like the normal husband but would call Mehrnoosh repeatedly from work to check up on her. Soon, he turned into a monster, becoming jealous, possessive and controlling. Mehrnoosh became a prisoner in her own home, having to obtain permission to leave.  Things quickly became worse! Abbas began to physically abuse her. Desperate to escape, Mehrnoosh called the police, crying out for help. But instead of responding to her cries, they ignored them and Mehrnoosh continued to be a helpless victim!  In Iran, women are treated like second-class citizens. They must wear a hijab (veil) publicly and adhere to a strict dress code, which includes not showing too much skin or too much make-up. The morality police patrol the streets of Iran daily and if a woman is not properly wearing her hijab and is in violation of the dress code, she can be fined, arrested and publicly lashed.  After several reports to the police, Mehrnoosh was finally allowed to see a Judge and report the physical abuse. However, instead of getting justice, she instead got a lecture from the judge.
 “Why are you here?”  The judge demanded, “ You should not be complaining to the court about your husband!”
 Mehrnoosh was devastated. She felt helpless.
 “Women are not treated like human beings in Iran,”  Mehrnoosh remembers thinking, “ We are treated like animals, like possessions!”
 The judge continued to lecture Mehrnoosh.
 “Your husband is your owner, ” he declared, ignoring the obvious marks of physical abuse on her face.
    Even though Mehrnoosh felt helpless and despaired; she understood why she was being treated in such a manner. This was consistent with the teachings of the Quran and the Islamic culture she was living in.

“I hated Islam!”

Mehrnoosh hated Islam because of the way Muslim men treated their wives. She remembered reading Surah 4 in the Quran:

“As to those women on whose part you fear disloyalty and ill conduct, Admonish them (first) (Next) refuse to share their beds (And last) beat them.”                                       (Surah 4:34)

“What kind of God would instruct a husband to beat his wife?” Mehrnoosh asked herself with anger and frustration.

The abuse continued. Mehrnoosh struggled to survive. “Every day of every moment,” Mehrnoosh cried out, I was sad and crying. I prayed all of the time but felt trapped with no p ossible way out!”
 For Mehrnoosh, life had become a living hell, filled with darkness and despair. A year later, she gave birth to her first son and named him Mehrsam ( nicknamed Sami). However, her life didn’t change. There was still turmoil and abuse. Desperate for her life and the safety of her son, Sami, Mehrnoosh met some people. They promised to help her. What can only be described as a miraculous answer to her prayers, she paid them a large sum of money and they smuggled both her and her son out of Iran to Sweden where the rest of her family was living. Sweden was a haven for Iranian refugees and Mehrnoosh believed she would finally be safe and rid of her abusive husband once and for all! However, to her astonishment, Abbas followed her to Sweden, where he confronted her and once again, the physical abuse began!
  This time, however, The Swedish Police immediately responded and Abbas was arrested, tried and imprisoned for two months before finally being deported back to Iran!

Mehrnoosh felt now that she was finally safe, but because of the many years of trauma and abuse, she felt like she was still in prison. Even though she had left the oppression of living in Iran, Mehrnoosh still felt trapped. Life in Sweden still felt like the prison of Iran.

“I was afraid to walk down the street. I was afraid that Abbas would suddenly jump out at me. I was living in a prison of fear, even in Sweden!”

Then one day, Mehrnoosh’s life took a drastic change for the better! She walked into a church and heard Christians singing and praising God. Mehrnoosh was astonished! She had never experienced or heard of Christians singing to their God. She had been taught in Islam that music was “haram” or forbidden and yet when she heard the music, she immediately felt a deep sense of peace and belonging. When the Pastor began to teach, she was impressed by what he said. The Pastor quoted the teachings of Jesus from the Bible about loving and forgiving your enemies. Mehrnoosh was drawn to the words of Christ, especially the command to, “love your enemies.” “What a contrast! What a difference !”  Mehrnoosh thought to herself, “ Christianity teaches to forgive and it’s so much different than what Islam teaches.”
 Mehrnoosh recalls that she never directly asked Jesus for help. But very soon, “He sent me my angel!”
 The fear of men had tormented Mehrnoosh and she could not talk to any male attorneys. A woman named Alina, was finally appointed to her case. She was like an angel, a true friend and she went out of her way to review her case, secure her documents from Iran and begin the process of residency for her. Mehrnoosh was still a refugee and she understood that the road to residency was a difficult one! Very soon, the Bible became a precious book for Mehrnoosh. She fell in love with Jesus. She was impressed by the compassion and love that he showed women.

“I was once dead and now I’m alive!”

  On April 27, 2014, Mehrnoosh became a member of the local church and was baptized. Everyone noticed the immediate change in her. She had a joy and peace that she never had before. Unlike most Iranians who declare they are Christians and are baptized just to escape Iran and gain residency, Mehrnoosh never needed to do that. Her case was progressing thanks to Alina, her dear Angel lawyer. Mehrnoosh described to me her inward feelings, she said, “I was once dead and now I’m alive!”
 Her favorite Bible verse is Psalm 46: verse 1:

“God is our refuge. God is our strength. A very present help in trouble.”

I have had the privilege of knowing Mehrnoosh for about six months. She is very hopeful that one day soon  she will be granted residency in Sweden. Every day, I share with her a Bible verse on Viber. She now has a bright and jubilant smile instead of a frown of despair. Jesus has indeed brought her out of death and given her a new life. She no longer is in a prison of fear!

*A few months after this story was published, God answered my prayers for Mehrnoosh. She became an official citizen of Sweden!
Today Mehrnoosh is now happily married to Rickard and lives with her son Sami in Sunvall.

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