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Thursday, November 29, 2018

Maria Rashidi: Beauty from the ashes

Maria is a true survivor. She endured the humiliating scars of an acid attack and rose up from the ashes of her suffering. Her powerful story will be featured in my new book, "Dear God, please bring freedom to Iran."

Part One – Day of the accident:

             I CLIMBED out of my ex-husband’s car, gave my daughter a quick hug, and then began walking home.

            Suddenly I was seized with an ominous feeling. I stopped walking and turned around. I sensed someone was following me! And I was right! Gripped with fear, I began to walk faster…and I could hear the footsteps closing in behind me! My heart pounding in my chest, I quickly glanced down at my watch. It was 9:45 pm.

            In what seemed like the flash of a moment, the twinkling of an eye, suddenly the skin of my face felt like it was on fire and pierced with a thousand needles all at once. The pain was unbearable!
            I screamed and began running. My whole face was on fire! I screamed louder!
            In the distance, I could hear my daughter running toward me and shouting,

            “Mum! Mum! What happened?”

            Seconds later, I could feel someone frantically dragging me into a car. The last thing I remember seeing, gazing out from my burning eyes, was the sight of my daughter’s panic-stricken face, astonished by the horrible burns covering my face. She couldn’t control her emotions, but screamed in horror.

            I was in the hospital for three or four days, being treated for an acid attack that covered my face with ugly burns. I could hardly see out of my eyes. My world had been devastated and changed forever by the evil schemes of a madman!


            On September 19, 1997, I was invited to a friend’s house for a party. My conversation was interrupted by the annoying ringing of my mobile phone. When I answered, I recognized the voice on the other end as my ex-husband’s.
            “Maria. I’d love to see you,” He said with an excited tone in his voice. “Let’s meet for at least a half hour. I promise I won’t hurt you.”
            “I’m afraid I can’t make it,” I replied, anxious to end the conversation. “Don’t you remember, you wanted to kidnap me and take me back to Iran three weeks ago by making me take sleeping drugs and I was unconscious for 15 hours? Have you suddenly forgotten what you did to me?” I don’t want to ever see you again or hear your sickening voice!”
            I immediately hung up in anger. Leaning back in my chair, I took a deep breath and tried to relax. A few seconds later, my mobile phone rang again. I grabbed it in anger, enraged that my ex would try to call me again. However, this time it was my older daughter.
            “Mum, please come,” she said with a pleading voice, “Dad says you have to come or I won’t get to see you anymore. I promise this time I will leave with you.”
            I took a frustrating deep breath. I couldn’t say no to my daughter.
            A few minutes later, I reluctantly got inside my ex-husband’s car and we headed toward the restaurant. Turning his head toward me, he looked deep into my eyes with that innocent look of manipulation.
            “Dear Maria. I really want you back. I can’t live without you anymore. Please give me a second chance! Come back to us and we’ll go together on a trip to Spain and just forget about the past.”
            I stared intently into his eyes and realized how cruel he really was to me. He had already taken my children from me. Now my son had turned his back on me. Whenever he saw me on the street, he quickly looked the other way. This kind of shunning was very painful for me to bear. When I looked intently into his eyes, I saw nothing but deception and hatred.
            “Why the hell can’t you understand?” I shouted back at him, “I hate you. How on earth can I live with you again?”
            Suddenly that innocent, pleading look on his face melted into an expression of rage.
            “Is this you last word?”
            “Yes!” I firmly replied.
            He took an angry deep breath and then sharply looked back into my eyes.
            “You will have to pay the price!”
            “What do you mean?” I snapped back, interrupting him, “You want to kill me? Well, come on,” I challenged him, leaning forward in my chair, “I’m not afraid of you!”
            He stood up unexpectedly and walked furiously out of the restaurant. A few minutes later, he returned.
            “Let’s go!” he motioned toward me, grabbing his jacket from off the back of the chair.
            All the way home, there was an eerie silence in the car. When we finally arrived home at my place, he flung open my door, anxious for me to get out. I embraced my daughter and then looked back at my ex. His eyes were bulging in anger.
            “Just Go! Goodbye!”


            Part Two…… The Past

      I was eight years old when the Air Force provided us with a newly built state house in the city of Khouzestan. My father was an avid gardener and planted beautiful trees and flowers in our little garden. I have such sweet memories of those days and how happy our life was together. My mother graciously accepted her role as a housewife. She was a very supportive woman and a huge emotional support for our family. However, my father was the complete opposite. We referred to him as, “Daddy dictator!” He treated us all like soldiers in the military. We weren’t allowed to sleep past 5 am and our day began with our assigned tasks. He paid painstaking attention to order and discipline. My childhood memories of my father were filled with fear of not measuring up to his standards.

            It seemed like after my childhood, that all I can remember about my adult years was one tragedy after another. Before I graduated from high school, my father was in an accident and my mother had to go each day to the hospital to assist in his recovery. Exhausted from being a housewife and now a nurse, my mother grew very ill. She contracted a virus with a high fever and within five days she was no longer with us. We were devastated. I couldn’t believe that my mother was dead. She had been so healthy and now she was dead!

            After my mother’s death, my father sank into a deep, dark depression and tried to commit suicide several times. A young boy who lived near our house took pity on our situation and would come to visit me and my father. As time went on, we became close and one day he proposed to me. My relatives, concerned about my father’s future, helped him remarry and ironically, just a week after my father remarried, I got married!

            At the time of my marriage, Iran and Iraq were still at war with each other. Early on in my marriage, I realized that my husband was a nervous, hot-tempered man who when he became angry would throw things at people. I began to notice that he would follow me wherever I went and keep me under surveillance. He always made sure that I was an obedient Muslim and was wearing my hijab correctly. He inspected my clothes and would chastise me if they were not according to Islamic standards. He would yell at me and say, “Your clothes are not ok, go get changed!”

            I vividly remember, just eleven days before I gave birth to our first child, we were having a family cookout in the garden. Suddenly he got mad at me and threw one of the skews he was making kebab on, and hit me directly in the knee. I suffered a deep cut and was in tremendous pain. That incident was our first real physical conflict. After the birth of my child, his anger and physical abuse continued every day. The Iran/Iraq war was getting worse and many of the surrounding villages were being destroyed by enemy bombardment. I contacted my relatives in Sweden and through a series of complex circumstances, I took my newborn

 child and immigrated to Sweden. It was agreed upon that once my residency was approved, that I would contact my husband and he would join us.


Part Three…
From Immigration to life in Sweden and divorce.

      When I finally arrived in Sweden and had the opportunity to evaluate their culture and society, I had hope for the first time in my wife. I saw men and women sitting together. In Iran, the government segregated the sexes and forced women to comply with the Islamic dress code by wearing the hijab. However, it was the complete opposite in Sweden. Women were given complete freedom and independence and were allowed to take control of their own lives by pursuing the jobs and careers of their own choices. Women were given the freedom to choose! I could not believe my eyes! I was used to a misogynistic system where men were in complete control of the destinies of women, but here in Sweden for the first time in my life, I could breathe the fresh air of Sweden and it smelt so wonderful!

            Within a few months, I had successfully passed my Swedish language course and was ready to pursue my studies, when suddenly everything drastically changed! My life had been wonderful until December 18, 1988, when my husband finally arrived. When I met him at the airport, he was shocked to see me wearing a short skirt. I also was shocked by his appearance. He had a thick, heavy black beard, wearing a suit without a tie and had the offensive odor of a perfume that I hated so much. It reminded me of the smell of what Mullahs would wear, and suddenly I felt catapulted back to Iran! I instantly knew that this was the beginning of a hellish life once again. Misery was on its way again!

            At first, however, my husband seemed to be filled with great sadness and remorse. He would go to our bedroom and sleep most of the day, as if he were suffering from depression. The more that I would brag about my new life in Sweden, the angrier he got. He would constantly complain about the cold weather and was outraged that here women were allowed to make their own decisions for themselves. When he witnessed me taking classes, having a bank account registered in my own name, he was devastated! He had lost all control of my life and his masculinity and pride were crushed! I explained to him that in Iran I was oppressed and lived under a male-dominated society of laws that made women inferior, second class citizens.

            Within a few weeks, my husband could no longer tolerate my new-found freedom! He began to take control again by trying to choose my friends. He warned me to not associate with divorced women because they would poison my thinking with false ideas about men. He began arguing and throwing stuff again. In a rage he would pick up the tv remote and throw at me and one time he hit my leg with the wand of a vacuum cleaner. I was in so much pain and my leg became swollen. I demanded a divorce. I wanted nothing more to do with him. I had a new life now and I was determined to never again let any man control me! When I threatened him, he would immediately begin manipulating me with false apologies and then his friends would try to convince me to continue our relationship.

            Instead of giving into his shallow pleas, I filed for a divorce and asked the social center to assist me. Finally, he went back to Iran for awhile and when he returned, he was shocked to see that I had rented a new condominium. In our custody battle, I gave him back all of my furniture and then packed up my younger daughter’s clothes and escaped from my dwelling. I refused to allow any more “hell on earth behavior” from him to ruin my new life.

Part Three: The present time.
Life after the acid attack for Maria.

      I kept asking myself, “Why? Why would any man do such a horrible thing by throwing acid in my face? Why? I had never done anything cruel to any man!”

            After 99 different surgeries to attempt to repair my disfigured face, the one surgery that I’ve needed the most was the surgery to heal the deep scars and wounds inside of my soul. As I lay on my hospital bed trying to forget this nightmare past, it is still beyond belief to me that my controlling, weak husband would stoop so low as to hire a man to throw acid in my face! My new life of happiness and freedom disturbed him so much that he could no longer bear the thought that I was in control of my own life.
            I made a decision that I had to be a voice for women, especially those that have suffered so deeply at the hands of evil men. I took some time to think deeply and reflect on my life and published my story in a book entitled, “Burned Freedom.” I began a speaking tour with the women’s rights movement revealing the painful facts of what life was like in Iran, that it was a misogynistic culture that oppressed women.
            After a thorough investigation, the police had to let my husband go, because they had only circumstantial evidence and not enough proof. I will never forget the day when I leaned that my husband was killed in a car accident after suffering a heart attack, that day in 2009, was the first day that I felt finally free from his evil schemes and suffocating control!
            At 62 years of age, I feel like a true survivor! I’m very proud of myself! It is the passion of my life to be a voice for suffering women in the Middle East. I want to live the rest of my life encouraging women and standing up for their rights and freedom.


            *Editor’s note.

               Writing Maria’s story has been such a privilege and honor for me. I have spent the last several years of my life, writing the painful stories of oppressed women in Iran. My heart breaks for the suffering that Maria has had to endure for so many years. But I am so impressed by her courage and survival skills. She is a very tough lady and has learned to take control of her life and teach other women that they can do it too!
            When I think about the physical and spiritual trauma that survivors of acid attacks endure, I am reminded by the precious promise of God in the book of Psalms.
            “The Lord is close to the broken hearted. He saves the crushed in spirit.”
                                                                                                                            (Psalm 34:18)

            God promises to be a very present help in our time of trouble. He can bring healing and restoration to the wounded and crushed in spirit. Acid attack survivors are not only humiliated by the disfigurement of their faces, but they suffer daily with the deep wounds and scars that no one else can see. Yet God promises to bring beauty out of the ashes of their suffering. He can emotionally heal and restore these precious women. He desires to save their crushed spirits and restore the dignity and beauty that was stolen by the evil act of a controlling man. It is my sincere prayer that the Lord would heal Maria and all other victims and bring beauty and dignity back into their lives.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Shole Pakravan: A powerful voice for humanity.

Shole Pakravan is a powerful human rights activist who will forever be a strong voice for her late daughter, Reyhaneh Jabbari,who was unjustly executed on October 25, 2014, for defending herself against a government rapist. Her story will be featured in my new book, "Dear God: Please bring freedom to Iran."

                Shole Pakravan is a well-educated, open minded woman, and a real fighter! She fights for righteousness, humanity, freedom and most importantly, fights against capital punishment in Iran. Capital punishment is the satanic adversary that shadowed and oppressed her life and her family’s life for 7 long agonizing years until it fastened its noose around her beautiful daughter’s neck in Rajaee Shahr Prison in Karaj. When Reyhaneh Jabbari was unjustly executed, Shole was determined to become a strong voice and a fierce opponent of the death penalty that has claimed the lives of thousands of young people in the Islamic Republic.

            Since her daughter’s execution Shole has become a dedicated anti-death penalty activist, standing up and supporting the mothers who have lost their children in the unjust and fake courts that are controlled by cruel Mullahs! Shole is also a dramatic actress, director, and a loyal mother and wife.

            One sultry hot summer day in July 2007, Reyhaneh was assaulted by a former intelligence agent who had lured her under false pretenses to an empty and abandoned house. Terrified of being raped, when Morteza Sarbandi physically attacked her, Reyhaneh defended herself by stabbing him in the shoulder with a knife, and then managed to escape.  Sarbandi bled out and died from his stab wounds. Unfortunately, Reyhaneh was completely unaware that the Islamic authorities are always prepared to victimize one innocent figure in order to conceal their own devilish deeds. Iran is a very man-centered society and the reputation of a member of the intelligence ministry is far more important than the accusation of a “so-called” rape victim. Reyhaneh refused to change her story from rape to consensual sex and that sealed her fate. She was arrested at 19 and at the age of 26, she said goodbye to her life and her family in the early morning hours of October 25, 2014 after a seven-year imprisonment. She proudly and courageously faced the noose on the gallows and her spirit flew away to rest in peace.

            By executing Reyhaneh, The Iranian regime intended to scare all girls to let them know that they cannot resist the sexual harassments of government agents. A powerful message was sent that women would be severely punished and executed for yelling rape!

            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. They murdered her in order to put hope, generosity, and kindness to death. However, they did not realize that Reyhaneh was actually a seed planted throughout Iran’s soil. They only killed one Reyhaneh, whereas thousands of “Reyhanehs” have grown and multiplied like seeds that have blossomed into lovely flowers.

            In 2016, Shole was summoned before the Ministry of Intelligence and warned by the authorities that there would be grave consequences for her other daughters if she continued to speak out against executions. Shole had been busy posting pictures one her Facebook page showing her standing in support of other mothers who had lost their children to executions. Realizing the danger that her activism was causing her family, Shole and her daughter Shahrzad secretly fled into Turkey and applied for asylum. After several months, through the hard work and connections of other human rights activists, they were accepted by the German Immigration board and were able to leave Turkey. Today, both Shole and Shahrzad are busy studying the German language and assimilating as refugees in their new home. They are hoping that soon the rest of their family can join them in Germany.

            In remembrance of her courageous daughter, Shole has written a powerful and moving tribute describing her commitment to never stop being a voice for Reyhaneh:

            “Inspite of all of the agony that I have gone through, I am well prepared to fight for your honor. I’ll never stop being your voice since you opened my eyes! As I promised you, now my hands are your hands, my feet are your feet, and my voice is your voice.

                You have already forgiven the judges and tormentors and murderers, but I can never forgive the one who suppressed you, invented false allegations, and signed your execution order, prepared the gallows, and tightened the noose that stopped you from breathing. I want them to punished in this world and be sentenced for their crimes, so that no other mother will ever have to see their child being executed before their own eyes.

                Now your soul has been integrated into my whole body and I’ve dedicated my life to reclaiming your honor.  Even after a thousand years, every single particle and dust of my essence will continue to cry out your name. I will live to see your victory over this dictatorship government.

                At dawn, on the 25th of October, 2014, you were standing in the middle of execution field atf Rajaar Shahr prison with your hands tied, staring at your murderers with your beautiful brown eyes, and you shouted, “You may take my life, but you can never pollute it with the shame of surrender!”

                Although you are gone, now is the time to proudly announce that the “Reyhan Foundation” in Europe is formally registered on the internet. The Reyhan Foundation supports all of those sentenced to death, and the families of rape victims. This foundation will be a strong voice for the families of the executed and also those who have been the victims of rape. It is my duty and commitment to you to fight as long as it takes to put an end to the horrible executions in Iran.”

           *Editor’s note:

                                 To read the complete story of Reyhaneh’s tragic life and execution, you can purchase the book, written by Randy L. Noble on Amazon. Com. It is entitled, “Reyhaneh: A beautiful fragrance.”

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Remembering Ramin Hossein Panahi

Ramin was the member of an opposition party that held different political beliefs, but in Iran, being different is a crime! Discrimination and racism is at the heart of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This new blog will appear in my upcoming book, "Dear God: Please bring freedom to Iran."

Ramin Hossein Panahi lived a very short time on this earth. He died by hanging at the age of 24. Life didn’t give him the opportunity to make his dreams and wishes come true. Ramin had many dreams. He had hope for his nation, his family, and worked tirelessly for the freedom of his people. His friends remember him as a humble person of great character. He had a sense of humor and remained clam in adversity. He rarely got angry or mad at his friends. He honored women, children, and stood up against the injustices against the Kurdish people, because he was one of them!

            Ramin didn’t have the privilege of knowing his elder brother Anwer for a very long time. Anwer meet his fate after being arrested by the Iranian regime and then sentenced to death. At the time of his brother’s execution, he was studying hard in high school. Unfortunately, his hard work didn’t pay off. Ramin wasn’t able to enroll in college because of his family’s involvement in politics and also because his brothers we Peshmerga. Peshmerga literally means, “those who face death.” Ramin’s brothers were members of the military forces of the federal region of Iraqi Kurdistan, and opposed by the Iranian regime.

            At the tender age of just 16, Ramin was arrested by the Iranian government and held in solitary confinement by the intelligence service for 45 days. Although beaten and tortured while in prison, Ramin learned at an early age how to survive and resist the cruelty of the regime. With both of his brothers suffering together in prison, the responsibility for managing the home fell on the shoulders of Ramin at such a young age. Both of his parents and his other two sisters were very ill, so Ramin had to grow up very quickly. While being the head of the house, Ramin continued his counter-political activities against the Islamic Republic. He spoke out against the death penalty and because of his human rights activities he was arrested jailed, and tortured many times by the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corp.)

            Following in the footsteps of his brothers, Ramin crossed the border, coming into Southern Kurdistan and became a Komala Peshmerga, an armed communist ethnic party, exiled in Northern Iraq. This group had been heavily involved in guerilla warfare against the Iranian government. By joining this party Ramin had once and for all sealed his fate in his struggle for freedom against the Islamic Republic.

            In June 2016, The IRGC opened fire on Ramin and his three friends as they were riding in his car. Ramin was seriously wounded in the thigh, his left arm and in the back. All three of his friends were killed. In a mockery and miscarriage of justice, Ramin was sentenced to death in a “kangaroo”14-minute trial for simply belonging to an opposition party. He was falsely charged with being armed with both a rifle and a grenade.  During the investigation period, Ramin was denied access to his lawyer and his family, as well as any details of the evidence against him. Intelligence officials repeatedly pressured him to make a televised confession on Iranian TV, apologizing for his beliefs, and speaking out against the Kurdish people and his family. Ramin vehemently refused and instead began a deadly hunger strike protesting the charges against him. Amnesty International took up his case and began a powerful campaign protesting against his execution. Thousands of Iranians took to Twitter in a tweet storm calling for the government to stop his unjust execution. The Twitter storm proved to be a powerful tool that was successful in postponing the execution, but unfortunately on September 8, 2018, after months of brutal torture, Ramin was finally hanged in Raja’I Shahr prison, in Karaj, Iran.

            The Iranian government had once again succeeded in silencing another human being, simply because his political and religious beliefs were different from theirs! In Iran, if you are a Christian, or a member of the Bahai’ Faith, or a member of the Komala Party, then according to the regime, you are an enemy of God, or one who is acting against national security.

            The discrimination and racism is so deep and so embedded in the twisted hearts and minds of the Iranian regime. They cannot and will not accept a person who believes differently or contrary to the official Islamic religion. There is no freedom or tolerance in their perverted minds.

            Whenever there is talk about humanity, Rami’s name will come to mind. Whenever there is talk of courage and steadfastness, Ramin will be remembered. He will never be forgotten. He was a mighty symbol of resistance against the government. One day when the Islamic Republic finally collapses and a democratic regime replaces it, there will a bronze statue of Ramin in its town square. He will forever be a courageous symbol of the Kurdish nation. He stood strong and majestic as a mountain until the very end, refusing to be political pawn in the devious hands of the evil Iranian government.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Mehdi Rajabian: "Music is a crime in Iran."

Mehdi Rajabian is a dedicated musician using his powerful music to be a voice for human rights and freedom. His courageous story will be in my new book, "Dear God: Please bring freedom to Iran."

I remember as a young kid sitting in front of my TV set anxiously waiting for the next episode of the sci-fi classic, “The Outer Limits,” to begin!

            Suddenly, the ominous voice of the announcer came on the screen and explained to the audience, “There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission….For the next hour, sit quietly, and we will control what you see and hear.”

            More than seventy years ago, British novelist, George Orwell, authored a novel entitled, “1984” which since then has become a cult classic in literature. The basic plot of 1984 is about Oceania, a society that is ruled by a dictatorial government that treats individuality and reason as thought crimes. The society is constantly subjected to fear, oppression, surveillance, and mind control. The fearful theme and reminder of the novel to its citizens is, “Big Brother is watching you!”
            The novel is hauntingly similar to the situation in Iran. The government has suppressed individuality and every God-given human right. They have especially attacked the arts by suppressing freedom of expression and censoring every style of creativity because it violates the principles of Islamic Law. Music, dancing, filmmaking, is “haram,” forbidden and those who publicly engage in these practices are subject to harsh penalties by the government.

            In 2014, a group of young filmmakers assembled together on an apartment roof in Tehran and created a video of themselves dancing to the popular song, “Happy” by Will Pharrell. Within a few hours, the participants were arrested and charged with making an illegal music video with female dancers without wearing proper hijabs. They were forced to confess on Iranian state tv that they were wrong in producing the video because it violated the principles of Islamic law.

            Mehdi Rajabian is an accomplished musician who loves playing the Setar. The Setar is an ancient four-stringed Persian musical instrument similar to the acoustic guitar that is played with the index finger of the right hand. At 29 years of age, Mehdi is committed to bringing a message of peace through his musical compositions and was busily involved in a creative musical project entitled, “The history of Iran by Setar.” He was also the founder of the BARG Music record company that supported prohibited singers in Iran, especially female vocalists who are not allowed to perform publicly because of the strict guidelines of Islamic law.

            In 2013, Mehdi was arrested for illegally publishing music, offending religious sanctity, and inciting opposition to the Islamic Republic. The police raided his record company, seized his personal possessions and shut down his website taking both him and his brother Hoessein, a filmmaker, into custody for breaching the censorship laws and failing to obtain a government license for their music.

            Mehdi spent three grueling months in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, enduring harsh interrogations and inhumane torture. He was placed in the same cell along with Somalian pirates, Japanese and Tanzanian drug dealers, and HIV infected prisoners. During his imprisonment, he began a hunger strike in protest of the charges against him and became critically ill, losing more than 33 pounds and 40% of his vision.  Yet inspite of the hardships, Mehdi made a commitment to the universal language of music and what it meant to him.
            For me, creating a piece of art is more important than any consequences that might follow,” Mehdi declared.   

            It was while he was in prison, that one of his greatest achievements was conceived, the idea for a collaboration project with a message of hope for the Middle East. After much suffering, Mehdi was released on temporary bail, but in 2014 was summoned back to court to face charges once again and was forced back to prison for two more grueling years until his release in 2017.
            Since he has been out on bail, Mehdi has been hard at work producing his dream project that he conceived during his imprisonment. He contacted 12 independent musicians and together they agreed to compose a peace album with a unified message of tolerance and human rights in the Middle East.

            “As a composer, I felt that it’s time to protest against the human rights violations in the Middle East with music. In my opinion, the Middle East people are tired of human rights violations, and the only way I could bring all voices of all Middle Eastern countries in a single common shouting was music,” Mehdi explained.

            The Album is entitled, “Middle East,” and features various songs, one written by an artist during air strikes in Syria. Another one of the musicians composed his song while he was traveling on a refugee boat. Mehdi’s dream is to take the universal language of music and to be a voice for suffering minorities, refugees, and the people of his homeland who are struggling for freedom. He is busy using his temporary bail time to be a strong voice for other musicians who are still suffering in prison.

            I can relate to Mehdi’s experience. I too am a musician with a gift from God to play guitar and write songs. While researching this story, I was once again reminded of the precious freedom that I have to play my instrument publicly without fear of censorship and imprisonment. I am truly inspired by Mehdi’s courage to stand up to a dictatorship government and use his God-given talents to speak out against the evil done to humanity in the name of religion and politics. I hope one day to met Mehdi in person. It would be an incredible honor to sit in with him and play a few songs together. I am sure the night air would be filled with the powerful melodies of freedom and human rights.  

Friday, November 9, 2018

President Trump: A voice for the Iranian people.

This is my latest blog showing the strong support of President Trump for the Iranian people. This article will appear in my new book, "Dear God: Please bring freedom to Iran."

                                  …...  June 2009: (Tehran, Iran)

                The streets of Tehran are filled with thousands of angry, and disgruntled Iranians, outraged at what they believe was a rigged ballot box by the corrupt government. President Ahmadinejad has surprisingly won a second term as president and Iranians are convinced that the government hijacked the election in a deliberate attempt to ensure his re-election! The Iran Revolutionary Guard and members of the Basiji, a para-military group, have descended on the protesters and turned a peaceful demonstration into a bloodbath! Desperate for the world to hear their cries for freedom, the protesters are videotaped on cell phones and can be heard chanting, “President Obama, are you with the Mullahs or the Iranian people?”

            Unfortunately, the Iranian cries for support fell on deaf ears, much like they did in 1978, when President Carter betrayed the Shah at a critical time, forcing him to eventually seek exile in Egypt. Once again, reminiscent of 1978, President Obama ignored the Iranian people, and watched from abroad as the dictatorship government murdered its people for simply voicing their opinions against a corrupt election.

            On July 14, 2015, President Obama shocked the world by signing a nuclear agreement with Iran, resulting in the lifting of sanctions against the government. While thousands of Iranians continued to suffer torture and death in dirty prisons form protesting against the election of 2009, Obama rewarded the Mullahs with more than 150 billion dollars in sanction relief money which in turn was used to finance terrorism across the Middle East, funding Hamas and Hezbollah. The Obama Administration completely ignored the brutal torture and gross violations of Iranian human rights and instead lined the pockets of Mullahs with billions of dollars in a cash deal that would eventually empower them to develop nuclear weapons. The key word in describing Obama’s actions toward the Mullahs is the word, “appeasement.” His disregard for human rights resulted in a policy of appeasement and enrichment for the sole purpose of creating a legacy behind his name. Obama wanted to be remembered as the president who brought stability and peace to the Middle East through a deadly policy that ignored the brutal treatment of the Iranian people for the sake of having a legacy!

            In November 2016, Donald J. Trump captured the presidency after a landslide victory over Hillary Clinton. Things were going to be radically different! There was a new Sheriff in town! The very next year, Trump tore up the nuclear deal with Iran and reversed the policy with the government. He once again implemented sanctions in order to bring the evil regime to its knees. He then made a huge announcement with a powerful Tweet on Twitter, as was his custom, bypassing the fake news media.

            “The future of Iran belongs to it’s people. They are rightful heirs to a rich culture and an ancient land, and they deserve a nation that does justice to their dreams, honor to their history and glory to God.”

                Instead of appeasement for the sake of a legacy, Trump called the government of Iran to accountability for their actions. His tweet shocked the Iranian world! Here was a finally a president showing support for the people instead of the Mullahs. There was a swift response to Trump’s tweet by Iranians on Twitter.

            #Thank you, Trump. You saved Iranian people’s future.

      “We the people of Iran have been held hostage by a murderous regime for 40 years. We are the main victims of its atrocities. Now there is a chance with the help of POTUS, we break our chains and set ourselves free. We are hostages but not anymore.”

      For the first time in 8 years, the Iranian people finally had a voice and it was Trump! By December of 2017, they were feeling the backlash from the new sanctions. Their economy was rapidly collapsing and they began to take to the streets. A young Iranian woman named Vida Movahed stood up on a utility pole in the center of Tehran, removed her hijab and put it on the end of a stick, announcing to the watching world that she was protesting against the compulsory hijab law. Her actions immediately gained worldwide attention and many other desperate Iranian women joined her cause! Their movement earned them a nickname, “The girls of Revolution Street,” and even men joined in on the cause. Soon after Vida’s action, she was promptly arrested and placed into solitary confinement in Evin Prison, where she spent 30 days being tortured and interrogated.

            Iranian freedom fighters, angered by the hostile actions of the government and exhausted from almost 40 years of oppression, took to the streets protesting against the horrible economic chaos. They confronted the government for their terrorist commitment to the Syrian cause by backing Assad and shouted against their strong ties to Palestine. They could be seen wearing bandana’s and masks covering their face, shouting, “Death to Khamenei” and burning his picture displayed on posters. The government stepped into the peaceful demonstrations and began firing on the protesters, who had no weapons, other than their loud voices and cardboard signs in their hands.

            Outraged by the hostile and murderous actions of the government, Trump wasted no time but took to Twitter and displayed his solidarity with the Iranian people.

            “Many reports of peaceful protests by Iranian citizens fed up with regime’s corruption and its squandering of the nation’s wealth to fund terrorism abroad. Iranian govt should respect their people’s rights, including the right to express themselves. The world is watching.”

            It was obvious now that the Iranian people had finally found a voice, a president who would support them and stand behind them. This president was definitely with the people instead of the mullahs! United Nations ambassador, Nikki Haley also publicly pledged her support behind the Iranian people in a powerful speech:

            “The people of Iran are crying out for freedom. All freedom loving people must stand with their cause. We must not be silent!”

      Here was a president and his administration that was committed to the human rights of the Iranian people. There would be no more appeasement and no more billions of dollars donated to the Mullahs to fund their worldwide terrorism. The strategy of the Trump Administration was straight forward and direct. Dry up the cash flow and funds that enriches the Mullahs, bankrupt their terrorist regime, and bring them to their knees so that the people could rise up and take their country back. In almost every city in Iran, Iranians were mobilizing their protests energized and inspired by the support of President Trump. Through the first few months of February they stormed the streets, raised their voices, and confronted a corrupt government. In the end, the regime had arrested over 3,700 protesters, and brutally murdered 21. Trump continued to voice his support for the people of Iran by once again using Twitter as his platform.

                “Such respect for the people of Iran as they try to take back their corrupt government. You will see great support from the United States at the appropriate time!”

      While the Iranian people were driven by the passionate support of President Trump, unfortunately they were also suffering from the results of the increased sanctions. A few months later on August of 2018, truckers all across Iran went on strike reacting to the deplorable work conditions and failing to receive paychecks for their hard work. The government stepped in and arrested 200 truckers and publicly announced that they would implement the death penalty against 17 activists. The government viewed their strike as “fighting against God!”

            In November of 2018, Trump implemented the harshest part of the sanctions against the government. The United States threatened to penalize buyers of Iranian oil, reducing their exports to zero! They blacklisted 50 Iranian banks, their national airline, and 65 aircraft. As a result of this action, The U.S. was now in a position to seize Iranian assets. Trump demanded that that they abandon their ballistic missile development and stop supporting militant groups in Syria and Yemen. Twenty countries pledged their support to the sanctions, cutting their imports of Iranian oil, thereby shrinking their exports by one million barrels a day.

            The November sanctions could very well be the final deathblow to a dying economy and a bewildered government struggling to maintain their control of the Middle East. The year 2019 will mark the 40th Anniversary of the Islamic Republic of Iran since the bloody revolution that forced the Shah out of power and into exile. 2019 could also be the year of the long-awaited freedom that Iranians have been fighting for. For forty years they have cried out and shed their blood for democracy and freedom. They are desperate to retake their Persian homeland and rid it of the oppressive tentacles of Islam that have suffocated them for centuries!
            God has heard the cries or the Iranian people. He has answered their shouts and cries for freedom by giving them an American President that would be their voice and not turn his back on them like Carter did in 1978. Another revolution is on the horizon in Iran and a weakened and desperate evil regime may collapse in 2019. Let us speak out and diligently pray for the Iranian people that God will intervene and bless them with a new government that will respect their human rights and give them freedom.

            “We must not be silent!”

Monday, November 5, 2018

My Life in Iran from 1986-2017

Mehnoush Bakhtiari suffered under the oppression of an abusive father growing up in Iran. This is her story of survival and how one day her life was dramatically changed when she met Christ. This story will be featured in our new book, "Dear God: Please bring freedom to Iran."

                                                           My life in Iran (1986-2017 )      

            My name is Mehnoush Bakhtiari. I am a 32 year-old Iranian girl that was born into a Muslim family with a dictator father and a culturally suppressed mother. My father belonged to the Lor Tribe and according to their ancestral traditions, the “male child” received all of the family honor in preference to females. My mother was forced into a cultural marriage to my father unaware that he was a practicing polygamist, already married to another woman, and had two sons. She was too busy being a school teacher and a slave to housekeeping that she didn’t realize anything about my father’s past when she married him.  On the day of my brother’s birth, my father happily celebrated with a huge party because Allah had blessed him with a male child.  My mother was already 6 months pregnant and my father couldn’t wait to have another celebration!

            On February 12, 1986, the year that Iran was still engaged in a bloody war with Iraq, I was born in a hospital in Tehran. My father was devastated! It seemed like the end of the world to him. Enraged over the birth of a girl instead of a male child, he left my mother suffering in bed after undergoing a painful caesarean section. Returning home from the hospital still in pain, life for my mother became more difficult and stressful. My father’s mood became uglier each day. It was torture for him to accept the birth of a female.

            By the time I turned five years old, instead of wearing make-up or playing with dolls, my father insisted that I shave my head, wear boyish clothes, and play football with my brother. This was the only way that he could cope with me being a female. When my father was at work, my mother came to my aid and had me change my clothes from jeans to skirts, and she even purchased dolls for me to play with. She insisted that I should not hide my femininity. As time when on, my hair began to grow back and one of the most precious memories of my childhood that I remembered best was when my mother would tenderly comb my blond hair and adorn it with colorful clips.

            However, the happier moments with my mother did not last very long. My father’s behavior toward me grew uglier. He complained to my mother that I was too busy with schoolwork and should instead be taught cooking skills and learning household chores that were fitting for a woman! By the time I turned 18, he wanted me to marry one of my relatives in order to get rid of me as soon as possible. He intended for me to become just like my mother by studying the Quran, be an efficient housekeeper and learn child nursing skills. I despised this kind of lifestyle and fought it every step of the way! I longed to go to university, study hard, travel, and meet other people, and learn about their cultures.

            Deep down inside of me I longed for a spirituality that fulfilled the passions of my heart, a spirituality that made me feel wanted and loved by a personal God. I hated the times I was forced to hold the Quran in my hands and listen to Islamic teachings from my father. When I would look into my mother’s eyes, I saw an emptiness, as she recited from the Quran. She had no peace and was only going through the motions to please my father.

            When my father revealed that he had married a third wife, my mother had finally reached the breaking point. She refused to sit by and just tolerate the other women and be a faithful spouse. Standing up to my father, she demanded a divorce. It was the first time that I remember her mustering up the courage to confront him. I knew she had reached the end of her so called, “patient submissiveness!”

            However, my father adamantly refused to grant her the divorce and concocted a plan with his emotional manipulative tactics, persuading us to take a trip to the northern section of Iran to relax and carefully sort out our differences. It was here in the beautiful countryside that I witnessed the absolute evil and dark side of my father. I vividly remember, even though this was many years ago, that my Father took my brother and I by the hand to walk on the beach of the Caspian Sea. Little did I realize that he was planning to drown us in front of my mother! It was all part of his devilish scheme to force my mother into dropping her plans to divorce him by threatening to drown us before her eyes. However, my mother proved herself that day to be a tough and courageous survivor. She screamed so loudly, creating a scene, that people began to rush toward us on the beach frantically wanting to know what was wrong. My father’s plans had been thwarted!

            After a long and hard legal battle, my mother succeeded in divorcing my father. In Iran, it is very difficult for a woman to obtain a divorce and in most every case she loses custody of her children. However, in this case, she miraculously won out! Even though we were successful in separating ourselves from my abusive father, the financial burden became too enormous for my mother to shoulder. My brother, influenced by my persuasive father, decided to leave us and live with him. Iran is very patriarchal, man-centered society, and now the financial responsibility fell upon my shoulders. I became the “head” of the house and with the help of one of my mother’s colleagues at the university, I took a job in the tourism industry. Since I was a child, I always loved learning about new cultures and languages so this was the perfect job for me! My father had never let us travel alone, so being a tour guide was the answer to one of my lifelong dreams. It was at this time that my father continued to punish us for divorcing him. He convinced my brother not to allow us to attend his wedding and this crushed my mother. Day and night, she wept and moaned and all I could do was hold her in my arms and console her.

            After a few months of working for the tourism industry, my manager asked me to travel to United Arab Emirates and handle a contract. I was thrilled and immediately persuaded my mother to accompany me on the trip. Once we arrived, we could immediately sense the freedom and loveliness of this wonderful country. I remember the joy of allowing the wind to blow through my hair since the United Arab Emirates did not have a mandatory hijab law. I noticed that the cloud of depression had lifted off of my mother and I was overjoyed to see her relax and smile for the first time in many months. It was such a wonderful experience seeing people enjoy life, walking, jogging, and cycling in the outdoors, free from the shackles and chains of a patriarchal society. Both my mother and I wished that this feeling of joy and exuberance could have lasted forever, but 2 weeks later reality set in when we had to return to Iran.
            I continued to travel and meet people from different cultures and I vividly remember on one particular trip that I was introduced to some very nice Christian people.  I was very impressed by their kindness and respect and became good friends with one young Christian girl. Together we visited a Christian Church in Armenia and as we walked inside, I was overcome with such a peace and a sense of the divine. I had been struggling under the darkness of depression and I will never forget the experience of walking into that church and being overwhelmed by such a feeling of tranquility in my soul.

            After the trip, I began to research Christianity and study the Bible. I was so impressed by the way Jesus treated women and showed love and compassion to the hurting and the lost. I was gripped by his love and how this innocent man, who claimed to be the Son of God, willingly died on the cross to forgive the sins of all mankind. Through my research I discovered how very much different Christianity was from Islam. The God of Christianity was filled with love and compassion unlike the God of Islam. Human beings were treated with great value, respect, and compassion. Christianity taught love and forgiveness, while Islam taught violence and revenge. My trip to Armenia had planted the seeds of a new way of life in my soul that was to change me forever!

            While back in Iran, I became close friends with The Jabbari family. Their daughter, Reyhaneh was on death row in prison for defending herself against a government rapist. I spent many days, praying, hugging, and crying with Shole, Reyhaneh’s mother. The misogynistic society of Iran had no respect for women. Their only value to men was birthing babies and keeping the house. I will never forget the morning of October 25, 2014, when we heard the news that Reyhaneh had been unjustly executed by hanging. That morning changed my life forever. I was outraged by the tactics of this murderous regime who treated humanity like cattle! I could no longer be silent! I had to speak out and began writing articles on Facebook about the sins and evil cruelty committed by the government. I needed to shout to the world, that my homeland, once the glorious Persian empire of beauty and history, had been captured and corrupted by the oppressive religion of Islam.

            I soon realized that my life was now in danger. I knew the regime would be looking for me and unless I quickly left, I would suffer the same fate of many others who had been imprisoned and executed for speaking out against the government. In August of 2017, I said a tearful goodbye to my mother and asked her blessing on me as I fled my homeland for a more safe and peaceful life. I applied for a visa to take an English language course at a university in Sweden. I explained I was going there to study, but once I arrived, I made plans to never go back to Iran. A new chapter in my life had now begun. I was now a refugee in a foreign land, an asylum seeker, never to return to my homeland.

          I had successfully escaped from that misogynist, religious, oppressive, and dictatorship regime and for the first time in my life, I had a bright future ahead of me. I had ridded myself of the dark and difficult days of living in an oppressive culture. I was ready to begin a brand-new life!

            In the first few months, I managed to successfully pass a short-term English course in an international university and graduated. It was during this time, that one of my friends took me to a church in the city of Stockholm. After several visits of getting to know the members of the church, I talked with the pastor and explained to him about my research into the Christian religion. On November 5, 2017, I was baptized in a special ceremony. The water was very chilly, but I will never forget how cleansed I felt after being submerged. I was immediately overwhelmed with a feeling of peace. The darkness of Islam that had filled my soul with torment and oppression had finally been cleansed in the wonderful waters of baptism. I felt born again! I felt like a completely new person. This time my faith had not been formed by my father or a government’s threats, but instead it was the result of my heartfelt and emotional commitment to Christ! Now I could express my ideas and opinions without fear and publish them as essays and books!

            Now I could open up the Bible and dig deep discovering the riches and treasures of God’s grace. I was still a new student of the scriptures eager to read and discover their meanings and live by their principles. In the Old Testament, I came across a very powerful promise of God that really spoke to my heart. It was as if God was speaking directly to my heart and assuring me of his love for my homeland and all Iranians.

                                 “And I will deal severely with all who have oppressed you.
                                           I will save the weak and helpless ones;
                                      I will bring together those who were chased away.
                                     I will give glory and fame to my former exiles,
                                        Wherever they have been mocked and shamed.
                           On that day I will gather you together and bring you home again.
                                  I will give you a good name, a name of distinction,
                                          Among all the nations of the earth.
                                 I will restore your fortunes before their very eyes.
                                                   I, the Lord, have spoken!”
                                                    (Zephaniah 3:19-20 NLT)

            My goal is to write and publish books about injustices and cruelty done by the Iranian government against my people. Shortly after I became a Christian, I became friends with Randy Noble. I was so impressed by his love and commitment to the Iranian people. He is my Angel! He has given me the privilege of writing articles for his radio program. God brought a wonderful American friend into my life to fulfill my dream of writing books and being a voice for my people. The book you are holding in your hands is the result of many nights of praying and crying out to God. I believe now that God will answer my prayers and the prayers of many others and one day bring true freedom and democracy to Iran!