Saeed, an Iranian Christian refugee

I was born in a fanatic Muslim family in western Iran. My parents made every effort to bring me up in the ways of Islam. By the age of 12, I was praying the Islamic prayers and fasted. The strict observance of the Islamic requirements made me proud. I hoped that someday I would enter paradise. However, I was a selfish and proud person. I excelled in education and became the top student in my classes in order to show off. If someone wronged me I would not forgive him. I simply evened the score.

After graduation from high school I entered the military. I performed my military service during the Iran-Iraq war. Because of the dangers, I often prayed to God. However, it seemed like my communication was one way. I never sensed any response from God. Also, my prayers were in Arabic, a language I did not understand. They seemed to bounce off the ceiling. This made me feel angry and rebellious. Soon, I turned my back on God and began to say blasphemous things.

When I returned home following my military service, I saw my parents quarrel often. I began to avoid home and to drink alcohol with my young friends. At first, alcohol seemed to be the answer to my problems. I could forget them, at least temporarily. I then started to drink several bottles every morning. During the day, I would try to cause a fight with someone and then beat him up. Soon, the alcohol started to lose its magic impact. This led to my search for stronger substances. But, I did not succeed. Then, my family fled from Iran. Life seemed even less satisfying after they left and I often thought of suicide.

A friend recommended marriage. I quickly followed his advice and married a beautiful young lady. For a while, I was happy. Later, however, our marriage did not satisfy me. It seemed like I had tested everything: religion, education, alcohol, violence, marriage and wealth. Nothing satisfied me.

All of my family except for me left Iran in 1988. They fled to Turkey through the mountains. My father was persecuted and tortured by the Islamic government of Iran for his political opinion. My family stayed in Turkey for a while and later found their way to Europe.

My father wanted me to escape from Iran with him. However, I did not go with him because I loved Iran and I felt I was secure since I had no anti-government activity. My wife and I moved to another city where I began work for an auto sales dealer. A few months after my family left Iran, four Revolutionary Guards came to my workplace in a police car. They arrested me and took me to the local Komiteh (local government law enforcement body) for questioning. The head Guard interrogated me. He demanded my father's whereabouts, where I had been recently; and who my friends were. I responded that I did not live with my father and did not know where he was. The Guard did not accept my answers. The interrogator said that he had witnesses ready to testify that I had aided in my father's escape from Iran. He told me that I must return my father to Iran. When I refused to cooperate, the interrogator threatened me. He said that unless I cooperated fully by giving him all of the information, including names of my father's friends, I would face terrible consequences.

Still I did not give any information. The interrogator became angry and slapped me on both sides of my face. He repeated his threats. Authorities detained me for three days and then transferred to the court building for further interrogation. They threw me into a basement cell which only had a small window. I was there for 15 days. I saw no one except for the guard who brought me food once a day by sliding it under the door. There was only a small sink and toilet in the room. After 15 days, the guard took me to an office where another man interrogated me for about an hour. The guard again blindfolded me and took me back to the basement. They repeated this the following day. The interrogator asked if I knew someone who could bail me out. My boss posted bond and the officials released me.

The officials ordered me to report to their office and sign a notebook every morning. A month later, when the Islamic judge arrived in our town, officials summoned me to court. I described my arrest and mistreatment. When the judge saw my tears and pleading, he felt compassion and ordered the officials to drop the requirement that I report to the government authorities each day. Feeling a sense of relief, I felt that my troubles were over.

Nevertheless, a few months later, three government agents came to my auto dealership and demanded to use the phone for long distance calls. After completing a lengthy long distance call, they dialed another long distance call. I told them that the store was not mine and that I could not permit them to us the phone. They beat me for about 10 minutes with their fists, kicks and rifle butts, breaking my skull and bruising my body. One of the agents aimed his rifle at the customers and told them to stand still or he would shoot them. After the attackers left, one of the customers took me to the hospital where hospital personnel treated and bandaged my wounds. When I arrived home, the sight of my wounds horrified my wife. When I described the event to my employer, he told me that I could no longer work for him. He also advised me to move to another town.

My wife and I, following his advise, moved to another town. I opened a clothing store there. Everything was peaceful for a few months. Nonetheless, one autumn morning, several members of the local Komiteh to my store. They searched the store and vandalized it. When I asked them why they were doing this, they told me, "shut up, you know what we are searching for." They asked me where I was hiding the fliers I distributed during the night. I explained that I was a shop owner and knew nothing about such fliers. They forced me to close the store and accompany them to my home. One of the Komiteh members interrogated my wife in the courtyard, while another stood guard on our roof. The third watched me. When they did not find any incriminating evidence, they took me to the Komiteh station and placed me in a dark, cold, dirty and smelly room. The following morning, without giving me any food, they took me to the office of the Komiteh head for further interrogation.

He asked me some routine questions and then asked me whether I had any communication outside of Iran. I answered, "no." He accused me of lying and produced an envelop from a letter my father had recently sent to me from Europe. I had saved it for the address. The government agents had found the envelope in my store. He asked me why my father was in Europe. I explained why my father fled Iran. Through my uncle's influence and payment of a large bribe I was released. Nevertheless, Komiteh members continued to harass me. I learned that a government agent was sending incorrect reports about me to the government authorities. This agent continued to harass me. However, due to my father's escape from Iran, I was helpless to stop the harassment. Eighteen months after moving to this town, my wife and I moved to another town. Since I knew some influential people there, I hoped that I could recover some of the financial losses there. I opened a china shop and we lived in peace for a year.

My cousin owned and operated a store nearby. One day, my cousin caused a fight with several government informers. They severely beat him. My uncle and I took him to the hospital. The next day, my cousin filed a complaint against the informers. The medical examiner examined him and gave him a one month leave of absence due to his injuries. Several days later, while I visited my uncle in his home, the informers along with reinforcements knocked on the door. I could not tell how many there were because it was dark. When they came inside, one of them put his rifle barrel under my uncle's chin. He threatened that if my cousin did not withdraw his complaint the following morning, everyone in the house would be killed. Needless to say, my cousin withdrew his complaint.

However, a week later, the informers raided and vandalized my store and my cousin's store, causing severe damage. They told me that they knew that I was the son of an escapee and that they would settle that account with me later. Although other merchants witnessed the raid and vandalism, they were too afraid to interfere. I did not dare to file a complaint. I also dissuaded my cousin from filing a complaint. When I arrived home, my wife became very upset when she saw how badly I had been injured in the raid. The following day, she told me that she could no longer live with me because half of the time I was in prison or being beaten. Subsequently, she returned to her parents' home and demanded a divorce. My wife never returned to me. Later on, the same informers kidnaped me and took me to their base where they imprisoned and tortured me for three days. They released me only after I paid them a bribe.

By now, several years had passed since my father's escape from Iran. I received a letter from my father in Europe. In the middle of the letter I read some words that made me dizzy. I read and reread it. He had written, "I am now a Christian." I became so outraged that I began to curse. I was so angry, I would have killed my father if I had seen him. My father also told other family members in Iran that he had become a Christian. Because of this, family members began to shun me. They called me "son of a heathen," "unclean," and someone who had hurt the family reputation. I made an oath to kill my father.

The news spread throughout the town. Government agents, who had found my father's damaging letter, summoned me to the governor and to the Islamic judge. In their presence I swore on the Qur'an that I was a faithful Muslim and that I, myself, would kill my father. I meant it. The Islamic judge liked what I said and released me.

Later, however, when I went to my store, I found all of the windows broken. Armed informers stood nearby and laugh at me. They shouted that I must leave town and never return. At this point I saw no choice, but to leave Iran. To escape further persecution, I fled Iran.

In my new country of refuge, I relented and contacted a Christian family whom my father had recommended. From the beginning, this family's simple lifestyle, sincerity and love touched me. I had never seen these characteristics before. I longed for the same love and peace that they had. I thought to myself, "Why has God blessed this heathen family with such wonderful qualities!" I could not answer. Nevertheless, I began to think seriously. They loved me as if they had known me all my life. Their sincere prayers, thanking God for His blessings, touched my heart. It made me think about God. I sensed God's presence when they prayed. When I asked the family the secret of their loving life, they brought me a New Testament. I hesitated to accept the New Testament they offered. However, after a while I decided to accept it. I thought that it would give me ammunition to debate with them. I wanted to show them the falsehood of their beliefs! As I read the New Testament, I found nothing wrong in it. Strangely enough, the more I read it the more eagerly I wanted to read it. The New Testament showed me the way of love, peace, and life and how sinners can find salvation through Jesus Christ.

Until then, I thought that I was a righteous person. But, as I read this book, I recognized that I was a sinner. I learned that the way to heaven was not through good works, but only through God's grace which was provided through God giving His spiritual Son in order that no one would perish (John 3:16). The Gospel of Matthew chapter 11 touched my heart. Jesus said, "Come unto me all who are burdened and I will give you peace." My spiritual eyes opened and I realized that as a sinner I had no relationship with God. At midnight, one January night, I knelt and prayed, submitting my life to the Lord Jesus Christ.

My life changed from that point on. I now feel close to God. I hear Him speak to me when I read the Bible and meditate on it. He has given me peace. I fear no one. I know that my Lord has my future in his hands. My restlessness has turned to patience and forbearance. My old nature has died with Christ on the cross and He has given me a new nature. He has given me a heart of love and compassion. I even love the very enemies I so hated before.

The joy of the Holy Spirit replaced the alcoholism in my life. I no longer depend on my own thoughts and understanding. Now the Holy Spirit leads and controls my life.

Today I deeply love my family, particularly my father. I see the majesty and depth of God's love in how He brought me through the deep dark valleys of danger to a strange land where He saved me. My sorrow and depression have now turned to eternal joy. At one time, my family in Iran rejected me. Today, I am a member of God's vast family! I long to serve my Lord. I pray that he will make me a fisher of men. Pray for me as I seek to prepare for full time ministry.

Copyright April 1999 by Iranian Christians International, Inc., P.O. Box 25607, Colorado Springs, CO 80936. Used by permission. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission.

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