“In the six months I was in prison, they executed 20 people” – Believer from Iran
Saman and Morad are among the many Christians who have been imprisoned in the Islamic Republic of Iran because of their faith. For years they both were held captives in appalling conditions. Today they tell the stories of their imprisonment, recalling events from some of the most difficult and challenging periods of their lives. With disarming honesty, Saman and Morad narrate their ups and downs, their hardships and sufferings, their trials and tribulations along with their interior struggles of faith while in prison where their only crime was being followers of Jesus Christ.
“The prison was a terrible, terrible place,” says Morad, a man in his 40’s, when a crew from Open Doors met him to ask questions at a trauma care training centre he attends for ex-prisoners. “In the six months I was there, they executed twenty people. The executions were announced through the prison loudspeakers. Some of those that died had been in my cell; it was heart-breaking to see the fear of death in their eyes.”
Morad, before his arrest, was working as a teacher in his church. Whilst he was teaching somebody about the faith in another city they took him away. “No one knew where I was,” he says. “The interrogators made fun of me and kicked me while they were asking me questions. Everything I said was used against me. I talked to God: “Lord, you see all this; why do You allow this to happen?” but He was silent.”
Saman, just like Morad, is also a visitor to the ex-prisoner trauma care training centre. As a passionate believer, he used to lead the youth in his fast-growing church. His time spent in prison quickly changed him due to the affliction he had to suffer. “When they came to take me away, I had to leave my shaking and crying mother at home, and it was heart-breaking to see her in such misery. In prison, I was afraid and felt hopeless. I felt so far from God that during the first days of imprisonment I couldn’t even pray.”
He went further and said that “they tried to break me by telling me what a nobody I was. They broke my identity.” Saman felt so far from God that at some point he even doubted his faith. “I thought: Is this it? Have I wasted thirteen years of believing in Him? Does he even exist?”
The two ex-prisoners were subject to interrogations where their own friends were used as witnesses against them in court. Morad relates that after an interrogation he fell on his knees in desperation and in that moment God talked to him: “Be silent, embrace me, and embrace me like you are stuck on me with glue.”
Saman also found his way back to praying. “I got so angry after my first telephone conversation with my mother and sisters. I shouted through the hallways when I was being brought back to my cell. I shouted I don’t deserve this! Then in my cell, I started shouting at God, “Where are you?!” “Slowly my prayers softened in intensity until the joy of the Holy Spirit came over me and I started dancing and singing, ‘Jesus is alive, Jesus is alive!'” Still, Saman doesn’t know the answer as to why God was silent during his time in prison. For him, one thing is certain; he now knows he has been called to preach the Gospel.
Saman, after his release from prison, is still struggling with God and trying to restore his faith in Him. “In prison, I felt God was so close, but also the most distant. And when I came out of prison I didn’t receive the care I expected from the Church. I felt forgotten not only by the church but also by God. Still, I never felt that God really left me. It’s not the same yet, but I believe it will return – he concluded.”
“Being imprisoned for Christ is not easy, it’s real and it isn’t a nice experience,” added Morad. “But it is also a reality check. Am I willing to suffer for my Lord? And even after those horrible months in prison, I can still say that yes, it’s more than worth it. I believe in Jesus, and if this means I have to suffer, then I am willing to do so.”
Date of publication on Open Doors: 1 May 2018.
*Names have been changed for security reasons.