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This Christian convert is one of the hundreds of believers who was raised in a Muslim family, but despite knowing the hardships Chrisitans had to endure from the Iranian Islamic regime consciously and willingly, converted to Christianity.

Iranian Christian News Agency, Mohabat News – Abbas Sarjalou-Nejad trusted Christ in 1387 (Persian Calendar) (i.e. 2008), while his wife converted a little earlier in 1385 (i.e.2006). Abbas, together with his wife and 9 year old child were forced to leave their hometown for unknown territories in order to save their life and be secure. The story of the hardships that Abbas Sarjalou-Nejad and his family have gone through shows only a small fraction of the noble people in whose hearts Jesus' light has risen. But the darkness and ignorance of the government of Iran has made the situation so difficult that they were forced to leave their homeland.

Abbas Sarjalou-Nejad, 39, spoke to Mohabat News about his conditions. He said "... I believed in Jesus Christ 3 years ago through my wife. We were happy in our faith. We were going to the church and wanted to share our joy with others. So, we were evangelizing and everything in our life had taken on a new color of life and truth. Everything was good until my family learned about our conversion to Christianity. That was when everything changed tremendously.

Abbas' Family learns about their conversion

Mr. Sarjalou-Nejad's 9 year old child had received a Christmas gift from the Sunday School of their church. The little boy showed the present to the family who had come for a visit and said that he received it from the church. That was when the visiting family suspected that they had converted to Christianity. Another reason that caused them to suspect their conversion was that Sarjalou-Nejads no longer participated in any of the Islamic ceremonies that were held in their family's house from the time they trusted Christ. And the childish words of Sarjalou-Nejad's son about his Christmas gift made the visitors almost sure that Sarjalou-Nejad's family had turned away from Islam.

Threats from the Family

Sarjalou-Nejad said that his family was extreme about their faith and that his brothers were members of the Basij militant group and highly devoted to Seyed Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader. This caused intense problems for Sarjalou-Nejad and his wife and their only son. He added: "My mother tried to change our mind by advising and admonishing us. She was thinking that we had gone astray way and should repent. When she saw that we defended our faith with logic and love, she shared the matter with other members of our family. At first my brother tried to force us back to Islam by threats and anger. He was also thinking that my wife had made me convert and that she had deceived me, so he told me to divorce her." This tension continued until Farvardin month (Persian Calendar) or March. It was on 5 March that my elder brother came to our home together with an Akhoond (Muslim cleric) and one of his friends called Shahram Saharkhiz, who was a member of Revolutionary Guard. At first, the Muslim cleric tenderly and kindly tried to show us that we had gone the wrong way and been deceived. He told me about the so called "beauties of Islam". But those were words that I had heard a thousand times. After some hours of talking, the cleric's tone changed and his so called reasonable words gave way to threats. He pursued this issue to the extent that he invited us for a debate. When he was leaving, his last word to us was, "you're apostates and a severe punishment awaits you". My brother beat my chest severely and said be sure that you can tolerate suffering and pain. Then they all left our house."

"I didn't consider my brother's threat serious. How is it possible that my brother with whom I had a very happy childhood, would cause troubles for me?"

Arrest and presence of security authorities

Sarjalou-Nejad's description of the security authorities raiding his home is such a harsh experience and depicts the situation which religious minorities face in Iran. He remembered the bitter experience of that night and told Mohabat News, "Some days passed after that meeting. It was 8 p.m. on 1 April, 2011 and we were watching T.V. We heard the doorbell. My wife went to open the door. I heard my wife arguing with some people, so I left the living room. I saw four agents in plain clothes, one of whom had a walkie-talkie in his hand. They pushed into our home. I told them with whose permission are you entering our house? The one with walkie-talkies, whose colleagues were calling him "Haji", said "we're from the national security and intelligence office and we need no permissions or warrants". I was shocked because I was neither politically active nor supporting any special party. Suddenly I thought its better if I call the police but they blocked my way and began to search the house. They even searched our bedroom. I tried to stop them and told them that we have some personal stuff in our bedroom. But one of the agents slapped me on the face. My son was scared and crying. My mother and father in law were living in the upper floor of our house and when heard the sound of my son's crying and screams of my wife, they came downstairs to see what had happened. My father in law tried to ask them for a warrant but they assaulted him and ordered him to back off."

"That night, the security officers seized all my CDs (even my son's cartoons) together with some Christian literature, six New Testaments, one Bible and a satellite receiver. They also told me to come with them. My wife tried to prevent them from taking me but then the one called "Haji" tried to arrest my wife as well, however my mother in law stopped them from doing that.

Being transferred to an unknown place

Sarjalou-Nejad said the security agents hand-cuffed him from behind in the elevator with plastic handcuffs and put him in a Peugeot car. He said "When we entered the Imam Ali highway they covered my head with a plastic bag and held me down on the car seat so that I couldn't know where they were taking me. After about 30-40 minutes we entered a building. They took me down the car and we went downstairs. After a while they removed the plastic bag from my head. I was in a corridor with metal doors on two sides. They took me down the hallway and put me behind one of those metal doors. I don't know how many hours they held me in that dark room but it was quite a long time. Eventually, two men came and took me to another room for interrogation. When they opened the door of the interrogation room, I saw a big table with a big man behind it.

The moment I entered the room I received a punch in my stomach and fell on the floor. This was how I found out that there was another person in the room whom I had not seen. Most of that interrogation session was passed by insulting, beating and violence. They asked me what church I attended and asked me to give them names of our house church, members, pastor and teachers. When they weren't hearing their desired answers from me, they intensified the beatings. One of the two interrogators was treating me harshly while the other was pretending to be kind. I was interrogated twice during the two days that I was in custody. At last they dictated a disclaimer to me and released me. When I was being released, they asked me to be available and they said they would be watching me. When I returned home after two days, I was both physically and mentally broken. I was cautious for a while and limited my visits to the church, though we were praying at home. But since we were in need of fellowship, we went to the church again. After attending some services, I concluded that the incident was just a threat from my brother to frighten me in order to give up my faith."

The second arrest, this time with torture

At 7 a.m. on 12 May 2011, Sarjalou-Nejad was again arrested in front of his house by security agents and then transferred to the intelligence office where he was held for one week. He was interrogated a number of times. This time he was being beaten and lashed during the interrogations. The scars from cigar burns are only some evidence for this criminal treatment he endured, as well as the mental pressure and psychological torture. The interrogators were telling him that they had arrested his wife and his son as well and put them in jail. They also showed him a picture of him and his wife in church. Abbas said "I was totally scared since I'm a just a man. I was not afraid for my own life but I was worried for my wife and son. I was so scared of what could happen to them. For everyone knows what happens in Iranian prisons including rape and every kind of torture. It was then that I realized, from the Islamic republic's point of view, anyone who believes in anything but a blind belief in Islam is putting the national security in danger."
After one week of physical and mental torture, this Christian convert from Islam was released on the condition that he would to collaborate with security authorities and after signing a written disclaimer. It seemed that the nightmare of what happened to him in the detention center of the intelligence ministry and the fear of it happening again was not going to end. Thus Abbas Sarjalou-Nejad and his family were forced to leave their house and spend some days in the home of a friend.
Then the security authorities called to his wife's cell phone and asked them to present themselves to the security branch building on Pasdaran St. Hemat highway. Prior to this call they learned from some friends that some of their other fellow Christians and church members were also summoned to the ministry of intelligence office. Sarjalou-Nejad and his wife didn't go to the given address and they hoped for a change. In the middle of this they found out that some of their friends were arrested by the security authorities. So, they made the difficult decision of leaving their homeland.
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