Living in a country whose founding documents afford protection of speech, it is difficult to imagine a country were it is a capital offense to change religions or promote any faith other than Islam.
‘Captive in Iran’ is a modern day tale of religious persecution in the country of Iran. Maryam Rostampour and Marziyeh Amirizadeh are two young Iranian ladies who both converted to Christianity while on a visit to Turkey. They then took the risk, because of their love for Jesus, to share this newfound faith with anyone who would listen. Mapping out neighborhoods, they made a plan to reach their hometown of Tehran for the Lord.
Predictably the religious fundamentalists in the repressive local vicinity found out what they were doing, and they were arrested and placed in one of the most notorious prisons in Tehran, Evan Prison. Detained, interrogated, imprisoned and left in jail without legal counsel, they had no idea what their future would hold.
Conditions are deplorable in Evan prison. Crammed into an overflowing room with women whose charges ranged from murder to being alone with a man who wasn’t a relative, the girls waited to see what their outcome would be. Minimum food, poor to no medical care, unsanitary conditions, all things that would drive most to depression, encouraged these girls to put all their trust and faith in their precious Savior. Maryam & Marziyeh were filled with joy and appreciation for the continual opportunity to share their faith with all of the ladies held captive there. Having experienced the difficulty of street preaching the girls were amazed how the broken hearted and scared women were eager to hear about a living Lord who had true solutions to their trials and pain. Together they prayed and became strong and were able to have peace and even joy in the middle of the darkest place they had ever been.
Many prayers for healing and release from prison were heard as the girls prayed for and encouraged their fellow inmates. Several relationships were made that could only have been forged in the crucible of horrible suffering.
The interrogations continued from the time of their arrest throughout the days of incarceration. One especially intense and trying time they were sent downstairs with the most dangerous prisoners. Murderers, drug addicts and vicious lesbians inhabited this horrific section. Blindfold and separated from each other, they were in darkest dirtiest part of the prison. Continually interrogated and accused by their captors, held in small dark cells, sensory deprivation was used by their captors to try and break them. Again and again they were told to renounce their faith, and they would be free to leave. Again and again they were coerced to reveal the names of their other church members. Only scripture carved into the walls, little tokens they were able to leave for each other in the restroom, and prayer gave them the strength to carry on. The Lord poured out His Spirit on them and met and comforted them in personal ways to carry them through this grueling time.
The only way to be released from Evan was to renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. That was unthinkable, so they knew it was very likely that they would be executed or given life imprisonment unless they did.
International pressure began to build against Iran to release these girls. Letters flooded the prison, although they were never delivered. The UN called for their release. Things got more and more uncomfortable for the government of Iran. After a court case confirming their charges of treason, they were sure they would be sentence to death or life in prison. Miraculously the tables started to turn. High government officials came to see them and show them favor. The hand of the Lord moved on their keepers to release them. Praising God they walked out the gates of Evan and sought to resume normal lives. Paranoid wherever they went for fear of the fundamentalist police, who continued to follow them, they couldn’t relax. They were unable to fellowship with any of their former friends or family for fear of putting them in danger. Reluctantly they made the decision to leave their own country and sought political asylum in the US. Spending over a year in Turkey waiting for papers they were able to write down their thoughts and memories of their time in prison. They never wanted the memories to lapse of their dear sisters in Evan, or the miraculous works the Lord did there. Their capture and incarceration was a circumstance that they would never have asked for, but it led to the most fruitful time of ministry and personal growth they ever could have imagined. Their book is a testament to the fact that Jesus is with us in whatever difficult, dangerous or trying situation we are in. He is faithful and will always provide all that we need, and can turn even our worst trials in fruitful experiences.
Book review written by Diane Caston