Witness Statement: Soraya
“Soraya” is a young mother of two who converted to Christianity more than a decade ago. In her witness statement, she describes how she ran an illicit church out of her home and was arrested on multiple occasions for changing her religious beliefs. Although she played no major role in the post-election protests in Iran last summer, the authorities summoned her for interrogation and alleged that she had connections to foreign groups that wanted to overthrow the Islamic regime. Fearing for her life, she left Iran in September 2009.
Full Name: Soraya (Pseudonym)
Date of Birth: 1978
Place of Birth: Ilam, Iran
Occupation:: Registered Nurse
Interviewing Organization: Iran Human Rights Documentation Center (IHRDC)
Date of Interview: April 12, 2010
Interviewer: IHRDC Staff
This statement was prepared pursuant to an in person interview with Soraya. The statement consists of 52 paragraphs and 8 pages. The statement was approved by the witness on April 12, 2010.
1. My name is Soraya. I am 32 years old. Before leaving Iran I worked as a nurse. I converted to Christianity about 7 years ago. My change of religion made me a target of state authorities. After the June 2009 election, I was threatened with arrest. To avoid detention, I fled Iran in October 2009.
2. After my religious conversion, I was repeatedly dismissed from work and arrested several times. Shortly after I converted to Christianity, I was dismissed from my job. Two years ago. I was arrested for my religious activities and taken to the Ministry of Intelligence for interrogation.
3. Last summer, I attended a seminar on Christianity in Turkey. When I returned to Iran, I was fired yet again, this time from my job at the Social Security Office. Then I received a summons to report to the Ministry of Intelligence. There, I was questioned, threatened and subjected to psychological torture. My interrogators told me to stop going to Church and warned me to not proselytize (talking about the Bible and handing out Christian literature) or else I would be in trouble.
4. A few months later, on October 13, 2009, I received a summons from the Revolutionary Court. Shortly thereafter, a notice came for my husband too. The notice requested that he bring his wife to the Revolutionary Court. The notices were sent to my family’s house in Ilam, Iran and instructed me to report to the Ilam branch of the Revolutionary Court.
5. I was scared that if I complied with my summons, the authorities would treat me the same way they did my brother. My brother, who also converted to Christianity, was taken by the authorities many years ago and was never heard from again. When I was brought to the Ministry of Intelligence before I had been threatened a lot. I feared that if I showed up this time, I would be tortured and imprisoned. So instead, I chose to leave Iran for good.
6. Because I did not show up at court, the authorities imprisoned my husband. He is in jail in Iran at the present time.
Brother’s Arrest and Conversion
7. My brother converted to Christianity some time in 1990 or 1991. I discovered this years later when I was going through his book collection and found a Bible and other Christian literature.
8. My brother was arrested in 1993 or 1994 but, to this day, my family has never received official word about his arrest or his whereabouts. We do not know whether he is dead or alive.
9. What we do know about his arrest, we heard from eyewitnesses at the scene. My two cousins were with my brother when he was arrested by a patrol from the Revolutionary Committee in front of Tehran’s Azad University.