Iranian Christians Flee to United States
By BosNewsLife News (02/22/06)
(BosNewsLife)– Facing the death penalty in their home country for converting to Christianity, an Iranian family left Turkey Wednesday, February 22, for the United States , where they have been accepted for resettlement, a Christian news agency reported.
Compass Direct, which investigates persecution of Christians, said Zivar Khademian and her three adult children boarded a Delta flight to New York in the morning after traveling all night by bus to Istanbul from their temporary home in the central northern Turkish city of Kastamonu .
The family will spend one night in New York before flying on to Lincoln , Nebraska , where they will resettle with the assistance of a local refugee aid organization, Compass Direct said.
They fled Iran in 2003 after the widowed Khademian and her children were baptized in secret by a Protestant church in Tehran . Though the United States accepted the family for settlement in November, uncertainty over details of their emigration continued to plague the refugees up until their departure.
After arriving in Turkey , the family was twice refused refugee status by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) despite their status as former Muslims who had converted to Christianity. Under Iran s strict Islamic laws, anyone who abandons the Muslim faith faces the death penalty.
Kazem Moini had been jailed for six months in Tehran after being caught duplicating Christian tapes.
His sister, Fatemeh Moini, meanwhile, faced the prospect of being given in marriage to a strict Muslim relative from the Basij militia, who was making that demand based on the promise of her deceased father.
Later, the family reportedly obtained a copy of an arrest order issued in October 2004 by the Supreme Court of Iran against Khademian for committing apostasy. After the UNHCR declared their file closed, Turkish authorities threatened to deport them back to Iran . After international intervention including from the United States , the deportation was delayed but till the last moment, family members had difficulties with police.
Speaking Wednesday, February 22 at Istanbul s Ataturk Airport this morning, Khademian and her children told Compass Direct that it was hard to believe that they were actually going to the United States after all that they had been through.
Hossein Moini said Lincoln , Nebraska , “seems like a great place” after he saw photos on the Internet. “There is a church on every street.”
Fatemeh Moini said that she wants to learn English as quickly as possible so that she can make up years of school that she missed while in Turkey . Her goal is to study medicine and become a heart surgeon, Compass Direct reported. Khademian said that she was looking forward to being reunited with her oldest son, Faheem Moini, who works as an assistant pastor in Vancouver , British Columbia .
He was to drive to Nebraska to welcome his family to the United States . He immigrated to Canada in 1997 and did not see his mother and younger sister Fatemeh Moini, 20, in 12 years.
The other two refugees of the family, Hossein and Kazem Moini, both in their early 30s, last saw their older brother 17 years ago, Compass Direct said. Human rights workers say many Christians in Iran face persecution, while several church leaders are known to have been executed. (With reports from Turkey and Iran ).