Editor’s note: After Kurosh and Jular converted to Christianity in Iran, they feared for their safety. When the pastor of their underground church was arrested, they decided to flee the country. Now the couple lives in Cuyahoga Falls and they both attend college: Kurosh wants to work in computer networking and Jular aspires to be a pharmacist. Below is an essay that Kurosh recently wrote for his composition class:
It was in November 2011 that my wife and I decided to leave home. At first, thinking of this matter was out of our vision, and it was hard to make such a decision. For a while, we had a fear of being arrested by the government, and this fear was growing and became unbearable for us, so that we could not have a normal life. We were visiting our family for the last time and saying, “You are not going to see us at home anymore.”
Our adventure started about a year before that night, when a friend shared some new descriptions of God. For years, I was denying God and all other religions because when I started to mature, I focused on Islam, and it caused me to think that there was not any God, and people made this myth to achieve money and power to rule over others. On that day, my friend explained how we could achieve salvation through Jesus Christ. It didn’t take long for me to become a Christian. And then my wife came to Christ as well.
Christianity, however, is an unforgivable crime in Iran, especially for someone with an Islamic background. Islamic governments are against all other ideologies, and they do not let people have different ideas except Islamic beliefs. Sometimes even they kill people because of their non-Islamic insights. After a few months, I lost my job because the company’s managers figured out about my new beliefs, and they fired me. But the issue did not end with that, and the security police tried to come into our home to find something like a bible or anything related to our beliefs, and then use them to condemn us. We were lucky to stay safe in that situation.
Our last hours at home and being with our parents and our sisters was like a dream. At that time, I could not record any reality of my situation in my mind. Time was running fast, and I was not capable of controlling anything. I wished I could hold onto the time forever, and keep loving them and spending time with them. I would have paid more attention to the moments that we had together before this event. Sometimes I looked at my parents’ faces and thought about their worry. We were leaving our families for the rest of our lives, and we did not know if we would be able to see them again. The hour arrived without asking, and we should have said “goodbye,” but it was out of the limit of my endurance. We hugged our loved ones, and left home for the train station.
When we got to the station, we had to pass security checks before getting on the train. It took a long time to hand over our suitcases and find our compartment on the train. After a little delay, the train departed from the station and my heart was deeply wounded. I felt that I was losing a huge part of my being. The train was going far from our lovely home and it was separating me from my all attachments and memories.
I remembered my whole life from my childhood to my last days living at home. Memories of my grandma’s house, of the laughter of my sisters when we were playing, and of walking with friends during beautiful nights in my hometown, were crossing my mind. My thoughts were traveling from one point to another, remembering family, being too far from home, and not having time to visit my friends for the last time to say, “goodbye.”
I could watch the view that was crossing from a little window on our wagon. I looked at the sunset on the Zagros Mountains, thinking about thousands of years of my country’s history. We crossed from Lake Urmia, which is one of the most engaging tourist attractions, and saw the birds flying around the lake. I thought of how the Islamic government 38 years ago came into power and destroyed freedom in our country. Before the Ayatollahs, we had a great life without any issue with our beliefs or personal insights, but since they started ruling our country, they changed the laws and pushed people to a radical Islamic culture in which no one has the right to have his/her own ideas even a personal life. They came as invaders and destroyed the cultural and historical values that we were proud of.
Day gave its place to the night, and darkness covered over us. That night was darker than a normal night. The train whistle was a sad song, whispering in my ears, and I was carrying a lot of sorrow. Thinking about moving from our home to another country, and how we could deal with new people, a new language and a new culture crossed my mind. We had lost what we had because we had decided to put God as the first priority of our life. We did not have any chance to make changes in that situation, but we knew that we were not alone.
We could not sleep until morning. It was about sunrise when the train passed from the last checkpoint and we entered Turkey. After a few hours traveling in the mountains, we got to a lake that is called Lake Van. The weather was too cold, as cold as whole days without home.
We had to get the ferry to cross the lake, and then another train to Istanbul. Our process for refuge had to start with registering at the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which was in Istanbul. Lake Van was surrounded by black, sharp mountains and a heavy fog. Traveling on a cold lake and watching unknown views was not that interesting to us because we could not think of another thing except home.
Eventually, we arrived at our destination, and got onto the process with the United Nations. Our process was not as easy as we expected. We stayed in Turkey for a long time and lived with hardships and problems. Refugees’ lives are too difficult in Turkey; they are not legally allowed to have jobs, nor does the Turkish government support them. We had to work unlawfully, and sometimes job owners did not pay us because they knew that we could not complain. Finally, after about four years, we gained a US Visa and came into America.
It has now been about five years since we left home. Sometimes I think about that night, and I say to myself, “If I turn back to the past, I would do what I did before, because there was not another way to choose for us, and we had to leave our home.”
Looking back over our past reminds me of a major decision, which has changed everything in our lives. We achieved freedom to be ourselves, who we were not allowed to be in Iran. Today we can express what we think freely, and we are permitted to have our own ideas about religion and God. We gained opportunities for new careers, education, relationships and so on in America. However, we always feel some empty places in our hearts, which are memories of family and home. We must always remember that these places can be filled with God’s love, and by loving people. We learned how to live with happiness in any situation, and be flexible to deal with hardships.
At this moment, many people have the same experience as me. Some are leaving their homes for war reasons, some for political reasons and some for religious reasons. These matters are coming from dictatorial governments who are ruling over people and breaking human rights. Some do not know the meaning of freedom because they have never felt it. Some kids are born in these countries with war and they do not even have a chance of a low-level life. Some of them decide to leave their homes and take a dangerous risk to achieve freedom, and many of them lose their lives in this way.
Imagine when we relax on a comfortable couch, watch “Friends,” drink a cup of Starbucks coffee on a cold winter night, and enjoy our time with family and friends. Some people on the other side of the world, though, are fighting with ruthless governments because of their primary rights. It is good to keep in mind that what we have here, what we take for granted – freedom – is a huge desire of millions of people around the world.