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Persecution, arrest leads to flight

leaky wooden boat

Years passed. Father, mother and son lived their lives and secretly practised their faith. They were held, increasingly, under suspicion… when wife and mother A'idah* is arrested, husband Hamid and son Dalir flee to Jakarta to meet with a people smuggler.
*Names have been changed to protect their identities.

Download this article as a PDF (Part 2 of Welcome Strangers)

A'idah once went to an Assyrian church, only to have the ‘basije’ – the religious police –storm the building. Non-Assyrians were running out of the back door as the basije entered the front door.

In their homeland, fear and pain are the results of public conversions. Corporal and capital punishment, and torture, are practices that are cruelly enforced. The ‘crimes’ of wearing the wrong clothes, or wearing too much make-up, or wearing your hair wrong… these are no laughing matters in the society where A'idah made her decision.

As she describes the situation she was facing, ‘If you change from Islam, you die.’

Dalir*, their son, was only nine when A'idah secretly converted. He also became a Christian. They were secretly baptised, and the US pastor who brought Hamid to faith arranged for them to find a house church near their home.

‘Dalir was so happy,’ A'idah recalls, smiling, ‘but he was too happy! We had to keep it secret for our safety, but he wanted to tell everybody and one day he gave a Bible to a classmate! We had to keep our faith a secret.’

Years passed. Father, mother and son lived their lives and secretly practised their faith. They were held, increasingly, under suspicion.

Hamid travelled to Malaysia to see Dalir, who was working in that country. While Hamid was away, the basije started to harass A'idah.

‘Hamid had given a Bible to someone in our town,’ A'idah explained, ‘and that person informed on him after being arrested and interrogated.’

That led to the arrest of A'idah. ‘Where is your husband?’ she was repeatedly asked.

Alerted to what was happening by A'idah’s sister, Hamid confided in fellow Persians in a Malaysian Starbucks; they took pity on him and gave him a phone number of a people smuggler, who arranged to get him to Australia to seek asylum. Hamid and Dalir fled to Jakarta to meet with the smuggler.

As for A'idah, back home, after two-and-a-half days of abuse behind bars she was released back home, where she remained under surveillance.
*Names have been changed to protect their identities.

Go to Part 3