08/13/2019 Washington D.C. (International Christian Concern) – “Single moms are looked upon as prostitutes. Society doesn’t care for them. They are outcasts, someone to be used. It is different in Iran than other parts of the world; here, there is no compassion or love for single mothers. The men look at them as how can they be used, how they can become temporary wives. They are facing extreme amounts of persecution that is unbelievable. No one in society feels sorry for them. They just look at how can they take advantage,” lamented Farah.
As a young mother in Iran, Farah faithfully studied the Koran and prayed each of the Islamic prayers. However, when her brother contracted Hepatitis-C, her family began searching for answers— and found an illegal Christian television broadcast.
They attentively listened to a sermon about Jesus’ healing power. Desperate, they said a prayer. “The next time we went to the doctor, he was healed,” Farah recalled.“So we talked to the program again and asked for Bibles. All of the family then became Christian.”
Farah’s father was the first to embrace Christianity, but his conversion was short-lived.
“The greatest persecution started from our home. Even though my dad had initially said he was Christian, things changed quickly,” Farah reflected. “He didn’t like how we were meeting with other Christians, and Christians were coming in our house. He started beating us, telling us if we didn’t stop following Christ he would kick us out. And he eventually did.”
Farah became nomadic, bouncing between the homes of various extended family members. But her Christian faith was always resented. She had only one option left: low-income housing in one of Tehran’s roughest neighborhoods. Making matters worse, she was a single mother with a young toddler.
“Long story short, I was a single mom and when I was kicked out, our family moved to a poor part of the city where there were a lot of single women,” said Farah. “They were selling themselves. And the married women were forced to sell themselves so the family could have money.”
Farah’s ex-husband was a drug addict who had abandoned the family. She never imagined that as a Christian, she would be forced to live in a place of prostitution and drugs. It should’ve been a nightmare. But it wasn’t. It was a means of grace.
The neighbors were always watching. Many of them were also single mothers. They knew that Farah was a Christian, and this was why she refused to sell herself into prostitution. The women were amazed. They realized they could say no, and began to push back against their environment. The men grew frustrated.
Farah knew the risks, but she bravely continued sharing her faith and encouraging other women.
“I would be walking my daughter as a toddler to school, and once a guy stopped me and yelled at me that I was destroying everything,” says Farah. The man was selling his wife into prostitution, and one day, she stopped. He told Farah, “Now you are responsible for us not getting paid, so now you have to be responsible for the wife’s and kids’ food and water.”
“There were a lot of instances like that,” she remembered.
“I would be walking my daughter as a toddler to school, and once a guy stopped me and yelled at me that I was destroying everything.”
For 18 years, Farah devoted her life to serving these women. God was redeeming the persecution she had experienced at the hands of her own family. Her suffering and experiences had purpose. She was there to help other single mothers who felt they had no way forward except prostitution by offering them the Gospel.
Women have no rights in Iran, and forced temporary marriages are common. This is why so many find themselves as single mothers caught in prostitution. Their hardline society takes away consent. Christianity restores it, but the women become vulnerable in a whole new way.
One woman’s situation continues to haunt Farah. All Iranian women carry special cards which detail their marriage history and children. They can’t get jobs without this card, but employers prey on single mothers. They know that when the choice is between providing food for their children and homelessness, mothers put their children first.
Farah eventually developed a close friendship with a young prostitute, Ava. Through selling herself, Ava earned approximately $800 a month – barely enough to survive. But when Ava became a Christian, she took a leap of faith and stopped engaging in prostitution.
Farah remembers her story, “She became a believer and found a new job for $400, which was barely paying the rent even for low income housing. So she went to her new job and the boss asked her, ‘How can you survive for $400 a month? Come and I will take you under my covering, you just need to have sex with me.’”
Farah continued, “She said, ‘I am not Muslim, I am a Christian and we don’t do that in Christianity.’ He said, ‘If you don’t have sex with me then, I will turn you into the authorities for evangelizing and that is the death penalty.’”
Seeing this situation unfold greatly impacted Farah. “I was really shaken by the fact that when women would stand up for Christ, their income would drastically drop. But also more than that, the threats they got and the persecution made them hide out and run. Their life became very difficult. My friend, the way she stood her ground, really impacted me by her testimony.”
She added, “It is always the same. Finding a job, and rejecting sex, is a constant.”
For nearly two decades, Farah continued in her ministry. But this year, it came to an end. Local Iranian officials finally had enough. They arrested her sister, and requested that Farah turn herself into a local police station. Instead, Farah fled Iran.
Farah never imagined that she would leave Iran. She loves her country, and the women she has left behind. Currently, she is seeking sanctuary in a neighboring country where she awaits news of her arrested sister. Life here is different, and somehow even more difficult.
“The reason we loved staying in Iran is because we saw such need for Christ,” she explained. “There was such a purity and community in the house churches that I haven’t found outside of Iran. It was so beautiful. Under the persecution, there was such a beautiful love for Christ I have seen nowhere else. Through that, there came a unity for all of us.”
She is still grieving for those she left behind. “My heart is really breaking for the women there, especially when they become Christian. They go through extreme persecution and experience such poverty. No one is helping them.”
Farah needs prayer as she waits for news of her family in Iran. But she does not want us to forget these other women. Society takes away their consent and ignores their humanity. But Christ restores and redeems. And this remains her constant prayer for Iran’s women.