The Words of the Zahedi Family
The Japanese, German and American missionaries with Iranian brothers on the 21-city prayer tour.
The Prophet Mohammad asked them, "Am I not more precious than your own lives?" They replied, "Yes." It was then that he took Ali's hands and raised them up high, saying, "Whoever recognizes me as his Master will know Ali as his master."
This is what distinguishes the Shiite sect of Islam, which is the religion of Iran, from the Sunni sect, which predominates in the in the Arab nations.
Shiites believe in Ali's immediate right to the caliphate after the death of the Prophet. However,
Sunnis believe that because the Prophet's last words were not recorded, finding a successor for Mohammad should be decided in an assembly of elder disciples. Abu Bakr was elected as the first Muslim caliph. Ali was at that time 33 years old and was not well liked by Aisha as well as some others. In order to avoid conflict among Muslims, Ali went to Abu-Bakr and swore his allegiance to him. Abu-Bakr ruled the Islamic territories for two years and six months, then, Umar became the second and Uthman became the third caliph. Twenty-five years after the Prophet's death, the people killed Uthman and came to Ali and begged him to rule them.
Ali accepted the power and he was known as the fourth caliph.
But it didn't last more than six years, for he was struck down by a poisoned sword while he was praying in the mosque. To the Shiite, Ali is regarded as the greatest saint in Islam.
His martyrdom was followed by that of almost all of his eleven descendants. Together with him, there are 12 known Imams recognized by the Shiites.
Shiites believe that the 12th Imam disappeared at the age of 75 and he will come again in the last days as the savior or Mehdi (the Guide) to establish God's Kingdom of justice on earth.
During the rule of the second caliph, Umar, the Islamic army invaded Iran (Persia in ancient times), which was a great civilization based on the teaching of Zoroaster, the Persian prophet. Like other great empires, the Persian empire had become corrupted by the influence of bad religious leaders. Muslims, by instruction of Umar himself burnt many scientific books and other signs of civilization which to their eyes were the signs of blasphemy. And, like they actually did in North Africa, they tried to eliminate the Persian culture. For two hundred years they oppressed Iranians and forced all the philosophers and scientists and poets to do all their work in the Arabic language.
The suffering which came to Iran was one of the reasons Iranians didn't like the Arab rulers and came to follow Ali's descendants, who were, like themselves, being oppressed and martyred by the Arabs. Then in the 16th century Iran's religion officially was divided from other Islamic nations. Being followers of Ali and his 12 descendants as 12 Imams, a very strong Messianic feeling is among Shiites. This together with the development of Sufism, the mystic life, as well as the fact that so many martyrs lost their lives and were persecuted because of their beliefs, laid a rich spiritual foundation for Iran to receive the potential to serve God's providence.
Apart from what happened in Iran in recent years which, in my opinion, is a temporary phenomenon, the spiritual merits of the country were the base for the great revival movement called Sheikhieh, and from this movement came the Bahai'i faith in the city of Shiraz. Bahai' is suffered severe persecution from their beginning in 1854. They are much hated by traditional Muslims in Iran and during their 139-year history have endured tremendous persecution.
I felt this short background about Iran was necessary before I started my testimony.
I came from an average religious family, especially my mother and older sister are very faithful Muslims. I practiced my faith until I was 18 years old. At that time I had a strong desire to understand God and Islam so I used to attend in many religious meetings and discussions. At age 18, I opened my eyes more critically and I noticed a lot of wrong-doings and immoralities among "religious" people who came to our Islamic associations in my home town in northern Iran. Especially, I saw so much hatred and resentment against the other religions, mostly Jewish, Armenian Christian and Bahai'i faith and it was not my expectation that religion build their foundation on the destruction of others. Even though, at that time, I didn't know that the core of God and religious teachings must be love and forgiveness I still knew that something was wrong with the attitude of the Muslim preachers and what they were teaching.
I felt the contents of the teachings could not satisfy my heart and spirit and I decided that I would never become a religious person.
Reading some patriotic books about the history of Iran, I came to dislike fanaticism, which most people are the victims of, but I kept my love and respect for the prophet Mohammed and his cousin, Ali, whom I consider a great and true saint.
After I finished high school, I was called for military service. I was involved in a special project as a teacher sent to a small village. During one and a half years of my life in that village most of the time I was alone so I had much time to think about life and my future. Though I was no longer serious about God, I sometimes spoke to someone within myself; it was a kind of meditation. I enjoyed being alone and thinking. Through this meditation, although it was not centered on God, I think my consciousness developed. After completing this course I moved to Tehran, the capital city, and went to a college. With a curious mind, I studied the bigger society while I studied my books in college.
In the summer of 1975, while I was a chief accountant in a construction company, I felt a strong desire to study English. The society and the people were so limited to me and I wanted to become another person through learning another language.
Although, externally, I had everything I wanted, my heart and spirit were always hungry. I was never happy and I couldn't even smile.
I tried to find an English school to develop my English conversation and, by chance, while I was walking on the street I saw a sign about an English conversation class an American lady was holding. Later I found out that she was Mrs. Susan Fefferman, Unification Church missionary to my country. I enrolled my name in that class even though the class hour was the time I had to be at work. Somehow I arranged it and started to attend that class.
The conversation was about life, happiness and society and sometimes connected to the disunity between religions. I was attracted to the contents of the talks and in the last session of the class, our teacher asked each one which contents of the conversation everybody liked most. My answer was the unification of religions.
During my course in that class several times I gave Susan a ride home and in this way I came to know her personally and was attracted to her dignity and deep understanding about life.
She picked out several people from our class, including me, based on their answers and invited us to her house another day.
In her apartment we met a German girl and a Japanese young man. That was the end of September, 1975, the first time I visited the center of the missionaries in my country. I don't remember about the talks we had there but the love, service and pure atmosphere is what I cannot forget all my life. So I continued to visit them constantly.
Their apartment was very simple, not furnished well. I was curious about their life and although they tried to show me that everything was okay, I found out that they were suffering persecution by their neighbor lady. She called the police once and accused them of bringing men to their house and of being loose women! I felt sympathetic towards them and decided to help these good foreigners, so I found a new house and helped them to move in. The house was big and independent.
Through my regular visit to their house, I became a close friend to them. Little by little, Susan started to talk about the contents of the Principle, which later I understood was her mission. I was aware that they wanted to bring me to their movement but I didn't want to be a member of a religious group. I liked the ideals of what she was saying because she connected everything to love and happiness in life which I couldn't deny so I continued to visit.
When I remember those nights I can understand the meaning of spiritual battle. Every night after work, I would go the center and Susan would give me individual lecture; most of the time it was after midnight that I would leave the center for my home. But I couldn't go home. I would drive my car through the streets and would think about the contents of the lectures. I was thinking that if I accept the truth, what would I have to sacrifice in order to accept the responsibility involved.
All the old beliefs in the religion of my ancestors came back to my mind to challenge the new understanding of God and life that I was receiving. It took several months for me to make my mind up and move into the center.
We carefully witnessed to our friends, sometimes in the parks. By the end of 1976 we had 4 home members and about 8 associate members. We had some workshops held in the humble village house of my parents which my father was building. Although it still wasn't finished, we decided to hold our first workshop there anyway. My parents, though they didn't know anything about our ideas, served us and prepared food and accommodation. In the first workshop, the lecture concerning the conclusion caused some problems among some of our guests. That was a good experience for us and for our method of lecture: what we should and shouldn't teach the first time.
In October 1976, I went to England to study English. During two months away from the movement I had a lot of spiritual experiences and meaningful dreams.
During my one year in the Family, I accepted the Principle intellectually, but this intellectual understanding couldn't make me commit my self wholly for God. In fact I was struggling to devote my life to God but intellectual faith is not strong enough to bring true devotion.
I longed to have heartistic faith. I remember many times when Susan told me "You must open your heart!" my answer would be "I don't have a heart." I needed to be alone for a while.
During my two months in that small coastal town in England, through my constant desire and keeping Principle life and prayers, I felt a change of heart. I felt the impulse of God's love in my heart to do His will and I made a strong decision to commit my life for the sake of God. I went then to London and lived with the British Family.
In February, I went back to Iran because of a problem the missionaries confronted. They received threatening telephone calls from a fanatical Muslim group. They said they would blow up the center if we wouldn't stop our work. After a month of studying and investigating the taped voices we made of the telephone calls, we found out that someone who pretended to be a member was betraying us. We identified that person to be a follower of one mullah connected to Iranian secret police, Savak. Susan already had reported to the Savak about the calls and gave them the tapes we had made. At the beginning, they were kind to her and made her think that she could trust the Savak, but when they collected all the information and the members' names, suddenly they changed their way of treatment and became rude and impolite and gave all the three missionaries a notice to quit their jobs and leave the country in 2 weeks.
In March 1977, the missionaries left Iran for Turkey. Then I took responsibility for the 12 members and friends and we waited for the next attempt of the secret police to do something since they knew everything about us. The center was cleared of the books and materials and we arranged for our gatherings to be in other places. We couldn't move immediately because of the rental situation in the country, though we wanted to get another house. Every day, I came back home from my job expecting to see a secret police car waiting to take me to the police department. But Savak never did anything against us. Perhaps their investigations showed that we were harmless.
That time I stated to translate our study guide book into the Persian language, though I didn't have any experience in translation. I had to go through severe spiritual battle, but because of indemnity conditions and the spiritual connection we had with the missionaries in Turkey, finally we could have a Persian study guide book.
After several months with the help of the Japanese missionary who came back with another passport, we found an apartment and moved. Then Susan and the German sister came back. They couldn't work any more, so they concentrated on raising the members. At the same time, my sister moved in and together with my two younger brothers, we looked like an Iranian family with whom some foreigners were living. My mother who is a devoted Muslim, supported us unconditionally and later accepted True Parents. She liked the missionaries very much. For her, they were the exemplary religious figures.
The situation of our new apartment was very bad. It was a 3-story building and we were living on the first floor. A police officer lived with his family on the second floor, and another family were living on the third floor. Some nights more than 12 people would stay in that small, 3-bedroom apartment while we were supposed to be only three people! If we were sitting down for dinner and the landlord happened to come, we had to quickly get the plates off the table, all the dozens of shoes out of sight, all the extra people into another room and then answer the door. He would be greeted by his three tenants most warmly while the other 10 people stood behind a door... praying.
On Fridays, we would go to the mountainside hiking and picnicking, and when we came home in the evening more than 15 people would get out of the van and rush into the center! We later devised methods of dropping people off some distance from the house so we wouldn't arrive all at once. Of course, the neighbors were so curious, and soon we heard about complaints against us.
Because of the missionaries' situation, they couldn't have any conflict with the secret police but we couldn't avoid continuing the same living arrangements because the rental situation in Iran was so bad and very expensive. None of the missionaries could have a job so I was the only one to work. We couldn't afford to move to another place or split up. At least 10 people permanently lived in that apartment, so complaints against us grew up and it became quite serious. But the police officer upstairs supported us against the other neighbors.
Of course, we went through a lot of struggles on individual and family levels, as well as the pressures from outside. Physical limitations of the center, fear of having problems with the secret police, and individual limitations all made us go through so many trials and struggles.
Here I have to admire my spiritual mother's strong faith and her deep love and sacrificial life-style. When I look back to the past, who I was and who I am now, I can strongly say that no one could bring me to a religious life. She taught me how to love my country and my people. I was a resentful person because I was never truly happy in my life. I couldn't love Islam, and I didn't even like myself. But through Principle she taught me to know myself, to know other people and to know God. Her love for my country made me jealous! Why can this American woman love my country and my religion more than I do? I thought that I had a universal mind and that was enough, but she taught me how to have a universal heart to love people, beyond their nationalities and religions.
Susan worked so hard with me, educating me in the Principle and caring for me. I gave her a very hard time with my stubbornness, yet she did everything possible to win my heart.
I remember one day, when I was first studying the Principle, I was struggling in my mind, thinking she was going to bring me to a strange and mysterious movement; but, I thought, "I'm not a person who can easily be deceived!" so I tried to deny everything about the Principle, and finally I decided not to go to the center any more. Susan telephoned me at my office and I responded with a cold voice. Then one hour later, there at work, I was called to the reception office. I had a visitor. To my surprise, Susan was standing there at the door with a big smile and a bunch of flowers in her hand! I couldn't believe it. It was also embarrassing for me in front of my work-mates. "Who is this American lady who brought flowers for Essi? What's happening between them?!"
Though I was embarrassed, I was not the kind of person who could reject that sincere love and humbleness. So my heart melted, and again I decided to continue. So I think that I owe my spiritual life to her. Based on her standard, the Iranian Family could receive good Principle life education.
The sisters singing a Holy Song together, some of them wearing the traditional head coverings of Muslim women.21-City Prayer Tour
Another important work we did was a 21-city prayer tour in which the three missionaries, and 5 members covered more than 5 thousand miles within 8 days. In each city we had deep prayers for the restoration and salvation of the people in that city.
In the north east of the country, in a city which is a religious city [Qum] because of the grave and holy shrine of a great Shiite saint, the 8th Imam, we had some problem with the fanatical people. Our sisters, Susan and Beate, had to use veils (chadur) in order to enter the shrine because non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the shrine. Somehow, they were discovered and a fanatical man with a loud voice began to shout that non-Muslims were in the shrine and many people gathered around us. We tried to calm him down but he was so angry and tried to call the police. The sisters were crying and telling the people that they love Imam Al-Reza and believe in him. Both sisters could speak Persian. Some ladies came to support the sisters saying if they believe the Imam, why shouldn't they be allowed to enter the shrine? Then that man asked them some questions concerning the background of that saint and our sisters gave all the proper answers. The man was surprised and left us alone. The people admired our sisters and even became friends.
Finally we could move to a new house in which we didn't have problems with the neighbors. The German and Japanese missionaries moved to another city as pioneers. That was in 1978, about a year before the revolution. In the middle of 1978, the opposition against the old regime became stronger and complaints and criticisms against the situation grew up. Finally in 1979, the old regime fell and for a short period, there was a kind of freedom in the country. Susan had to leave because she couldn't extend her visa. The German and Japanese missionaries also left and they couldn't come back, so again I took responsibility to lead the family. Though I missed my spiritual mother, and the other missionaries so much, somehow it was more convenient to be just members among hundreds of other groups which appeared in the country after the revolution.
Later one brother, Evans Johnson, who was a correspondent for the newspaper, came to Iran; with his help, we could start our first fundraising campaign with postcards and candles. Then we distributed papers introducing ourselves as a family and the Principle as our way of life. I already had translated a lot of materials: the Divine Principle, Master Speaks, New Hope, and A Prophet Speaks Today. Seeing so many communist books in the market, we decided to publish one of our books. We chose A Prophet Speaks Today, under the name of New Hope.
Although there were so many difficulties in publishing the book, since we didn't have any experience, after a few months, our book was ready. Our members were so excited! So we started our fundraising campaign with our True Father's words. We would introduce Father openly and would witness during fundraising; in a couple of months, we sold out the first 5000 copies and republished 5000 more and later 3000 more.
Being so active with a small membership of 25, we were known all over the city; thousands of people had read our Father's message and many more heard his name and ideals.
Of course it was not an easy job for us since, though we felt we had freedom, the revolution was backed by communist forces and they were well organized and very active at that time.
Father's message, especially about communism and America, brought a lot of controversy in the society which was filled with communistic and anti-American feelings. Although we tried to be very careful about not leaving a track which the communist groups could follow, soon enough we received threatening phone calls that if we didn't stop selling that book, the center would be blown up. At the beginning we were frightened and re-arranged our activities, but after a couple of weeks again we were fully active again. The telephone calls were repeated every day and little by little we got accustomed to it. That was the summer of 1979.
At the same time we started to build our training center in the mountain-side on another piece of land which my parents owned. Our members were working so hard, and more members moved in because of the high spirit and energy which everyone felt. We held workshops almost every month and through meeting people during fundraising we could witness to them. We knew that we were in danger since all the Marxist groups who knew about us were armed, but we couldn't avoid conflicting with them somehow.
Then the first article against us appeared in the Tudeh party newspaper which is the Russian-tied communist party, and of all the communist groups in Iran this one is the most organized and cunning.
The title of the article was "America's `New Hope' for Iran," and it explained about the anti-communist position of our book and movement. In the end it said that Sun Myung Moon's house was located right beside the CIA headquarters!
At that time about 12 members lived in the center. Two of my sisters, 14-year-old Manige and 19-year-old Mali, and my 17-year-old brother, Khos, were all dedicated members and lived with us.
The telephone calls continued even at midnight and 2 a.m., and somehow I was worried about our younger brothers and sisters, but they acted bravely and they had very good fighting spirits. My 14-year-old sister gave all of us so much courage and energy. At the beginning I wouldn't let her go fundraising but she insisted on going, so I took her with me. Maybe it is not so easy for Western members to comprehend the situation of women in the Muslim world, but I have to say that my two sisters did an extraordinary job. I would see my younger sister and how she approached people and how sweetly she explained about the contents of the book. I couldn't stop admiring her.
One night, about 11 p.m. our bell rang. I wasn't expecting anybody at that hour and I felt some danger, but my brother who was downstairs already had gone to the door. One person was asking to see me, my brother said, so I went to the door. There were three armed men who put pistols to my neck and pushed me back inside the house. By accident that night was the only night that other members didn't stay in the center, and I was alone with the kids.
The men were masked and they pushed us into one room. One man stayed to watch with his pistol pointing at us, while the other two were checking the rooms. After about 15 minutes, they called me out and began to question me about who I was and what I was doing and threatening to kill me if I didn't stop our work. The man was very angry and saying bad words. I tried to control myself to avoid violence and find out who they were, but he shouted "Don't ask, only answer!"
I didn't have anything to say because they already seemed to know everything. They gave up after 10 minutes questioning and pushed me again to the room where my sisters and brother were. Then they asked me where the keys to the van were. I tried to avoid telling them but they found them in my pocket. One of the men kept his gun pointed at us while the others took our typewriters and went out. At the last minute, the last man ran to the door and joined the others and they drove away in our van. It all happened so fast.
We couldn't call the police and tell them the whole story because then they would have to investigate about why would anyone want to just attack our house. Then they would understand about our activities. I was just grateful that they hadn't hurt us, especially the younger kids who were really afraid although they remained calm and natural all the time that it was happening.
From that event I learned a good lesson, and all of our fears and nervousness in confronting our enemies actually disappeared.
The van was so important for our activities, especially to complete the training center on the mountain-side. Having our van stolen paralyzed our activities and was also a great financial loss; the result of a whole summer of fundraising was gone. We had to start anew with a new determination and no fear of persecution.
The telephone calls continued, and we found out that the same people who were threatening us had stolen the van. Our members became more serious about our work and more careful about witnessing and choosing people for workshops.
Then we decided to publish our second book, since so many people were asking us for more truth. So I wrote a book based on the Principle of Creation with Islamic explanations. When our book was ready, the second year of full activity began. In order to make the book understandable to our customers, we had to talk with them about the contents and where the ideas came from, so fundraising was, at the same time, witnessing about our True Father.
Meanwhile, the communist influence on the government, especially the Tudeh party, became stronger and they wrote more articles against us in their newspapers. The phone calls continued once in a while but at the same time new members joined and started fundraising and witnessing.
One day my team, with 3 brothers and my little sister, Manige, who insisted on joining us, sat down under a tree to have our lunch. After about 15 minutes I felt something was happening around us. Suddenly three cars surrounded us and like an American detective movie, 12 armed men opened the doors and rushed towards us, pointing their guns. I was so surprised, being sure that we were doing nothing wrong. I told my brothers and sister to be calm. One of them, who seemed to be the boss, asked me what we were doing there. I replied, "As you can see, we are eating our lunch." He pointed to my sister and asked who she was. I said that she was my sister and he wanted me to prove it by producing our identity cards. But we didn't have them with us. I was only worried about our bags which were full of books, but they didn't care about the bags.
They took us to the committeh center. They were not well organized so it took about an hour to take us into the committeh yard. Then one man took me aside, after listening to our captor's report about us, and asked my parents' name. Then he took Manige to another corner and asked her the same questions. Then he compared our answers and believed that we really were brother and sister. Finally I found out that they were from a new organization which had a mission to fight against those who break the religious laws. I was happy that it had happened to our team and not one of the other teams because there would have been great trouble if the armed men had found out that the brothers and sisters were not actually physically related to each other, but were associating together. This was a warning to us to re-organize our fundraising teams.
During that time we had good help from our Japanese brother, Tanaka, who was assigned as a new missionary to my country. We received a lot of guidance from him. Our fundraising activities covered all the capital city. Then I decided to send a fundraising team to other major cities in the south. Tanaka took responsibility to lead the team of 8 brothers. It was after a 3-day workshop in the countryside.
We rented a post office box with the help of one of our friends and we would give our p. o. box address to people who would like to know more about our family. The address I put on the application was my friend's house. After the workshop I stayed in the countryside on the farm while our fundraising team was going to the south. I was writing a V.O.C. book to be published as our third book.
One day I came back to the center to get some materials for my work. While I was in town I wanted to check our p. o. box. But before I could reach the box, my friend saw me from his office window, next door to the post office, and rushed towards me, with a nervous look on his face. He stopped me from going to the post office saying that revolutionary guards had attacked his house and they were looking for the holder of the box. They had frightened his family very much and had searched every corner of his house telling them that I was a spy who had contact with American, Japanese, and Korean people. The guards had asked for my address but had he told them that he didn't know it exactly. He gave them an unclear address and the approximate area. This was also a warning. My return to the city had been very well timed.
Our center was quiet. Only my two sisters and another brother and I were there. The fundraising team was gone and some other members were working on the farm. I knew that the revolutionary guards would come some day, but I couldn't have guessed that they would come in the middle of that same night.
I had received a phone call from our fundraising team and I told Tanaka about the committeh investigation of us by tracing the p. o. box. He is a clever brother and understood everything though I couldn't explain clearly, thinking that our phone might be tapped. I asked him to continue his tour with caution.
It was midnight before I went to bed but I couldn't sleep. I was worried for some unknown reason. Again, I had the feeling that something was going to happen.
Suddenly the doorbell started to ring; it was ringing continuously and didn't stop. I rushed to the door and asked who was there. I heard the clicking sound of guns being held. My sister came downstairs and said that she saw men in the shadows from the upstairs window and that they were carrying guns. I locked the hall door and tried to call the police to ask if these armed men were from the committeh. I would open the door for the committeh but I was thinking that they might be the same terrorist group that broke into our house and stole our van. But there was no time to dial the police because they jumped over the wall, walked through the yard and were trying to unlock the door. To protect my sisters and brother, we rushed to the roof to ask our neighbors for help. But the men had already started to shoot.
Based on a terrible report they had received from an unknown source (I believe from communist sources) they were well organized and over ten armed men had surrounded our house, expecting a counter-attack. When one of them started to shoot, the others thought that the shooting was from our side, so for several minutes it sounded like a battlefield. It was a miracle no one was shot since we were on the roof with shooting all around us. Finally we could get to our neighbor's house and called the police. Outside, the men were searching for us. It took about 10 minutes before we could get a clear answer about who those men were. New police came and with their help, (making sure it was safe!) we surrendered ourselves.
When the shooting men saw only me and three kids they were very surprised. They asked where the Japanese and Korean karate fighters were! They wanted to know where our guns were. One of them was so mad that he hit me with the butt of his gun and if the others hadn't stopped him he would have broken some bones. They checked every corner of our house and they couldn't find what they were expecting according to this report that they had received. They kept us in a car with two armed men pointing their guns at us and three men in the front seat. I could see the other men were carrying out some of our things as evidence against us. They took the books and some other things which they thought were connected to our activities as "American spies." Later I found out that they took every valuable thing that they could find to their own houses! So they emptied the house completely.
We were kept in the car outside the alley watching them carrying our books to a van. The driver and other men in the car kept calling us spies. "Tomorrow morning you will be executed." I couldn't find any reason to say anything because I felt so much anger and hatred from their eyes. I just tried to calm myself down and keep my sisters and brother calm.
In the car, I found time to think and pray, telling God that I was not afraid to be killed for His sake. After praying I could gain some confidence and tried to give the others courage.
Finally they drove to the committeh center. When we got there I asked for the person in charge of all the night's activities and finally I saw the face of the man who would be my worst Cain; whom I would have to learn to love.
I kept asking, "Is there any truly Muslim person here to whom I can talk?" That man, my Cain, told me, "You will be questioned later but right now we have enough evidence to prove that you are American spies!"
They put us into a small and very dirty room with a ceiling so low that I couldn't stand up straight. I had heard and I had read a lot about "prison," but that was the first time I understood what the meaning of being in jail was. We didn't know what was going to on outside. I suggested that my sisters and the other brother pray and be calm but every few minutes some revolutionary guards would open the door and with laughter and mocking, show us to other guards and point at us, shouting "Spies!"
They considered us their worst and most dangerous enemy and two armed guards stood outside the locked door of our small prison. In the room there were three dirty mattresses and old newspapers and magazines. It was 3 a.m., so we cleaned the room as well as we could and covered the mattresses with the newspaper sheets which were cleaner than the mattresses. I told the others to try to relax and pray and tell Heavenly Father that we were ready for anything to happen and, if it was necessary, ready to give our lives for our country. I reminded them of our True Father's life in prison and early members in Korea. I told them that this was the best chance to prove to God that our faith was not so shallow.
I looked at my two sisters and the other brother, who was also only 18 years old. Although I was still nervous about what was going to happen the next day, I was proud of them and felt God also was proud of them. I knew in their mind and heart they were experiencing a lot of struggle, so was I; but externally, they smiled at me and tried to comfort me, knowing that I was in more serious danger.
We tried to sleep but again we heard the noise of heavy keys and the door was unlocked. The boss and two other men came in. The boss had two pistols in his hands, playing with them carelessly. One of the men seemed to be the man who, according to Islamic law, was responsible to see that the prisoners were treated well. He asked me if I had any complaints. I said, "I just want to know why they are doing this to us." The boss said, "Where are the Japanese and Korean spies? We don't need your confession. You are American spies and we have enough proof. We will give all the evidence to Mr. Khalkhali and tomorrow he will execute you." (Khalkhali was the famous executioner of the revolutionary regime, whose name alone was a terrifying word.)
The other man said, "I just want to know if you are being treated well. The charges against you are none of my business."
Although we hadn't been treated so well, and I had even been hit, I avoided personal resentment and said that I had no complaints. "But this is ridiculous. You are looking at three kids. If I am a spy, why are you keeping three children. You can keep me but I want my sisters to go back home. How can you say that a 14 year-old girl is a spy?" But they left the room without listening to my request to release my sisters.
I knew that someday I would be put into prison, and I had decided to fast as soon as I was in jail. I told my sister, Mali, about my counter-attack through a 3-day fast. She also joined me in that indemnity condition to insure that we could keep a good heart and proper attitude towards our enemies. But for Manige and the other brother, who were not fasting, there was no food until the next evening. Our captors never asked us if we were hungry, but every half hour they unlocked the door with a loud noise and turned on the lights so we couldn't sleep. Now they shouted "Satan's group!" So we became known as "Satan's group" from that time on.
It was a dreadful night, so we were desperately waiting for the light of day. We had to ask the guards when we wanted to go to the bathroom and we were always heavily guarded.
The next day, making the excuse of going to the bathroom, we could hear some of the talk about us that was going on. One interesting story was about our wooden flower-box. We had made it to plant flowers in. The guards had brought it as evidence of a crime, saying that it was a coffin! They found some decorations for Holy Days and they added that every month we had a celebration; killing one person and putting him in the coffin, we would dance around the body. Some of them even said that they had found bloody clothes in our house!
The next day, around noon, they arrested four more members who had come to our center to visit. Later I found out that there were revolutionary guards in our house and whenever someone rang the bell, they would open the door, pull him inside and would send him to the same committeh center. In the evening two more members were arrested. So now we were 10 members in the prison. They kept the other six members in another room. Two of them were not actually members yet but had only heard lectures at the workshop and came for a visit.
I didn't know about the others who had been arrested until the second night when the boss came, playing with his two pistols, and said, "Okay, we have enough evidence to kill them as spies so they can talk to each other, I don't mind. There is no way for them to escape from the punishment of Islam."
Fortunately, they brought one of the brothers who had been arrested that evening, so he could give us a lot of information about what was happening outside. He told us the names of the other brothers who had been arrested. This brother was a carefree and jovial person. Many times in the future, this happy-go-lucky nature would come in handy. He said that he had heard that they were not going to give so much trouble to the young members and sooner or later they would be released. But my case was more serious and he had heard that I would be executed soon. Even as he told me to prepare for death, he seemed jovial.