Witness Statements

Parsa Mostafaei

Parsa Mostafaei

For a summary of Parsa’s story, you can read our feature article here.


1. My name is Ali Mostafaei, known as Parsa. I was born in June 1991 in Shahriar, Tehran, to a large and relatively well-off family. I have three sisters and three brothers, and I’m the youngest. But as a result of the medication my mother used during pregnancy, I was of an anxious disposition and different from the rest of my siblings. 

2. Every member of my family adhered strongly to Islam, and we used to attend congregational prayers at the mosque. We all prayed the five daily prayers on time, and if we missed the prayer time, we would feel really bad about it. My father and older brother were members of the board of trustees of the local mosque and religious centre. Because of my love for God, I started praying at the age of 11, instead of the official age of 15 [when Muslim boys are obliged to pray]. I also read the Quran in Arabic and Persian. But although I had a religious family, there were regular fights and disagreements within the family.

3. My family controlled my relationships with my friends, and they weren’t happy with the way I dressed, my hair, and my overall appearance. If I disobeyed or refused to act according to their taste, my father or older brother would severely beat me. I was so angry that I thought I could never, and would never, forgive my brother. On holidays like Nowruz [Persian New Year], my father tried to bring the family closer together, but the next day it would just go back to how it always was.

4. At the age of 15, in 2006, due to disagreements and problems with my family, I decided to separate my life from my family’s, so I left home. But after three days, they found me and brought me back. 

5. After returning, I decided to work hard at school and find a job, so that I wouldn’t be dependent on my family. I started working at the age of 15, and I only went home for food and sleep, and spent the rest of my time elsewhere, so that I could do what I liked. But I still prayed, because I loved God and thought that prayer and good deeds would undo the mistakes and sins I had committed. But others thought I was hypocritical.

Conversion and first house-church meeting

6. After school, I started university and, during the second term, started working at a company that repaired road-construction machines. Before that, I didn’t have much money, and, due to the state of my relationship with my family, I didn’t want to receive any help from them. So I went to university three days a week and worked in the company for the rest of the week. 

7. At work, there was a very respectable young man, one of the company’s young engineers, named Sajjad, who was a year older than me, and very different from the others. One day he took me with him to do a job in Tehran. In the car, he talked to me about Jesus. Two things happened inside me at the same time: one was that I wanted to open my mouth and swear at him, and the other was that I was attracted by his words.

8. He asked me about my life, because really my religiosity didn’t tally with my lifestyle. He talked about Christ, and I talked about Islam. ّI couldn’t accept his conversion and it made me hate him. My life went on as usual, but when I saw Sajjad and how well he behaved, I felt conflicted. So, secretly and in the middle of the night, away from the eyes of other family members, I started to read the Bible and watched the film about Jesus that Sajjad had given to me as a gift.

9. One day in November 2012, when we were at work, Sajjad noticed me being agitated. The reason was that I felt confused and worried about my family’s reaction to my possible decision to follow Christ. Sajjad asked me: “I have friends who pray together in a particular place. Would you like to join us?” I accepted and he took me to his house, which was an hour away from ours.

10. Sajjad’s younger sister, who was married, and his mother and two friends were there. It was very strange for me; I had never seen women worship without hijab. I was extremely impressed with the atmosphere and how beautiful and interesting it was that they worshipped God in Persian. With Sajjad’s invitation, I prayed that night and made a decision to follow Christ.

Family and work

11. I started secretly talking with some family members about Jesus, and some of them also converted. Once, my older brother and my mother asked me a lot about the great change in my behaviour and said: “We are very happy with your actions and behaviour, but why don’t you pray [the Muslim prayers]? If Dad realises that you aren’t praying, he’ll be very angry.” I explained to them that I had started to believe in Jesus, and my brother said, with a lump in his throat: “You’ll be sorry if Dad learns about it!” A month later, my father found out, beat me up, and kicked me out of the house.

12. In January 2013, about two months after my conversion, Sajjad was summoned to the company’s head office for talking about Christianity at work. I was also summoned and told: “We want to fire Sajjad, but we have done some research about you and your family and we know that you have a religious family and that they are committed to Islam, and we feel that you have been deceived by Sajjad’s words. Also, you are the only employee who both studies and works, and has the same salary [as those who work full-time]. So you have good conditions in this company; return to Islam so that you can work again.”

13. But when the company officials realised that I was not willing to give up my faith, they fired me as well. I called Sajjad and told him that I had been fired because of Christianity, and Sajjad hung up. Because of security issues, we never talked about our faith and Christian activities on the phone.

14. After a while, my family decided to take me back home, but to try to influence my thoughts so that I would return to Islam. Famous and well-known Islamic teachers and experts in Islamic law, who had even been invited to speak on the Islamic Republic’s state radio and television several times, were invited to our home to have a discussion with me and bring me back to Islam. They also tried hard to find out who had evangelised to me, but I didn’t name Sajjad.

15. My family treated me badly, considered me unclean and an infidel, and separated my dishes and towels from theirs. They also separated my room from the others, and locked me up at night, especially when my sisters came home. They thought I had been given medicine, which had changed me and calmed me down so that I could forgive and love. My mother used to say: “Your behaviour is great. Stay the same, but come and pray with us!” I would try to explain to her what the real reason was for my change in behaviour, but she couldn’t accept it. I endured a lot of psychological pressure from my family. I prayed for them at night, and I didn’t understand the reasons for all their opposition and insults, despite my tangible changes.

16. My family even invited my friend Pedram, who was our neighbour, and talked to him about me. On the one hand, they didn’t want me to influence someone else, and on the other, they saw Pedram as an example and said that, like him, I should do some research before leaving Islam. But Pedram said to my family: “I know Ali; I know everything he does, how he behaves and how he speaks. He has changed completely these last three months.” A few months later, Pedram also converted to Christianity.

17. My family harassed me; my father is very bigoted about Islam. When he realised that he couldn’t convert me in any way, he beat me up and threw me out of the house again. I evangelised to many people at the university, and among my relatives, and gave them Bibles and the “Jesus” film. And many of my relatives converted to Christianity.

18. My older brother used to love me very much and wanted us to start working together, but it didn’t happen because of my faith in Jesus. Six months after my conversion, my brother called one of his influential acquaintances and put the phone on speaker so I could hear him. My brother told this man: “We did everything we could to return Ali back to Islam, but it hasn’t worked. Please inform the officials, so that they can come and arrest him and take him away.” But he replied: “Please don’t ask me to do such a thing! I don’t want to! Because if someone is arrested for these charges, there is no way out, and they will definitely kill him, and then you and your family will regret it. You’ve been patient until now, so continue enduring it, and maybe he’ll regret it in the future.”

House-church and youth group in Karaj

19. The first time I was kicked out, I was away from home for about two to three months, and the next time for six months. Pedram and I borrowed a pick-up truck, which I later bought in instalments, and I and slept in it at night. Also, sometimes I would stay at Sajjad’s house, or another friend’s house. After a while I rented a place together with another Christian friend. At that time, I went to university and also worked with Pedram in an air-conditioning business. We went to people’s homes to do installations and repairs.

20. I participated in house-church meetings in Shahriar. In the summer of 2013, I was secretly baptised in a swimming pool by the leader, Brother Sam. According to the rules of our house-church, each person who evangelised to someone spent several months separately with the new Christian, and if he or she was found to be trustworthy, they were invited to attend meetings. Based on security issues, not more than 15 people gathered in each meeting. We also wouldn’t say the address of the meeting over the phone, and I would go to pick up the members and take them to the weekly meeting-place. 

21. I also attended youth meetings in Karaj; Brother Sam had asked me to teach a group of five to six people in the Marlik area about the principles of Christian belief – a sign I was being given more responsibilities. In addition to the meetings, I spent time each week praying with them, and counselling them. Because I had a pick-up truck, I was given Christian books to transport.


22. Pedram and I wanted to start our own business, so we rented the garage of a house in Andisheh Town Phase 5 – a residential place that we could use to do free food deliveries within the neighbourhood.

23. We had done all the preparations and already bought half the equipment, but then, on 10 November 2015, Pedram, another Christian friend and I closed the garage door and watched football to relax, and at about 10pm, someone knocked on the garage door and said: “Sir, is that your van outside?” I said that it was, and he said: “I hit your van from behind with my car; please come and see what we should do.” Without thinking about how he could have hit my car in an empty alley, and why we didn’t hear a sound, I opened the door. Suddenly, someone pushed me, and over 10 people entered the garage. We were frightened and thought they were thieves. They sat Pedram and my friend on chairs, and I was put on my chest on the floor. I thought they wanted to take our wallets, rob the shop and leave.

24. But after five minutes, I suddenly realised that they weren’t thieves but were agents and were searching the store. Their faces were covered with masks so we wouldn’t be able to identify them. Some of them, like military commanders, wore black, and a group of young people in their twenties were with them – probably Basijis [paramilitaries belonging to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps]. I asked: “Are you from the Ministry of Intelligence?” One of them said, ironically: “No, we’re thieves!” When I tried to get up, he put his gun against my temple. I could feel the iron of the revolver against my head.

25. With fear and trembling, I pushed the gun aside with my head and got up and demanded: “Show me your warrant.” One of them showed me a warrant with my name on it: “Ali Mosafaei, nicknamed Parsa.” Pedram’s name was also on the sheet. Our phone calls had been listened to and they had precise information about us. At the same time, they had raided the homes of other Christian groups in the north of Iran, and in Shiraz, etc., and arrested them.

26. They had my parents’ and Pedram’s home addresses, and took Pedram to his house, and separately me to mine in an SUV. An agent told me: “Don’t be afraid; none of your family members are at home.” But while they were searching the house, one by one my family arrived and cried when they saw the scene of my arrest – though my father cursed at me and told the officers: “This boy has ruined us! We did everything we could, but we couldn’t bring him back to the right path. Why didn’t you come sooner? Take him with you and do whatever your heart desires. Even if you kill him, I won’t complain!”

27. They searched the entire house, even the store room, and removed all the notebooks and books they thought were related to Christianity. They confiscated my ID cards, passport, computer, mobile phone, Bible, handwritten notes, notebooks, books, CDs – even books and CDs that weren’t related to Christianity, and books I used for university. One of the agents searched my pick-up truck and found a “Good News for A New Age Bible”, which had just been published and had no cover. He thought that because it was a big book, he had made an important discovery and said: “Look what I have found, and what books he reads!”

28. From the time they entered the garage, until we arrived at the prison, one of them was filming me and everywhere we went, and during the filming, he was reporting on what he saw: “This is Shahriar, the house of the accused,” and so on. In the presence of my family, they treated me with respect in order to show themselves respectable, but then they pushed me into the car and insulted me. Those whose names were on a piece of paper they had brought with them and who lived in Marlik were taken to Karaj Prison, but because I lived in Shahriar and Shahriar was a suburb of Tehran, I was taken to Evin Prison. On the way, they handcuffed me and blindfolded me. Two agents sat in the front of the car, and I and another agent sat in the back.

Ward 209, Evin Prison

29. The car stopped in the street in the Evin Prison area. When we got inside the prison, there were two large rooms next to each other on the right-hand side, where people were taken to change their clothes and have their pictures taken. One by one, the rest of the detainees were brought in, including Pedram, Sajjad and several of my relatives. We had to give them our clothes, and were given prison uniforms. They took my glasses because some prisoners commit suicide using the glass from them. I have a high prescription, so it was difficult for me to be without my glasses.

30. We were taken to Ward 209, which was on the first floor. Even though it was a solitary cell, mine was better than the cells of my other friends. There was no toilet in the cell, so they let me out of the cell to use the toilet. They gave me three blankets: one as a pillow, one a blanket, and one to lie on. They also gave me a toothbrush and toothpaste. Once a week, I was allowed to go to the bathroom and, after taking a shower, they gave me fresh clothes.

31. The cell next to mine was my pastor’s cell, and although I could hardly hear his singing and praying, I felt very strengthened by it and joined in. In prison, I had new and beautiful experiences, in addition to the fears and psychological pressures I experienced; I had a close and pleasing relationship with God.

32. I was in solitary confinement for 18 days, and during that time I was interrogated about 15 to 16 times. When I was in the cell, I started to think and became restless. I even told myself I wished they would come and interrogate me, but when they interrogated me, they put me under such psychological pressure that I wished it would end soon. Apparently they had a good-cop, bad-cop interrogation technique. The ill-tempered interrogator would get on your nerves by insulting you, and then the good interrogator would try to calm you down, advise you, and say that his intention was to help you.

33. I was accused of evangelistic activities and of being in charge of the group in Karaj. I was by no means willing to cooperate with them or answer their questions. Once, I saw Sajjad, and he told me to write as much as I could, or everything would take longer. But I just wrote general information. For example, when they asked, “Have you been to a seminar? Who taught you? Who was your leader? Who was your worship leader?” I answered: “We went on a journey; we sang some Christian songs on the way; we all prayed, and each time one person testified about how Christ had impacted his life. Our leader was Jesus, and our teacher was the Holy Spirit.” The interrogator said: “You’re making fun of us and playing with us! I wish this camera wasn’t here, because then we could do whatever we wanted to you!” I said: “I’m not joking. You claim we are working for an organisation and trying to disrupt the security of the regime, but you know very well that we never gathered for this purpose.”

34. No matter how hard they tried to find out who had evangelised to me, I didn’t mention Sajjad’s name; I just told them different irrelevant stories. The interrogators first thought that Sajjad was the main pastor of the church, because he was involved in a lot of activities. His and Brother Sam’s interrogator was the general chief of the prison. 

35. They wanted to drive a wedge between us and weaken us mentally, to make us talk. They lied and slandered our leader. They also said we had only attended the gatherings to hang out with girls. But, thank God, except for a few who had converted only a short time before, they couldn’t deceive the rest of us.

36. We were given a general note sheet for writing confessions, at the top of which was written: “Evangelical activity, action against national security.” We had to sign and fingerprint the bottom of each sheet. I was given several other sheets, on which I was told to write down information about each Christian friend I had, including their characteristics and details such as their eye colour, height, weight, etc. During my time in detention, I only wrote about myself, but in the second week they mentioned the names of Pedram, Sajjad, and a few others, and asked me if I knew them. Because we had been arrested at the same time, I answered that I did know them but gave no information about them. 

37. I think that’s why they didn’t physically torture us, but we were severely tortured psychologically, and they insulted us and our families. We were asked repetitive questions that made no sense. They find your weakness and try to put pressure on you, even through phone calls – for example, they knew that my mother was upset about my condition, so they called my home and asked for my mother on purpose. When I talked to her, she was crying, and her tears made me feel bad. I started crying with her and told her not to worry about me. Relatives had gathered at our house during that time, and they were sad about my arrest. They mourned with my family, and cried.


38. With my arrest, my family’s reaction to me changed. I didn’t have a lawyer but my interrogator once said: “Your brother Hamid goes to the MOIS [Ministry of Intelligence] office in Shahriar every day and asks: ‘Where is my brother and what have you done to him?'”. Hamid’s wife told my mother that he couldn’t sleep at night and was constantly thinking about me and the status of my case. My older brother contacted his influential friend, and after sharing with him the matter of my arrest, he asked for his help. This acquaintance replied that in Evin Prison, all affairs, officials, and positions are secret. “A friend of mine works there,” he said, “but I don’t know what he does – if he is the guard, the cook, or the general chief! But I’ll call him and ask about your brother’s case.”

39. But miraculously, it turned out that this man’s friend was my interrogator, whose nickname was also Parsa. Before they spoke together, my interrogator had insulted me during every interrogation, but after their call, his behaviour towards me changed completely. I had always been taken for interrogations at 10 in the morning or four in the afternoon, and each time the interrogation lasted for three to four hours. But after the call, I was taken for an interrogation at one o’clock in the morning and my interrogator, Mr Parsa, told me about the call and said: “I want to help you, so you have to fill out these forms.” I had written very briefly about Christian families who had recently left Iran and about the times I went to their homes and prayed together; I had written just as much as was necessary for an interrogator to file a report. After he read my answers, he said that I had written just a lot of nonsense.

40. Finally, I told him that I wouldn’t give up on Christianity in any way. He said: “OK, but you have to make a commitment not to see any of your Christian friends after your release and not to travel with them.” I said I would never agree to that. “You are well aware that we didn’t commit any crime,” I said. “You asked us not to do any training sessions and I will obey that, but you can’t take away our natural right to visit each other. If you have problems with our gatherings at home, we will meet in the park and pray together there.” He replied: “You are very rude, and if you continue like this, I will order that they execute you!” But I refused to make or sign any such commitment.

41. After that I was taken to the “suite” [a shared cell, in which up to four prisoners are held]. There, the environment was better and cleaner; there was a toilet and a bathroom, a TV and a samovar for making tea. There were also other people I could talk with. They couldn’t believe I was in prison only because of my belief in Christianity. Twenty-one days after my arrest, during which I was only twice allowed to have a telephone conversation with my family, I was taken for a final interrogation.

42. All the other Christian detainees had had to see Islamic clerics, who came for question-and-answer sessions and tried to convert them back to Islam, while they were interviewed in front of a camera. But due to the call of my brother’s acquaintance, on the twenty-first day of my detention they just took me to a young man, who was in his thirties, and who had recently studied at the Ḥawzah Ilmiyah [Muslim seminary]. He asked me about the Quran, and Islamic laws and punishments. He was very surprised by my answers and said: “You know a lot about Islam!”

43. My bail was set at 120 million tomans [approx. $35,000], but I protested and said I couldn’t afford such an amount, so then it was changed to 70 million tomans [approx. $20,000], and, on 30 November 2015, I was released after my brother submitted the deeds to my father’s house. Between 8.30-9pm, I was taken to the entrance of the prison, where my brother Hamid and my brother-in-law were waiting for my release. My interrogator said: “Mr Parsa, are you doing well? I replied: “You’ve changed your tune! I wish you talked to me as politely as that during the interrogations!” He said: “It’s my job and I have to. Take care and listen to what we have said to you and warned you about.”

44. He told my brother: “You should sign a pledge that Ali will come to our office for an interview, in front of a camera, and that he won’t leave the country.” I promised to go for an interview whenever I was called, just so there would be no more delays to my release. 

After release

45. After my release, I went to the homes of Christian friends and house-church members, and we prayed together, but we didn’t have any training sessions, as we had promised. The interrogator called me four or five times after my release. But whenever he called, I gave him an excuse about being busy studying and learning for university exams, though I’m sure he knew that really I was just looking for an excuse to avoid a summons.

46. I only once went to the Shahriar MOIS office, to pick up what had been confiscated. There, my interrogator made me a strange offer: he asked me to work for them. He said: “We are aware of your financial and employment problems and know you could be a great asset for us. So go to the homes of the other members we haven’t arrested and spend time with them and pray together; then give us their names and addresses, and we’ll give you five million tomans [approx. $1,500] for a start.” In order not to create any problems, I told him to let me think about it. He agreed and asked me to be available via phone.

47. After a while, he called me and said: “We heard that you gathered in a sandwich shop and prayed together.” I said: “Thank God that this fellowship took place, but I didn’t hear about it and wasn’t there.” Later I found out that some Christians had indeed gathered in that sandwich shop and prayed together, and from this we learned that they had spies who gave them reliable information.

Expulsion from university

48. When I was in prison, the interrogator had told me: “If you don’t cooperate with us, all your work opportunities and even your university education in Iran will be over.” But I hadn’t really thought the MOIS would inform the university about my arrest and security file. I had completed my diploma at another university, and at that time I was studying accounting at the Islamic Azad University of Qods City in Tehran. But due to the interference of the intelligence officials, unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to pass the six credits required to receive my final degree.

Fleeing Iran

49. Although my bail was set at 70 million tomans, the value of the property document that my father deposited was more than 150 million tomans [approx. $45,000]. My father put a lot of pressure on me because of this property deed, which was in the possession of the government. And everywhere I went, one or two cars followed me, and my phone calls were tapped, which made me paranoid. Even when I went to buy new clothes, I felt like they were watching and listening to my every move. 

50. I struggled with the mental pressure of it all. The most stressful moment for me was when someone knocked on the door, and I went to open it. Even if the person standing on the other side was my best friend, the experience made me feel very nervous and disorientated. Unconsciously, I would experience a déjà vu of the scene when I opened the door and agents had entered and arrested me. In the winter of 2018, I attended the trauma seminar of Article18, and I also had many counselling sessions which helped me a lot to get rid of the déjà vus that I suffered from. 

51. Finally, on 20 October 2016, because of the post-prison pressure, persecution, and actions of the MOIS, I fled to Turkey.

52. After a court hearing was held, in my absence, at Branch 5 of the Public and Revolutionary Court of Shahriar, my family were called on 7 February 2017 and informed that I had been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, to be served immediately. 

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