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Pastor’s wife still has nightmares about prison

Pastor’s wife still has nightmares about prison

The wife of an Iranian pastor still has nightmares about the months they spent in prison, the pastor says.

Farhad Sabok Rouh and his wife Shahnaz spent nearly a year in prison following their arrests at Christmas 2011.

Two years later they fled Iran after being threatened with execution for apostasy if they didn’t leave the country.

They are now resettled in the US, but Shahnaz still has nightmares, Pastor Sabok Rouh revealed in an emotional interview with Joseph Hovsepian, son of the murdered pastor Haik.

“As a woman and a mother, Shahnaz was a lot more vulnerable and fragile to all she had to go through,” Pastor Sabok Rouh said. “Even though she did not serve as long a sentence as myself, but still… All the trauma Shahnaz experienced is still affecting her today. 

“She still has nightmares about her time in prison. She endured much. She was transferred to a criminal ward of the prison, which belonged to very dangerous inmates.

“She stayed with 85 other women, all charged with murder, in one room. 

“Shahnaz, who’d never seen or associated with these groups of people, was filled with anxiety and fear for her life. 

“In the first few days and nights, she constantly was in fear of being attacked in the middle of the night. 

“Some of these prisoners were extremely broken, with mental or emotional issues, charged with murdering their husbands. 

“She spent the first seven months among them, without any contact or communication with me.”

Pastor Sabok Rouh explained how he served as a pastor in the southwestern city of Ahvaz from the age of 21, having become a Christian aged 14.

“I remember experiencing many challenges and difficult times early on in our ministry,” he recalled.

“The second year into our ministry, I was arrested by the secret service and was taken in for questioning. I was forbidden to go back home and spent three days in prison. After the third day, they released me, which was the exact time when brother Haik Hovsepian was martyred. So from the beginning of our ministry, we were made aware of the dangers we could possibly face.”

Pastor Sabok Rouh was arrested twice more and said he was “constantly pressured not to preach the gospel, evangelise or baptise new converts, but we did not stop. 

How could we back down?”

Of the arrest of Christmas 2011, Pastor Sabok Rouh recalled: “As we were worshipping with the congregation in our house-church, a group of 40 intelligence and secret-service agents – some armed, some with their faces covered – broke through our front door and forced their way into our home.

“The meeting was stopped. They took my wife, Shahnaz, and me, along with other pastors. We were blindfolded and handcuffed, and driven in a large black security car, with tinted windows, to an unknown location. 

“We spent two months there, in separate cells, not knowing where we were, without any communication or contact with each other or the outside world.

“After two months of intense questioning, almost every day – sometimes 10 to 15 hours a day – we were granted leave on bail.

“This was a temporary release as we had to appear in court again. And we were sentenced to one year in prison.”

Pastor Sabok Rouh was a supervising pastor with Iran’s Assemblies of God network for 25 years. He and his wife fled to Turkey in March 2014 and resettled in the United States in 2016.