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Christian convert begins exile weeks after leaving prison

Christian convert begins exile weeks after leaving prison

Youhan Omidi with his wife Maryam and daughters Sara and Sandra.

Today, four weeks after leaving prison, Iranian Christian convert Mohammad Reza (Youhan) Omidi journeyed south to begin his exile more than 1,000km from his home and family.

Youhan, who completed his two-year prison sentence on 18 August, left behind his wife, Maryam, and two teenage daughters, Sara and Sandra, in Rasht, northern Iran, to travel to Borazjan, in the opposite end of the country, to see what fate awaits him there.

Youhan was sentenced to two years’ internal exile as part of his initial 10-year prison sentence for membership of a house-church, reduced to two years in June.

His exile has also been reduced by three months – to 21 months – due to the extra time he spent in prison, on top of his two-year sentence.

Youhan is the second Iranian Christian convert to experience internal exile, following in the footsteps of Ebrahim Firouzi, who has already spent nearly a year in exile in southeastern Iran and has another two years ahead of him.

But Youhan was circumspect about his situation, telling a close friend: “I trust God in this, as I did for my imprisonment.

“Many people, even those around me, consider it a time wasted in your life. But seeing ourselves as a piece of the puzzle in the greater image God is creating, I gladly embrace this opportunity to go through this exile. My experience may help other Christians who will face similar exile sentences in the future.”

It was initially believed that Youhan’s term in exile may have been quashed when his sentence was reduced. However, upon leaving prison Youhan was told to report back in two weeks, and this was later confirmed to him by his lawyer.

So, just weeks after an emotional reunion with his family, Youhan sets off again into the unknown.

He does not yet know what he will do in Borazjan, nor whether it would be a suitable place to move his wife and daughters – who are still at school – as southern Iran has a much harsher environment and climate than that of the family’s home near the Caspian Sea.

Youhan has travelled to Borazjan by bus, at his own expense, and will likewise have to cover his own life expenses henceforth, as he seeks to create a new life for himself in a foreign city far from home.