Witness Statements

Nasrin Kiamarzi

Nasrin Kiamarzi

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


1. My name is Nasrin Kiamarzi and I was born in 1981 in Isfahan. I lived in a relatively well-off family, and grew up without any serious family issues. At that time, when most people didn’t have mobile phones, my father bought me one, and even a car. But despite all this, from the age of 16 onwards, I felt an inner emptiness and uneasiness. I went to university and obtained a diploma in accounting. I also worked as an IT consultant. But nothing could fill my inner void, and I felt empty.

2. Slowly, questions occupied my mind and I started to compare Islam and Christianity. I thought that only Armenians could be Christians, and for that reason I envied them. I went several times to some of the church buildings in Isfahan, but they only held services in the Armenian language, and only a few times a month.

3. But after a couple of  months, an old friend of mine, named Leila Fooladi, who was a family friend and who had moved to Tehran with her family, came to Isfahan to meet me. She talked to me about Christianity, gave me a Bible, and promised me that I would find the answers to my questions in this book. ​​

4. I had always wondered why God gave men more rights, and why the God introduced in Islam was so  angry. Reading the Bible, I realised that Jesus respected both men and women – that there is no difference between us – and that God is a loving God. A month after Leila’s visit, in December 2003, I became a Christian, and after that my behaviour changed a lot and God gave joy and smile to a bad-tempered and grumpy girl.

Christian activities in the house-church

5. My friend Leila had talked to several other people about Christianity before me, and they had also become Christians. We all lived in Fooladshahr, which is a city on the outskirts of Isfahan. We enthusiastically held or attended house-church meetings every week. Leila, who was a member of a house-church in Tehran, came from Tehran to Isfahan every week to teach us the principles of the Christian faith, and answer our questions.

6. A few months after I had become a Christian, the senior leader of our house-church, along with some other church leaders, came from Tehran to Isfahan to get to know us. After this meeting, I went to Tehran once a month and participated in the meetings of different house-church groups in Tehran. And then I would pass on the Christian teachings I learned there to my house-church in Fooladshahr. Both Leila and my house-church leader witnessed my spiritual growth and passion to be involved in Christian activities.

7. Meanwhile, our house-church members told their family and friends about Christ, and many people became Christians. In this way, the number of our church members increased greatly. In addition to Fooladshahr, we had house-churches in [the nearby cities of] Zarrin Shahr, Najafabad, Shahin Shahr and Isfahan, as well as several villages, like Vila Shahr. I went to Tehran once every two weeks to receive more training and teaching, and to be more equipped to lead the groups.

8. Two years after I became a Christian, I was invited for the first time by my church to attend a Christian educational conference abroad. The overseer of our house-churches was there, a pastor who gave us Christian teachings in these conferences, and in 2010 he baptised me.

9. In 2007, one of the members of the group I led in Shahin Shahr introduced some friends to our church. They had become Christians about two to three years before, but they weren’t connected to any house-church. The name of one of them was Ramin Bakhtiarvand, and two years later, in March 2009, we got married.


10. Four years later, on 20 February 2013, a Wednesday, the senior leader of our house-church, along with several other leaders, came to Isfahan from Tehran, and a meeting was held at our home in Shahin Shahr. There were about 13 of us. Our apartment was on the top floor of a three-storey building, which had five apartments in all. My husband’s father, mother, sister and brother lived on the first floor.

11. It was 7.30 or 8 in the evening, and about 10 to 15 minutes had passed since the beginning of the meeting when someone knocked on the door of our apartment. Ramin looked through the spyhole, and saw several men, some of whom had weapons. Ramin realised that there were security agents, but he didn’t react; he just told the church leader that a “stranger” was at the door. And the leader, who I think understood what he meant and knew we couldn’t do anything about it, told Ramin to open the door.

12. As soon as the door was opened, about seven male agents and one female agent entered the apartment. They said in a loud voice: “No-one moves! Don’t touch anything! And you aren’t allowed to talk to each other! One of the other members of our group, whose name was Arash, said to them: “Do you have a warrant to enter the apartment?” One of the agents, who didn’t like Arash’s question, said: “We ourselves are the warrant!” Another agent opened his coat several times to show Arash his gun, to both threaten him and create fear.

13. One agent had a video camera, and filmed everything. He asked each and every one of us to introduce ourselves in front of the camera, and to say our place of residence. The agents confiscated everyone’s mobile phones, and searched the whole apartment and all our belongings. We had about 350 books, of which 300 belonged to the house-churches and were related to Christianity. But they even took our other books. And in addition to books, they also seized identification documents, a computer, a printer, and some cash. The cash was in a small box, and one of the agents asked: “Do the money, computer and printer belong to you, or to the church?” My husband and I honestly answered that they belonged to the church. So they confiscated them.

14. Three children were present at the meeting, with their parents: Bita and Amir’s daughter Sarina, who was almost seven years old; Maryam and Reza’s son Danial, who was three years old; and Leila and Peyman’s daughter Armita, who was less than two years old. The agents created fear with their behaviour, tone and words, and the children were the most scared.

15. One of the agents went with Bita to her home, and searched her whole place and confiscated everything related to Christianity. Then, even though Bita had two children, they took her to prison. Some agents also went with Arina, whose full name is Fatemeh Zarei, to her home, and after confiscating a number of personal items related to her Christian faith, took her to prison as well.

16. In addition, the agents went to Maryam and Reza’s home that night, and confiscated their Christian belongings. But Maryam, because she had a small child, wasn’t taken to prison. But she was later interrogated at the offices of the Ministry of Intelligence in Shahin Shahr.

17. Armita, the daughter of Leila and Peyman, had fallen ill that night, and had a high fever. For this reason, the agents allowed them to take Armita to the doctor, but then they went back with them to their home in Sepahan Shahr and confiscated everything related to Christianity.

18. It seemed the agents had been monitoring us for a long time. They asked us that night: “Where is Samira?” And Samira is the real name of Leila’s sister Atena, who had a house-church meeting that evening with another group. One of our church members was supposed to pick her up later so that she could join our meeting. After the agents discovered that Atena wasn’t with us, they later summoned her, and she went to Dastgerd Prison in Isfahan with Peyman three days later, on Saturday 23 February 2013, and they were arrested. Leila was also interrogated several times in the Shahin Shahr courthouse.

19. The search of our home finished at around 12.30am the following morning, and the agents handcuffed Ramin, me, and six others, and put us all in a van. One of the agents told Ramin and me: “Take everything you need with you, because you’ll be in the detention centre for a few days.” My husband and I were shocked, and couldn’t believe that we were going to be in detention for a few days. We told each other that we hadn’t anything to warrant being detained for a few days. That’s why we didn’t take anything with us. Before getting into the van, my husband Ramin asked one of the agents to let him say goodbye to his mother and comfort her, because she had fainted earlier when she had seen our situation. But they wouldn’t allow it.

20. We later found out that the agents had gone to the apartment of my husband’s family at the same time, and interrogated them. My husband’s sister had just taken a shower and was wearing a towel when the agents arrived. Her father had travelled to another city for business and wasn’t at home, but the agents interrogated her in her towel, and wouldn’t allow her to put on some clothes.

Dastgerd Prison in Isfahan

21. They took us to Dastgerd Prison in Isfahan. We entered the prison yard in the van, then got out and entered the building called “Alef-Ta”, which is the detention centre of the Ministry of Intelligence.

22. Each of us was told to sit on a chair with a small table attached to it. They sat me down in front of Arina, with Sahar behind her. Some of the others were taken to another room on the second floor. We were given a form to fill out, with questions about our personal details.

23. One of the interrogators, who introduced himself as “Ghasemi” and was about 50-60 years old, came up to me and said: “Why aren’t you writing anything?” I said: “I have the right not to write anything now, and to have a lawyer.” He kicked my chair, and I hit hard against the wall. He cursed me and used filthy language, and told me: “You are mistaken that you have this right; we don’t have such ridiculous games here. You should write!” And he kicked my hand and side again. I was wearing a black coat, and his footprints were visible on my coat. My hand was in great pain.

24. Another interrogator came in, and said: “Why aren’t you writing?” I said: “I’m not writing anything! It seems they are telling the truth when they say you torture people here!” He said: “No! It’s not like that.” I said: “Your colleague’s shoe-print is on my hand and my coat. My hand hurts a lot and I can’t write anything.” He said: “You all have to answer the questions. If even one of you doesn’t answer, none of you will be released.”

25. So I answered the questions that wouldn’t endanger other church members, but I didn’t give the right answers to some of the other questions. I was trying to keep some sensitive issues out of their sight. But after realising what I was doing, they mocked me, saying: “You think we’re stupid!”

26. That night, a young interrogator came up to me and came very close to me and flirtatiously whispered softly into my ear: “I know your nickname is Sadaf. Now, dear Sadaf, write whatever you know.” Then he went and brought me a glass of tea, and said: “Tell me whatever you need, and I’ll provide it. If I go, other interrogators won’t deal with you like me.” I felt very uncomfortable. His behaviour was disgusting to me, and I was very afraid that he would try to rape me. I would have preferred to have had the same interrogator as before, who had beaten me, rather than this person. “Please step back a bit, because I’m feeling uncomfortable,” I told him. He moved away from me, and after a few minutes he left.

27. Then I was taken into another room by a prisoner officer. Ghasemi, who was there, told me: “Now that you haven’t given correct and honest answers to the questions, you can stay in this room so that we can take care of you.” I was very scared of what they were going to do to me. I fell asleep on the chair there, due to the shock and my exhaustion. I woke up at the sound of the door opening – it was 7am – and they took me to a cell where Arina was already waiting. Three days later, Atena joined us in that same cell.

28. Our cell was very dirty. There was a hatch in the door, through which the meals were given to us. We were each given three blankets: one for a mattress, another for a blanket, and the third as a pillow. The blankets were very rough and dirty, and a dirty and thin carpet was on the floor. There was also a TV and a refrigerator that didn’t work.

29. There was a shower hose above the toilet, and there was no toilet door, and only a short wall separated it from the rest of the cell. We used to go to the toilet with fear and trembling, because the guards would open the door suddenly, without any warning. There were no female officers in Alef-Ta ward, so when one of us suddenly got her period, we had to shyly ask a male officer for sanitary napkins.


30. We were taken for interrogations at around 10pm, then returned to the cell between 5.30 and 6pm. My interrogations were mostly conducted by Ghasemi and that young interrogator who spoke very obscenely. They often asked repeated questions to look for contradictions in our answers. As there were many of us, they compared our answers. During the interrogations, it became clear that they had had us under surveillance for some time.

31. Unfortunately, due to the photographs on one of the cameras of one of our church members, they had access to photos of many of our members, and printed them all. In one of the interrogations, they showed me about 50 photos, and wanted me to identify everyone. I denied knowing anyone, but one of them was even my husband’s sister, and when I denied knowing her, the interrogator got angry and said: “You don’t know your husband’s sister?” I said: “The image isn’t clear, so I can’t really see who it is.” I was very tired and disorientated, and with a few pictures left, without thinking, I said: “Oh!” And the interrogator realised that I must have recognised one of the people in the photos. But no matter how much he threatened me, I wouldn’t tell him anyone’s name.

32. Among the questions the interrogators asked were: “What was taught in seminars abroad?” And “Write the names and addresses of the Christians who were members of the churches you served.” But I replied: “I don’t remember their addresses. I didn’t memorise them.”

33. Two or three days after my arrest, at 2.30 in the morning, I was taken to a room in which there was a prosecutor named Mr Aghili. “I heard you Christians pray and talk like turkeys!” he mocked me. He meant speaking in tongues. “Now tell me what you are praying for!” I said: “For various issues, such as people’s problems and diseases, and things like that.” The prosecutor said to me: “Do you know that your sentence is death?” I knew he was lying and just trying to scare me, because we hadn’t done anything to deserve death. I said: “I know my sentence isn’t death, and the accusations you made against us – such as ‘acting against national security’ and ‘cooperation with opposition groups and Zionist churches’ – are false and untrue.”

34. On the third day of my detention, they allowed me to call my sister, and said: “You are only allowed to say that you are fine.” I told my sister that I was fine, and that I was being detained in Dastgerd Prison in Isfahan. The jailer immediately took the phone from me and hung up. My sister had come to Dastgerd Prison several times and every time had been told: “Nasrin Kiamarzi’s name is not registered in the system here.” I found out later that as long as a detainee is in the “Alef-Ta” ward, their name isn’t registered in the system. On the fifth day of my detention, they allowed me to call my family again.

Women’s ward

35. We were in Alef-Ta for a week. Arina, Atena and I were in one cell, and Bita, Sahar and Sara were in the cell next to us. After a week, we were taken to the women’s ward of the prison. When I found out we were to be transferred there, I was very scared, because the interrogators had used the transfer to this ward as a threat to force us to answer their questions. They said: “You’re safe here. In the women’s ward, the prisoners won’t have mercy on you, and will harass and rape you!”

36. When we entered the women’s ward, the officers told us to take off all our clothes, so they could search us. It was a very painful moment, because my period had started while I was in Alef-Ta, and no matter how much I insisted that I wasn’t in the right condition and couldn’t completely remove my clothes, the female officer didn’t agree with me. With rude behaviour and insulting words, she said: “Don’t mess around! Do what I tell you!”

37. They said to all of us: “Since you came from Alef-Ta and it’s very dirty there, you should wash all your clothes and then enter the general ward.” So we showered in the cold winter weather, and washed our clothes by hand, then spread them out in the yard to dry. We had to stand by our clothes to make sure that no-one took them. The environment was very unsafe; right in front of our eyes, one of the prisoners stole our socks. In addition, we had to wear the clothes of previous prisoners until ours were dry. One of the other prisoners took pity on us, and said: “There is a hot-water pipe in the women’s cell, where you can spread your clothes to help them dry.”

38. Upon arrival, they also checked our hair. Alef-Ta was a very dirty environment, and Sara’s hair had become infested with lice. So her hair was cut off to a large extent, and she was taken to “quarantine” [an area of the prison where prisoners are taken before they are transferred or released]. The rest of us were taken to one of the women’s ward rooms. All around that room were the beds of other prisoners, and we had to sleep on the floor. We lay down together, and held each other’s hands and prayed. The prisoner who was seen as the “mother” of the ward, whose name was Mrs Golkar, said: “Don’t be afraid. All the halls have cameras, and the light in the corridor is always on.”


39. The next day, after we’d had breakfast, we were transferred to the “quarantine” section, and all six of us were together again. In quarantine, there was a 12-square-metre carpet on the floor, the weather was very cold, and the heating was broken. The quarantine room had a toilet and two showers. The toilet had a very unpleasant smell, like something rotting. There was also a large air-conditioning unit, which was constantly on, and made a terrible noise.

40. They brought many prisoners into quarantine. Some of them were addicted to drugs, and were in a very bad physical and mental condition. We six slept next to each other, and the space was so small that we had to sleep on our sides and at an angle. Of course, both in Alef-Ta and quarantine, the light was always on, so I couldn’t sleep easily, and it was very annoying.

41. During our time in quarantine, they took us for interrogations several times, and allowed me to contact my family twice. The interrogations in quarantine happened during the day, and were shorter, lasting around two to three hours.

42. Once, in the interrogation room, I heard Bita’s cries, and I was very upset and wanted to know whether the interrogators were beating her. So I decided to pretend to be ill and faint, and I threw myself off my chair. The interrogator was very scared, and called Sahar to take me out for some fresh air. Sahar was terrified, but I whispered to her that I was only pretending and just wanted to know if they were torturing Bita. Sahar said: “No, they aren’t torturing her. I think they just called her brother and threatened him as well.”

43. They told us: “You have no right to communicate with each other after your release.” We protested: “We were friends before we became Christians and won’t do any more Christian activities together. You’re watching us anyway, so you’ll soon find out what we do and don’t do.”

Temporary release

44. I was in quarantine for a week. Then Prosecutor Aghili issued a 20 million toman [approx. $5,000] bail for me, and a 50 million toman [approx. $12,500] bail for Ramin. The first of the women to be released was Bita, and the last was Atena. When I was finally released, after two weeks’ detention, my husband’s family said Ramin would be released half an hour later, and both of us were released that same day.

45. Our first court hearing was held on 19 June 2013, in the first branch of the general court of the judiciary in Shahin Shahr. The judge was Mr [Jahanbakhsh] Ahmadi. Our accusations, according to the official document, were: “Propaganda against the holy regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran in favour of groups or organisations opposed to the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” and “Membership of groups opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran by forming groups and recruiting members, and coordinating with foreign elements in relation to the propagation of evangelical Christianity and Zionism, and the formation of house-churches.” In addition to this, due to what they considered “non-observance of Islamic affairs”, they added the charge of “illegitimate relationships, without adultery” because we had been together with members of the opposite sex who weren’t colleagues or family members, and the women had attended these meetings without headscarves.

46. On 18 July 2013, the judge issued a verdict and sentenced us to one year each in prison, and two years’ ban on travelling abroad. He also sentenced us women to 40 lashes each, and the men to 60 lashes, due to our “illegitimate relationships”.

47. In the second session at the appeal court, on 18 September 2013, our lawyer, Mr Mehdi Jahanbakhsh Harandi, explained: “This group is Christian and, according to their beliefs, they didn’t wear hijab.” Therefore, the charge of “illicit relations without adultery” was nullified. Despite this, they never returned any of our belongings, whether or not they were related to the Christian faith, nor any of the things that belonged to our churches.

Interrogation after release

48. A month after our release, Ramin and I were summoned to a villa that belonged to the Ministry of Intelligence but of course had no sign outside to signify this. There, Interrogator Ghasemi gave us a piece of paper to sign, on which it was written: “I will not talk to anyone about Christianity from now on, and I will repent and return to the religion of Islam.” I said: “I won’t sign this paper.” Ghasemi said: “You argue a lot! Sign it, or we’ll take you to prison again!” So I wrote on the paper: “I do not regret at all that I became a Christian, and even if something bad happens to me and I have to pay a fine, I will not turn away from Christianity in any way. I just pledge not to talk to anyone about Christianity while I live in Iran.”

49. Shahin Shahr’s Ministry of Intelligence kept us under strict control. There was always a car near our apartment, checking on our movements. We were very afraid, and felt that our conversations were being listened to, so we didn’t feel comfortable or safe either at home or when we went out.

50. Usually, everyone who came to our home rang the doorbell. One day, my husband’s father knocked on the door, and I was very scared, because the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence had knocked on the door on the day of our arrest. Hearing the sound of the knock, the fear that had struck me that day of my arrest came over me again, and I was so scared that I shouted: “Ramin, don’t open the door!” But Ramin said: “It’s my father! Don’t be afraid!”

51. We stayed in contact with the other people who had been arrested, and did our best to find out about the other members of our house-church who had not been arrested. But due to the intense and constant control of the agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, we slowly realised that we had become like useless figures, and couldn’t carry out any church activities anymore.

Leaving Iran

52. So in September 2014, we felt we had no choice but to leave for Turkey and become refugees. Our lawyer, Mr Mehdi Jahanbakhsh Harandi, promised us: “If you leave Iran, I can defend you and overturn your one-year prison sentence, and not only will you be acquitted, but your bail amounts will also be released.” But unfortunately, after we had left Iran, he told us: “There is only one way for you to be acquitted. You must write a letter of repentance and declare that you are sorry and intend to return to Islam.” We said: “We already made clear both to our interrogators and to you that we’ll never return to Islam, and we don’t regret becoming Christians.” For this reason, our sentence was confirmed by the appeal court, and our bail amounts were confiscated.

53. My husband and I were refugees in Turkey for two years, then we went to the US. In 2017 we had a baby, Ryan, and we have also started working with a Christian TV channel. But the mental and psychological impact of our detention remained with me until just two years ago, when I took some time to think more about my mental health and made a point of frequently reminding myself that I was in a safe country. Before that, even hearing a knock on the door would cause anxiety and, having seen parents being separated from their children during our arrest, I was very afraid after becoming a mother about losing my child. My father and brother died after we moved to the States, and I was very sad that I hadn’t been able to see them for years, nor even be by their side to share in my family’s grief and take part in the mourning ceremony. Inside, I felt hatred and disgust towards those who had arrested us, and who had taken us away from our family, friends and country. But now I don’t feel hatred towards them, as I reminded myself that persecution is part of the Christian faith and that I am not the only one – not the first, nor the last – who will experience persecution, and also that the agents don’t really know what they are doing, and just think they are serving Islam. One agent even apologised to us while he was arresting us, saying he had to do it because it was his job.