Marziyeh (Marzi) Amirizadeh is the co-author of the international best-seller Captive in Iran. In their book, Marzi and Maryam Rostampour describe the horrors of Iran’s Evin Prison, where prisoners are brutally tortured, raped, and deprived of basic human rights. Marzi and Maryam were sentenced to death for the crime of apostasy and promoting Christianity. All they had to do to save themselves was deny their faith, but they refused.
Following an international campaign demanding they be set free, they were released and later fled the country.
Trading Islam For Christianity
Marziyeh’s thirst to learn more about Jesus was not possible in Iran. There are no churches in Iran, and Bibles are forbidden. So, she went to Turkey to study theology and leadership classes. That’s where she met Maryam, who was to become her best friend. When they finished their courses, they decided to return to Iran to share their faith and distribute Bibles. This was prohibited in Iran, and although Marzi and Maryam knew the risk could cost them their lives, they were committed to sharing their faith.
‘When you meet God, and you experience his amazing love, nothing else matters to you. You’re on fire to share your faith with other people. I’m sure many Christians experience this relationship with Jesus,’ said Marziyeh. ‘Imagine growing up in an Islamic country that always teaches you about how cruel God is and how much he wants to punish you. Under Islam, it’s more about punishment. It’s not about love. But when I experienced that amazing love of Jesus through visions, dreams and miracles, that really changed me. After that, I was so passionate to share the truth with other people. So that’s why my friend and I, when we returned to Iran, didn’t care about our lives. What we cared about was giving this great message of truth to our people because the regime—the government, doesn’t allow Iranians to find out the truth about Jesus.’
Distribution of 20,000 Bibles in Iran
Marzi said that by reading the Bible, God gave her a vision showing her that Iran was like a big desert that needed seeds scattered all over it. Then, He was going to grow those seeds through the power of the Holy Spirit. Marzi and Maryam trusted God with this vision.
‘When you trust God, He can do amazing things through you. My friend and I talked to our pastor who was in London, and they asked the ministry to send thousands of Bibles to Iran,’ said Marziyeh. ‘It was difficult for them because they had to find an illegal way, and print all those Bibles. We prayed for months, and finally, through some connections, we received the Bibles.’
In less than three years, Marziyeh and Maryam distributed 20,000 Bibles in Tehran and a few other cities by putting them in mailboxes during the night.
‘There were many times that we were so close to getting arrested,’ said Marziyeh. ‘God wanted to strengthen our faith during this mission in Iran.’
She and Maryam were also operating two home churches at their home. They would ask God to show them the right person to speak with, and they took every opportunity to talk and pray with these people. They would share their faith and give them a Bible until finally, in 2009, they both got arrested.
Detained in a Dungeon
After their arrest, Marzi and Maryam suffered many indignities in Vozara Detention centre in Tehran. They were detained for 14 days instead of the usual few days while their case was being determined.
‘When we got arrested, they sent us to a horrible place. They call it a detention, but honestly, it was an underground dungeon. They kept us there for fourteen days,’ said Marziyeh. ‘We could not see the light, and there was no fresh air. We had to sleep on the cold concrete floor and cover ourselves with blankets that were soaked in urine. We were witness to the beatings between those prisoners. It was horrible to be in that place. They insulted us from the beginning many times. … and they forced us to a body search fully naked in front of their eyes. They tried to humiliate prisoners, especially us, because of our faith, in different ways to break us.’
At first, Marzi and Maryam were desperate to be released. But when they noticed how many people were getting arrested, they felt it was a great opportunity to share the message of salvation and love with these people.
‘That horrible underground dungeon became like a church to us. We would gather in one cell, and we would pray for people. And they were thirsty to understand Jesus and how much God loves them,’ said Marzi. ‘In that small jail, after 14 days, we were able to share our faith with more than 70 women, and after that, they transferred us to Evin Prison, which is notorious for torturing, raping, and executing many innocent women.’
During Marzi and Maryam’s incarceration in the notorious Evin Prison, they witnessed many human rights injustices and violations.
Reprieve From Torture During Muslim Prayers
‘I was witness to the execution of my cellmates,’ said Marziyeh. ‘It was shocking to me. They executed my best friend, Shirin Alam Hooli, after years of being tortured horribly.’
Shirin was a very beautiful Kurdish woman. Kurdish people do not have rights in Iran and don’t have the right to speak their own language. Shirin was fighting against the regime and for women’s rights. When she joined the group against the regime, she got arrested on political charges, which were punishable by execution, in order to silence them.
Over the years Shirin was in prison, she was brutally tortured. She was kicked in the stomach until she vomited blood. She was slapped, hit in her face, whipped with leather belts on the soles of her feet until her skin peeled off, and she was hung upside down from the ceiling. They banged her head against the wall repeatedly, screamed in her ears loudly and held a gun to her head. This went on for hours, with a brief reprieve when it was time for the next Muslim prayer. The guard would kneel to pray and then resume his beatings. One time, her beating was so severe that Shirin was unconscious for three days. When she woke up, the interrogations continued, although not as severe. After such brutal beatings, she suffered severe ongoing headaches. These were some of the many punishments she received until she was finally executed.
Sentenced to Death For Their Faith
Marzi and Maryam were told to renounce their faith or face a death sentence. An international campaign was rallying for their release. Many Christian organisations were protesting in front of the embassy in the UK, Amnesty International got involved, and the Pope sent a letter to the Iranian government from the Vatican.
‘They told us that if you insist on your faith, we are going to execute you, and you should come back to Islam. … I actually took that opportunity to share my faith with those cruel people as well. I told them why I gave my heart to Jesus,’ said Marzi. ‘I told them that even if you cut each part of my body, you are not able to separate Jesus from me because He’s so real to me.’
Marziyeh shares many more stories about how she kept strong in her faith through all her trials in her latest book, A Love Journey with God. It’s her memoir of growing up in Iran under harsh Sharia law, her imprisonment in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, struggling to make a living while being deprived of her inheritance by her wealthy brothers, and her new life in the United States.
Marzi continues to spread the Gospel and fight for Iranian women’s rights. She is a public speaker and activist for religious freedom.
To find out more about Marzi and to purchase a copy of A Love Journey with God, click her book title link or visit her website: Marzi’s Journey | A Love Journey with God (marzisjourney.com)
To listen to Marzi’s interview with Andrew McLennan on 20Twenty, click the link below: