Captive In Iran, by Maryam Rostampour & Marziyeh Amirizadeh with John Perry
[Note: This book was received free of charge from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
Captive In Iran is a book that I can relate to perhaps a little bit too strongly. The two authors spent eight months in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran for their promotion of Christianity in Iran, for hosting house churches, for passing out Bibles, and for their honest application of what they knew of the truths of Christianity in a corrupt and paranoid regime. It is only by the grace of God, and not by any wisdom of my own, that I was able to avoid such a similar fate myself in Thailand, given the fact that a genuine biblical faith has political implications when one is dealing with paranoid and corrupt and wicked rulers.
The book begins with a brief account of the conversion of Maryam and Marziyeh to Christianity as young adults after growing up irreligious in Iran, not attracted to the formalism and hypocrisy of the Islamic faith, but being attracted to the heartfelt appeal of Christianity. It is clear from a reading of this book, however the prose has been helped by Mr. Perry (which is probably a great deal), that these two young women are more of the feeling and emotional type than the logical and rational type of people. That is not necessarily a bad thing, as it makes this work particularly humane and sympathetic, but it does mean that their behavior at times, like in front of judges, is more emotional and less rational than some might hope.
After several years of passing out Bibles and seeking to convert people from Islam to Christianity (which is a capital offense in Iran and many other Muslim countries) in the shadow of Evin prison, where they lived in an apartment, the two are inevitably visited by policemen. Having had impromptou visits from policemen myself in Thailand, it is not an enjoyable experience  , and almost equally inevitably, they are apprehended and brought into prison for apostasy and a variety of political charges as being revolutionaries and threats to the regime of Iran. For the next eight months they remain in prison, being moved from ward to ward, dealing with unwanted and aggressive lesbian advances, speaking up about their faith and showing in conduct that they are moral and decent and loving people, encouraging their fellow prisoners, and finding out in bits and pieces about how their case attracted attention from Voice of America as well as various Christian international organizations, as it showed Iran and its justice system in a less than flattering light.
It is to be commended that the two authors (along with their co-author) manage to strike a balanced tone between a frank and straightforward prison diary of their experiences of interrogation, malnutrition, poor health, and the brutality and corruption of the Iranian prison system along with an attitude of love and concern for all, including their fellow prisoners and even the bureaucratic officialdom of Iran. Though the knowledge of the authors in the biblical body of law is not profound, it is not to be wondered at because few people would be able or willing to teach them about God’s laws and their applicability, especially in Iran. Indeed, much of the account is spent talking about the wretched health both Maryam and Marziyeh suffer, along with their fellow prisoners, accounts which are similar to those which I have read about Thai prisons and other political prisoners of their ilk in other nations.
One of the few suggestions that I can make that would have improved this account would have been a little less foreshadowing. This is a grim and compelling account, but also an inspiring one in light of God’s divine providence in working these horrible experiences for the good, but it would have been even more compelling without the authors continually hinting at the future events that they did not know at the time. In the book it is hinted that it would take another book to tell the prison stories that they heard in Evin Prison, and I hope that they get the chance to write that book and that this present volume is a successful one. At the end there is a sense of bittersweetness, as the authors realize that even when they are formally freed from prison in Iran that they are changed and see everyone around them, from ordinary citizens to government officials, as being likewise enslaved in a larger prison, and so the two of them leave their homeland in exile, hoping for a day when their homeland may be free. Having known the bitterness of being exiled from a country well, I felt the same sort of disorientation and alienation myself, along with the longing for the same freedom, which can only come from virtue and godly behavior through conversion. Lord, thy Kingdom come!