A SINGLE decision carried out by Farhad Moshiri was denounced as a 'crime' by his government and almost cost him his life.

And the offence?

His decision to convert to Christianity inside one of the most repressive regimes on the planet.

Mr Moshiri, who does not wish to be pictured out of fear of possible reprisals, has lived in Newport for two years after arriving in the country as a refugee.

He was born in Tehran, Iran in 1982--just three years following the momentous Iranian Revolution that changed the history of the world.

“I love Britain,” he said.

“But I still miss Iran because that is where I was born--my memories are there.

“I was born during a lot of change. The Iranian Revolution saw the last Shah fall from power and he was replaced with an Islamic republic.

"I had a very good childhood and was brought up in a Muslim household.

"Once I finished university, I got a full-time job. I started as a cashier and later became a director.”

South Wales Argus:

(The last Shah of Iran)

But it was when Mr Moshiri reached 18 that he began to question his religion.

He soon turned away from Islam and sought to embrace a new religion.

“I disagreed a lot with Islam and I was not happy,” he said.

"I decided to look into other religions--Buddhism, Hinduism and Christianity. I kept reading about them for about 10 years. I was an atheist for a while, too

"Then one day I saw some friends in the street, who were Christian, and that was what brought me to Christianity. My friend did not trust me at first to discuss Christianity. You cannot be open about Christianity in Iran.”

Christians are a minority in the Middle Eastern country and are persecuted relentlessly by Iranian authorities. Not only are Christians forbidden from sharing their faith openly with other religions, but church services in Persian are outlawed.

Last year the Commission for International Religious Freedom reported: “In the past year, religious freedom in Iran continued to deteriorate for both recognized and unrecognized [sic] religious groups, with the government targeting Baha’is and Christian converts in particular.”


Despite the perils of embracing Christianity, Mr Moshiri decided to clandestinely convert.

"I decided to become a Christian when I was roughly 32,” he said.

“If the authorities were to find out and catch me, I would be executed.

"My parents were not happy about me converting. They were very worried that the government could find out.”

And just a year later, his closely guarded secret was unravelled by the government.

"I do not know how they found out about my religion,” he said.

"But in Iran the government traces phone calls, text messages and e-mails.

"They found out about my religion in 2016.

"I was away on holiday in another part of Iran when the authorities raided my home. My mum rang and was crying down the phone.

"They were chasing my wife and I. We had to keep changing our locations in Iran."

Fearing the penalties if caught, he and his wife remained on the run for a fortnight.

The harsh reality soon became apparent to them.

They needed to escape the country.

"We paid to be smuggled out in a lorry. We were amongst the boxes for 12 hours without food or water,” he said.

"It was very scary.

"The lorry took us to Turkey and then we came to the UK in 2017.

"If they had caught me then I would have been executed. I am certain of that.”

South Wales Argus:

(Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei)

After settling in Newport, he now works in finance and regularly worships at Bethel Church.

The refugee revealed his dream that Iran would one day be freed of the “shackles” imposed on it by its government.

"Because of what is happening you now have a lot of Iranians regretting that the Shah fell from power in 1979,” he said.

“Had the Shah, who was the previous ruler of Iran, been still there then there would have been more freedom. Britain and America should have done more to support him.

"Iran is going through its darkest chapter in its history.

"I do want the current regime - which is headed by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei - to fall. I will celebrate the day it happens. Protests are now happening in Iran because people want change. The people need to be freed from the shackles of the government.

"I do hope that one day I can return.”

In a report issued last year, Amnesty International found that Iranian courts continued to impose death sentences despite unfair trials.

And this week, Newport West's MP, Ruth Jones, spoke in Parliament in support of a report into persecution of Christians, which said the UK Government had often been "blind to this issue".

The report by the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Rev Philip Mountstephen, was ordered by foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt and said 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination - ranging from employment and education issues to "genocidal attacks" - were committed against Christians.

The Labour MP said the issue was "an increasing concern to me and to many of my constituents".

"We must, as the Bishop notes, recognise that this is not a western problem, that many of the poorest in our world are Christians, and that they need our solidarity and support," she said.

"It is easy to brush this off, but there are people living in fear, people living with often devastating consequences and people who need the British government to stand up for them.

"This need to stand with them is why it is so important that the British government get to grips with this."

She added: "We must ensure that civil society plays its role in shaping views and protecting minorities.

"We have seen what happened with the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and with the Christians in the Middle East and other places.

"The British government can and should become a leader in defending freedom of expression and of faith too."