Outside of Iranian borders, Persians are increasingly forsaking Islam, usually for Christianity or atheism. That’s been going for several years in places like the Netherlands and Germany, which has welcomed many thousands of immigrants from Iran.
But not everyone fleeing the mullahs is able to get to Europe. Those who can’t end up in Iran’s next door neighbor, Turkey, which is where an NPR story on their plight starts.
From a journalism perspective, here is what we are looking for: What crucial voices are missing in this important story?
In a hotel conference room in Denizli, Turkey, about 60 Iranians sing along to songs praising Jesus mixed with Iranian pop music. When the music stops, American pastor Karl Vickery preaches with the help of a Persian translator.
"I'm not famous or rich. But I know Jesus. I have Jesus," he says, with a Southern drawl. The Farsi-speaking Christian converts shout "Hallelujah!" and clap.
Vickery, who's part of a visiting delegation from Beaumont, Texas, then offers to pray for each person in the room…
Among the parishioners are Farzana, a 37-year-old hairdresser from Tehran, and her daughter Andya, 3 … She doesn't want to give her last name because she says her family in Iran might face persecution for her conversion. Her family knows she is a convert and they're scared for their own safety inside Iran.
What might she face were she sent back?
There are hundreds of thousands of Christians in Iran. Those considered part of the native Christian communities are permitted to practice their religion with restrictions, but a Muslim converting to Christianity is considered an apostate. The Iranian government jails converts, especially those who proselytize.
It is also illegal to convert from Islam in several other Muslim-majority countries, including Saudi Arabia, and punishable by jail time or death.
According to Open Doors, persecution is “extreme” in Iran and it’s the 10th worst country in the world to be a Christian. We’re not talking just being fired from jobs or being denied a university education. We’re talking about torture and death.