Former Iranian politician finds more than freedom in the West

Dr Daniel Shayesteh, author, academic and speaker is also a poet, classical Middle Eastern musician and an expert on the difference between Islam and Christianity.

Daniel Shayestah
Daniel Shayestah in front of a picture of himself as a younger man.

Daniel and his wife Mary were born into nominal Muslim families in a small city in Northern Iran in the 1960s.

Daniel grew up in poverty, went to university in Tehran, joined the army and became part of the revolutionary movement that helped to overthrow the Shah and bring Ayatollah Khomeini to power in 1979.

The couple became fully involved in the fundamentalist Islamic movement. Their common religious and political interests drew them together and they married. Daniel ran for the Islamic Parliament.

He became a leading politician but was soon disillusioned with the cruel dictatorship of the mullahs.

The bitter rivalry of Islamic politics often leads to people being killed for their beliefs, so when Daniel stood as an opposition candidate in elections he was kidnapped by Khomeini's Revolutionary Military and placed in a political prison – a place of torture and torment - to await a death sentence.

"The other four men in my cell were hanged but God in his love and graciousness had other plans for my life," Daniel reveals.

"Unexpectedly I was temporarily released, but I was not allowed to work in my city, and neither was I allowed to leave my city to seek work in other areas, or leave the country. My family and I were interrogated, monitored and constantly under pressure from the authorities.

"Finally, after two attempts, I escaped into Turkey in 1988 - homeless and without family or friends. My loneliness was overwhelming at the time and I feared for my family's safety because of my escape," Daniel recalls. "A few months later I decided to study at a Turkish university. That kept me busy and helped to get rid of some sadness. I also had a thought that, as part of my studies, I should find some time to investigate other religions, to see what their gods are like."

A number of months later, through a business deal that went wrong, he came into contact with the Iranian Christian Fellowship in Istanbul.

It was a surprise to Daniel when he first saw a New Testament in Farsi, as he didn't know that there was a Bible in his own language, and had never heard of Muslims converting to Christianity.

"When I first entered a church, I was shocked: people were playing music (music is evil in the Muslim world, especially in worship) and everyone seemed happy; women were standing, singing and lifting their hands. After the church service I was warmly welcomed and loved.

"One day alone in Turkey I was overwhelmed by the injustice of the world and felt very sorry for myself. I started to complain to God, saying: 'Aren't you the Almighty God? Should I suffer all my life? Why don't you help me? What is this life for? How can I get out of this life?'

"That night I heard Jesus' voice in a dream, and the following Sunday I heard the preacher saying the exact words Jesus said to me in the dream: 'Come out of your father's old house [of tradition, superstition and fear] and live in a new house on the rock of Jesus' (based on Luke 6:48f). At the time, I didn't know that there is only One Almighty name by which man can be saved.

"Yes, only one name, Jesus."

By reading the New Testament, he discovered that the God of the Bible, unlike all other gods who are impersonal, is personal and people can have a personal relationship with Him in their lives on earth.

"I understood that Jesus is love as much as God is. The way Jesus looks at sinners is the same way God does. God the Son is God, as much as God the Father is. He came down for us. He was crucified for us. He died for us. He rose from the dead for us and He is living within us. This is the plan of God in the Bible.

"After reading the Bible for about three months I noticed that Jesus is my God. He is my Creator. He is my Saviour. He is my Father. He is my judge. He is the King of my life and there is no end of His kingdom.

"I read hundreds of prophecies about Messiah in the Old Testament and saw their fulfilment in Jesus in the New Testament."

Farsi Bible
Farsi Bible

Later Mary and the children joined Daniel in Turkey. When he told her he had found a friend in Jesus, his conversion was a shock to her. "How can a person change his or her religion?" were her words, yet she recognised that Daniel was indeed a very different man.

Daniel was afraid he would lose his family, however Mary began reading the Bible and discovered that it said that men and women were equal and women were not inferior to men, which made her interested in this new faith. Previously, she had thought all religions were the same.

Months later Jesus appeared to Mary in a dream, saying: "Come my daughter, do not be afraid. Just take the first step." In the dream, as she did so, all the obstacles before her disappeared. Through God's goodness and grace Daniel's wife, once a fundamentalist Muslim, became a Christian.

Daniel is now director of an organisation called "Exodus from Darkness" aimed at helping Muslims to find the Truth that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to heaven. Check it out at www.exodusfromdarkness.org.

Or find his autobiography The House I left Behind:A Journey from Islam to Christ on Amazon.