IRAN – ‘Every time the bell rang, we thought it was him’ – daughter of pastor executed 30 years ago

Article18 | Mary Mohammadi | March 9, 2020

The following is an English translation of an interview conducted by Christian convert Fatemeh (Mary) Mohammadi with Arian Soodmand, youngest daughter of Pastor Hossein Soodmand, who was executed for apostasy in 1990.

When and how did the pressure and security measures against your father begin?

We had a house in Mashhad that had two floors and a basement. My father turned this basement into a church, with the permission of the Islamic Republic. 

This church, called “The Assemblies of God Church of Mashhad”, was founded by my father, entirely legally, and with permission. 

And we put a sign on the house that said, “The Assemblies of God Church of Mashhad”. 

After Ayatollah Khomeini’s death, my father’s permission was withdrawn, the church closed, and the sign removed from the house. Then my father was arrested multiple times. Our phone calls were listened to. When my father was released from prison (on leave of absence), he said to us, “Don’t say anything because they know about our most private conversations, even my very private conversations with my wife. They have hidden listening devices in our house.”

When my father was martyred, without our permission they sold the phone in our home, which was registered in the name of The Assemblies of God Church of Mashhad, and our phone was completely disconnected, and we were not allowed to buy and own a phone. 

Do you remember the dates of your father’s arrests?

I do not remember the date of my father’s first arrest, but I remember that after Mr. Khomeini’s death, my father’s arrests became more serious and the pressure increased. About 40 days after his [Khomeini’s] death, my father kept being arrested and released, and the authorities complained very much that the church had not held a ceremony to mark Mr. Khomeini’s fortieth day of death. Finally, he had to hold a ceremony for it.

My father’s final return to prison, after the end of his leave, was in early or mid-Aban 1369 [late October/early November 1990], from which he never returned.

Since you were only a nine-year-old girl when your father was executed, you and your family were faced with unimaginable difficulties. Tell us a little bit about your memories of the days your father was away in prison, his execution, and the days after.

The hardships for me started when I was seven years old.

My mother was blind, so my father had a lot more responsibility than most other men: he took care of us [children], did the housework and was a companion for my mother. 

My father and his mother helped my mother with the housework and our upbringing, but before my father’s martyrdom, in 67 [1988] when I was seven years old, my mother had an accident. 

In the accident, she suffered a serious head injury and schizophrenia. It is an acute and serious illness that makes a person very isolated. My mother has been at home since then and has been struggling with depression and schizophrenia. 

My mother wasn’t able to do much since the accident and my father and grandmother did all the housework. So my father did all this housework, took care of our schoolwork and was also a pastor and led the church (the church was on the lower floor of our house).