After journeying across the world to Australia , Mahnaz* found Jesus.
Mahnaz lived in Tehran, Iran with her husband and her baby daughter Soheila. She worked as a logistics officer and her standard of living was very good.
However, because her husband had some difficulty with the Iranian Government, he had to leave the country. He came to Australia by boat, settled in Sydney and is now on a temporary protection visa.
Not long after her husband left for Australia, Mahnaz was visited by the religious police who charged her with the crime of wearing nail polish and too much makeup. She was sentenced to a whipping of 80 strokes.
After she suffered this ordeal, Mahnaz took her three-year-old daughter and left Iran to come to Australia by boat and rejoin her husband. After spending time on Christmas Island, she and her daughter were sent to Nauru.
There they had to endure 50° heat in white plastic tents. They had to carry water to their tents in buckets. She didn’t have to heat the water, as the heat in the tent took care of that.
Eventually, when Mahnaz’s physical and mental health broke down, she and Soheila were sent to the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation (MITA) detention centre to recover. However, there was always a threat hanging over their heads that when she was well enough she would be sent back to Nauru.
Although the MITA detention centre is essentially a prison, when Mahnaz arrived she kissed the ground. She said, ‘After Nauru, it was paradise.’
Because it was government policy to have no children in detention in Australia, Mahnaz and Soheila, who is now six years old, have been released into the community. She has been reunited with her husband who has moved from Sydney to Melbourne.
The time on Nauru has left Mahnaz traumatised and in need of counselling and medication. Nevertheless, Mahnaz now visits her friends in the MITA detention centre and is deeply concerned for the many asylum seekers who are still on Nauru and Manus Island.
When she hears news of people self-immolating or deliberately overdosing because they cannot cope with life in captivity on Nauru, she feels much anguish.
Mahnaz became a Christian on Christmas Island in 2013. Before this, she didn’t know anything about Christianity. One of her friends recommended she attend the Christianity class held every Monday and Wednesday.
Thinking it might help her mental health, Mahnaz went along.
She says that the first class was wonderful and she couldn’t wait for the next session. She was very happy, because that time in the class was the best time in detention.
Now, Mahnaz attends the Salvation Army’s Farsi congregation in Brunswick when she can. She has been invited to become an adherent and is contemplating becoming a member of the church.
*Not her real name