Rebecca Duffett spoke with Darius Radmanesh about living under the Iranian regime and how he escaped

Darius Radmanesh
Darius Radmanesh

The last two years have seen an increase of turmoil and conflict in the Middle East with the Arab Spring, civil war in Syria and the death of Libyan dictator Gaddafi. Iran continues to threaten to wipe Israel off the face of the earth and the international community is constantly at odds with Iran's nuclear developments. In the news we hear of the rising death toll in Syria and huge numbers of refugees. Behind the headlines and numbers are real people whose lives are torn apart; people who live with suffering every day. Rebecca Duffett spoke with Darius Radmanesh, author of Escape From Iran to find out what it was like living under the current regime and why he had to flee.

Rebecca: Tell us a bit about your background.

Darius: My name is Darius Radmanesh. I am American born, in the great state of Missouri back in 1969. I have an American mother and an Iranian father. Back in the early 70's, my father, once he graduated from Truman State University, which used to be MSU, he took us back to Iran. This was during the Shah's time prior to the present day regime in that country. He got a job working for DuPont. DuPont also asked him to go back to Iran and represent them in Iran to help train Iranian engineers in being able to operate a chain of companies that DuPont was building in Iran at the time. They still exist to this day.

We went to Iran and then of course '78 came along and the protest against the Shah began. My father was very optimistic that the Shah would basically suppress the uprisings and that everything would go back to normal; which unfortunately, history has shown us that it didn't happen. The Shah was overthrown and before we had a chance to get away we got caught up in that unfortunate situation. We were basically apprehended. My father was accused of being a collaborator with the Shah of Iran and my mother was accused falsely, of course, of being CIA and so began nine years of captivity under this present regime.

Rebecca: You rejected the Islamic regime. What was it like rejecting that?

Darius: Well, I'm a Christian, as you know, since I was a little boy in my diapers. My father, his family come from a long line of devout Moslems, they have been for centuries, but my father himself was extremely liberal in that area. He didn't get carried away. The spirituality of how my sister and I were raised was basically a task bestowed on my mother and God bless her, she made sure that my sister Tina and I were raised as Christians. Under the new regime this did not go very well. The Iranian law is that if you're born from an Iranian father it doesn't matter where you were born, no matter where your mother was born, that's irrelevant, you were Moslem whether you like it or not. With this regime being radical or an extremist regime, the truth of the matter is they don't abide by the true teachings of Islam. What they are representing is something totally distorted from the truth. Under this regime they took death in extreme and they said, look this ain't happening basically, you're a Moslem whether you like it or not and I said, no I'm a Christian and so that led to a great deal of backlash, so it wasn't good.

Rebecca: What was your scariest experience during those years in Iran?

Darius: The war of course. The war part was frightening beyond imagination. I received a great deal of abuse from various members of the regime. My escape from Iran itself was also very frightening indeed. I think the whole experience as a whole was very very frightening.

Rebecca: What is the situation in Iran like now?

Darius: Well the situation in Iran today is by no means improved, if anything it has got worse from what I've been hearing from various contacts, friends and associates. It's gotten worse to the point where now if you are Christian or if you're a Baha'i, which I'm not sure if you are familiar with the Baha'i people; they are a religious minority group in Iran. Then of course the Jewish community have been coming under a great deal of persecution and many many atrocities are being committed against these people; against Christians, Jews and Baha'i's as I pointed out. As a matter of fact not too long ago, a Christian spiritual leader, he was hung. His only crime was the fact that he believed in our Lord Jesus Christ and he was spreading the word of the gospel and they hung him. Apparently there are many others waiting a similar fate. It is very bad over there.

Rebecca: You are American born, so what was the problem in you leaving Iran and how was it that you ended up escaping?

Escape From Iran

Darius: The problem was of course with the war. As I have pointed out to you that I wasn't born there, but they said, look your Dad's Iranian, you are an Iranian whether you like it or not. I was yanked off the street by members of the Hezbollah guard. I was forced to fight the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980's. I was there for about three months. I was able to get away thanks to the kindness of a certain Iranian Major. I was then sent up into the mountains by my father. I hid there for about a year with the nomadic Qashqai people.

After one year we were able to make arrangements for my Grandfather, God rest his soul, Charles McCann back home in America, he was our middle guy between us and Iran and the State Department in Washington DC. They were able to make arrangements to have me smuggled out of the country. What happened was when I left the front it was arranged by this certain major; I had to leave for sick leave and be gone for a couple of weeks, but then I would have to come back. During this time, as soon as I got back home, I never went back, I went into hiding. It was during this time where I didn't report back to the base that members of the Hezbollah guard went to our house and my mother, she opened the door and there they are. They came in with their machine guns and they asked where I was and my mother told them he's not here he's left the country. I'm sure you can imagine how outraged they were for that idea. They started scouring the country; shoot to kill on sight. After one year's time in hiding, arrangements were made and I was smuggled out of Iran to the Persian Gulf. I went on a small boat and I went to the American Consulate and they handled all my paper work and in a couple of weeks I was on my way back home to America.

Rebecca: Did your family get out as well?