LONDON — A former Iranian Muslim turned Christian is applying for asylum in England once again after his application in 2018 was denied with the claim that he would not face a “real act of persecution” if he returned to the country. He fears being separated from his family and subjected to imprisonment, torture, and even death for his conversion if deported.
“I feel weighed down and that my life is on hold. Knowing that I could be snatched off the street makes me nervous about leaving the house,” Reza Karkah told Christian Concern. “We pray each time we go out that Jesus will have mercy on us. I now have a new life and a new hope. To think that this could be taken from me in a moment is horrible.”
Karkah came to the UK in 2003 and sought asylum the following year. But after being denied, he began living on the streets and turned to drugs and crime.
“I would have been a dead man. The way I was going, I was a dead man in a couple of months,” he said.
He sought help from a local mosque, but according to Karkah, he was not allowed inside because of his appearance. Karkah then remembered the loving Christians who kept inviting him to church, but he thought he had to get his life cleaned up from drugs first before he could go.
He found himself continually failing in trying to fix his life on his own. Desperately in need of help and rejected by the Islamic religion, Karkah went to church and brought his girlfriend with him who he met on the streets.
“It got me thinking,” he explained of the invites, also noting that it was difficult to leave Islam because it was so ingrained in his upbringing.
“The 21 years being in an Islamic country, and [my] mother and father are Muslim, and [myself being] a practicing Muslim — so Islam was a part of me,” Karkah outlined. “So, it was fighting me when I wanted to accept Christianity and leave Islam, because I thought, ‘What happens if I leave? And why should I leave? Because this is what my parents taught me. Why did they lie to me?'”
In 2015, Karkah came to Christ, followed by Leigh. The two were married and baptized, and they have a little girl together who is now four. Karkah also is active in the local church, helping to translate services from English to Farsi in order to reach Iranian Muslims.
“I praise God today. I praise Jesus. Today, I am standing here free of drugs, and I’ve got my wife, my child, and best of all, I’ve got our church family,” he said. “And they are happy seeing where I am today and the glory of the Lord Jesus.”
In 2018, with the support of his church, Karkah again applied for asylum at the UK Home Office, but a judge denied his request as he failed to answer some questions about his faith during the 150-question interrogation — which Karkah says was due in part to misinterpretation.
The judge opined that Karkah was “fabricating” his Christian faith and said that while it would be distressing for him to have to leave his wife and child, it would not be “unduly harsh” and that he was not likely to suffer a “real act of persecution.”
With the aid of the Christian Legal Center, Karkah has now re-applied for asylum and is praying for acceptance this time. The organization notes that Karkah’s baptism alone is punishable by death under Sharia law, and his wife likewise says it is of a certainty that he would be taken into custody if he went back.
The Christian Legal Center has expressed concern about the practices of the Home Office as last year it was reported that another Iranian Christian was denied asylum after the government pointed to Scriptures in Leviticus, Exodus and Revelation that it found to be “inconsistent” with the man’s testimony that he turned from Islam to Christianity because it is a peaceful religion.
“Reza Karkah is the real deal, a courageous man transformed by the gospel and the hope of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said executive Andrea Williams in a statement. “At stake here is not just the life of Reza, but also his equally brave yet vulnerable wife, and their beautiful daughter.”
“We see in this case, and many others, that the Home Office has not properly understood the nature of Christian faith or the scale of the challenges faced by Christians in Iran,” she lamented. “We call on the Home Office to grant Reza asylum and for the government to address the ignorance of Christianity demonstrated in its asylum assessments and procedures.”