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News / Thoughts

Turkmenistan: Prison experiences

June 28, 2016

Umid, a father of three, was arrested and imprisoned after hitting a Muslim neighbour who was attacking him. The neighbour had begun to beat him in response to his conversion from Islam to Christianity. Though the neighbour later withdrew his accusation, Umid was still sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.

“No one would receive such a term in prison for an ordinary quarrel in the street,” explained a friend. “It is obvious that someone desired to put Umid into prison because of his Christian faith.”

During Umid’s imprisonment, Open Doors launched a prayer campaign for him. Now free, we’ve gone back to see how he and his family are doing, and how prayer has been impacting his life.

1. How would you describe your experience in prison?

They (the guards) tried to do everything to punish me, even if I hadn’t broken any laws. They put me in the isolation cell, far away from everything and everybody. They [threatened me]. I prayed a lot and God protected me always. I knew that He was with me, also because of many prayers from brothers and sisters around the world. People I didn’t know prayed for me!

How did you hear that Christians worldwide were praying for you?

From the guards – I heard that there were many letters and cards for me from worldwide places. Even though they didn’t give me those letters and cards (I’ve never seen them!), I was very encouraged. In the beginning, I felt very lonely and had no hope at all – I had the feeling no one was taking care of me. When I heard about these cards, letters and realised that people were praying for me, I received new hope and was thankful to God again.

In February 2015, you were released two-and-a-half years early – how did you react to the news, Umid?

At first, I couldn’t believe it! When I got home I realised for the first time that I was free. When I saw my family again, I was overwhelmed with emotions. The freedom was a priceless gift from God. Everybody cried. My wife was so happy and my children couldn’t stop hugging me!

Do you often remember your time in prison?

Yes, especially at the beginning. Every time I awoke in the middle of night, I thought I was still in prison. I had regular nightmares, but now it’s becoming better. I still think a lot about the difficulties that passed during my imprisonment. But I thank God each moment that I am free.

Do you feel safe now?

No, I know that the authorities are still following me. And I think my house has been bugged because my mobile phone is picking up a signal.

How can we pray for you?

Please pray for our city where we live, for our children. Please pray for the business project I’m doing with my wife, so that we can earn our own money. Pray also for safe meetings in my house – we now have two or three prayer meetings each week and, when we have more freedom, we want to invite more people to these prayer meetings. Thank you very much for your support and prayers. May God abundantly bless you!

Persecution in Turkmenistan

Turkmenistan is number 19 on the 2016 Open Doors World Watch List – a ranking of the countries where Christian face the severest persecution for their faith. Only state-run religious activities are allowed, and believers from Muslim backgrounds can be imprisoned, beaten and expelled from their communities.

Source: Open Doors

Pray now…

  • Thank God for Umid’s early release. Pray that he will be able to find peace from his painful memories
  • That God would hold Umid and his family in the hands of His protection and provision
  • For the government in Turkmenistan to allow believers to worship in freedom.

We support people who are beaten, tortured,
imprisoned, falsely accused, and hated simply for following Jesus.