Shahram Hadian still remembers what it felt like to be 9 years old, living in an apartment in Atlanta and waiting for his mother to return from Iran.
The weeks turned into months, the months into years. He thought he might never see her again.
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"It's a part of my story I don't share a lot," says Hadian, whose family fled Iran in December 1978 to escape the Ayatollah Khomeini's uprising against the Shah of Iran.
His father was a military man who saw the writing on the wall, as Khomeini was manipulating and agitating against the U.S.-backed Shah, gaining popularity among college students and rural Iranians who saw the country as becoming too secular and too Western.
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By the fall of 1979, the students seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
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U.S. President Jimmy Carter acted swiftly and without warning to cut off travel into the U.S. from the Ayatollah's new Islamic state. Iranian travelers were simply told at airports and at embassies that their visas were revoked. Deal with it.
"People don't know how Carter's executive order back then affected my family and others," said Hadian, who later converted to Christianity, served in law enforcement and later became pastor of Truth in Love Ministries near Spokane. He ran unsuccessfully for governor of Washington state in 2012.
President Trump’s executive order bars citizens of Iran and six other countries – Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen – from entering the U.S. for the next 90 days. The decision sparked immediate protests at airports across the U.S. by well-funded groups on the political left.
That caused Hadian to revisit his own experience under President Carter, who received zero pushback from the media, the political elites in Washington or the liberal left in Hollywood.
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"We came to the states on a visa because we had to leave Iran so quickly. My dad had been in the military under the Shah and sensed things were shifting. My mom was a schoolteacher in Iran," he recounted.
But his mother lacked only about nine months for her retirement pension, so she returned to Iran in summer of 1979 to finish up her work. While she was there, the revolution kicked into high gear, the U.S. embassy was seized and U.S. hostages were taken.
Hadian's mother was able to escape Iran by getting a tourist visa to visit a friend in Spain, figuring she would hop a plane for the U.S. and reunite with her husband and children in Atlanta.
But when she arrived at the U.S. embassy in Spain to get her passport stamped, she received the shock of her life.
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"She is notified her visa has been revoked," Hadian said. "We're in Atlanta and we find out it's been revoked. Now my dad is scrambling saying what do we do?"He said there was no news coverage like today. "It took a lot of digging to figure out what was going on," he said. "It was not in the news at all."
After a few weeks his mother left Spain for Germany, hoping the U.S. embassy there might be more accommodating. No luck.
"It didn't matter to these people. My dad explained it to them, pleaded with them at the embassy, but they didn't care that the rest of our family was already in America.
"So all this talk about separating families, we went through all that, and it was not for just 90 days."
Hadian had just turned 9, his mother was stuck in Germany.
"My dad was afraid she'd never get out, so she gets an apartment in Germany," he said. "My sister goes to visit her there, but we're back in Atlanta."
Hadian's father at that point started shopping for a country that would accept his entire family.
Canada was that country. All that was required was to establish a 90-day residency, "and literally on day 91 we went to the embassy in Ottawa, and they approved her status, and she flew in from Frankfurt, Germany, about a week later in fall of 1981."
"We had to emigrate to another country, because they would not let her in that whole time Carter was in office," he said.
And the family's problems didn't stop there. They had to drive back to Atlanta to get their belongings. Even with Canadian green cards in hand, they still were not waived through the border.
"We still had a hard time coming across the tunnel from Ontario into Michigan," he recalls. "I vividly remember we had caught a bus, and they would not let us cross in because they thought we were moving back to the states. And my dad said, 'No no, no, we're only getting our stuff.' They made him leave his luggage in Canada, wait at a hotel in Canada for about a week, then made us buy a round-trip bus ticket back to Canada."
In Atlanta, the family loaded belongings into a U-Haul and drove back to the U.S.-Canadian border. They were detained again for several hours.
Then they settled in Vancouver.
"We would have never left the states if it were not for this ordeal of my mother not being able to join us," Hadian says.
While he was living in Atlanta, his father left him with an older cousin, who had also fled Iran, while he went out to find work. The cousin sexually abused young Shahram.
No hard feelings against U.S. or Carter
Despite the traumatic experience of being separated from his mother and abused by his cousin, Hadian is not bitter against the United States or President Carter for revoking his mother's visa and banning travel from Iran.
"I went through trauma. But now I'm listening to all these bleeding-hearts in the media saying these 100 people were detained by Trump's travel ban for two-and-a-half hours at the airport, and how they were scared and inconvenienced," he said. "You want to talk about inconvenience? You want to keep the debate on an emotional level? I've got a pretty emotional story, being separated from my mother for two-and-a-half years. Let's talk about the life-altering situations nobody is talking about that resulted from Carter's decision and what happened in 1979-81."
Unlike in 1980, the media would rather focus on the emotional aspect of families being temporarily separated than on questions of national security posed by unvetted travelers from danger zones.
"When we were taken off that bus and detained for hours, I remember watching my dad cry," he said. "These were things we had to go through. I don't hate America for it, and I understand this ban and the enhancement of our vetting process is absolutely necessary because we're in different days, when we have an enemy coming in and no process in place to stop them."
The right decision
In retrospect, Hadian's parents made the right decision to leave Iran in December 1978.
By the summer of 1979, Khomeini achieved total power. Military men with loyalty to the Shah were arrested, and many of them were never seen again. The mullahs rewrote the Iranian Constitution turning Iran into a totalitarian theocracy.
"We had relatives in Iran selling all our stuff over there. We left Iran in a rush. We had property, cars, we had stuff. We left it all," he said. "Dad was borrowing money from my mom's sister's husband and he was doing everything he could to provide for us and my mom who had no way of working on a tourist visa in Germany."
Once settled in Vancouver, Hadian's father started a restaurant business. Hadian was six months short of his 12th birthday when he was reunited with his mom.
"I remember seeing my mom for first time in two and a half years," he said. "It was an emotional reunion. I get choked up now thinking about it. My dad wasn't the most affectionate, he was a hard-nosed military man, and so I missed my mom and that deeply impacted me, so I just cried and cried when I saw my mom because I didn't realize how much it impacted me to be separated from her all that time."
Returning to America, becoming a Christian
Hadian applied for a U.S. green card in 1991. Seven years later in 1998, at the age of 27, he was granted the card and returned to the states after 18 years in Canada.
He moved back to the Atlanta area and worked as a tennis coach in Duluth, while living in nearby Lawrenceville, Georgia. It was there that he began learning about Christianity and questioning his Muslim faith.
"I moved back to Atlanta to work, which is where I became a Christian. It's interesting how the Lord took me back there, to the source of the pain, and brought healing, and revealed Himself to me in such a powerful way."
As he looks at the world and all that has happened between 1979 and now, he sees the reawakening of the global Islamic movement. In many ways that reawakening started with the Ayatollah Khomeini overthrowing the Shah of Iran and seizing the U.S. Embassy. Islam had declared war on the West, and the United States was seen as the head of the snake that needed to be crushed – crushed for its support of Israel and for its perceived domination of Muslim lands.
And now a refugee crisis has been thrown on top of the already strained relations between Islam and the West. The West refuses to acknowledge it is in a war with radical Islam, but Islam is not so confused. Its imams, mullahs and sheikhs from Mecca to Tehran and increasingly in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia, are openly identifying Israel and the U.S. as enemies of Islam.
U.S. Christians largely asleep about Islam
The Christian community is largely asleep and devoid of accurate information about Islam, Hadian says.
"To me right now, our biggest struggle is within the Christian community. It's all in. You're either all in for the refugees or you're nothing," he said. "We need to expose the groups like the evangelical World Relief, the Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Charities. That's an issue we're not talking about.
"These church-related organizations are getting close to $2 billion a year between them, and the biggest bulk of funding is coming from the federal government," he said. "And we need to expose the fact that their contract with the U.S. State Department forbids them from proselytizing the refugees. You're not evangelizing them. You're more worried about let's feed them, clothe them and get them a translator and a tutor than about how we reach out to them with the gospel.
"If we don't figure out how to do that, they will not assimilate. And they will end up attacking us like in Europe. We're not haters. We're not wanting to have a lifetime ban, but tell the other side of the story."
After the Muslim bombing of the St. Mark's Coptic church in Egypt, there was no weeping in America for the Christians, notes Hadian.
"I think it was Tucker Carlson on Fox News who said, 'I don't hear Christian pastors talking about the persecution of the Christians.'"
In the 35 years since the Refugee Act of 1980 was signed by President Jimmy Carter, there has never been a year in which more Muslims were accepted as U.S. refugees than last year. More than 46,000 Muslim refugees entered the U.S. as refugees in fiscal 2016, with 12,600 of them coming from Syria.
Less than 1 percent of those Syrian refugees were Christian.
"It is hypocrisy and selective outrage by the left," he said. "They're outraged we're putting a temporary ban on seven Muslim countries, but not outraged by the effective ban on Christians from Syria. They are running for their lives and can't even go to the safe zones without being attacked by Muslims."
Hadian is planning to make his first visit to Israel in March as part of a pastors' group hosted by Christians United for Israel.
"They sat me down and kind of sheepishly told me that if your passport says you were born in Iran, expect to be detained for about four-and-a-half hours, and I'm like, 'OK, no problem. I understand given the security of their country and that they don't trust the Iranian government. I'm expecting it; I'm not offended. But we've lost our collective minds in this country. Why should I get offended that the Israeli government is doing its job? Is it my right to go to Israel, or is it a privilege?
"So they were like, 'Expect to be extremely vetted,' and I'm like, 'OK, vet away.'"
Yet, liberal Western Christians are in many cases so thin-skinned they can't even hear the truth, let alone receive it.
"Christ said, 'I'm sending you out to be as gentle as doves but as wise as serpents.' They are refusing to be as wise as serpents, and that's why they're falling victim to the lies and the deceptions of Islam," Hadian said. "They are sacrificing themselves to Islam, just like in Europe."
Because of the propensity of modern-day Western Christians to fall into the trap of becoming "snowflakes" and actually side with the left and Islam, Hadian believes Trump will have his work cut out on many flash-point issues – including Muslim immigration, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem and declaring the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization.
"I'm telling people the darkest days are still ahead of us. Trump is getting serious about this. He's got enough of an ego if he decides to do something, I don’t think anything can sway him, and that's exactly what you need to go against this monster," Hadian said. "The Muslim Brotherhood groups, like CAIR and ISNA, are going to use the liberal left as useful idiots. That's why we see women wearing hijabs in solidarity with Muslims when they don't know what the hijab means for Muslim women living in Muslim countries. You want to know what a hijab means? Go ask a woman in Iran. It's pure stupidity on their part, but CAIR will cover for them and say the hijab has nothing to do with domination of women. The toughest days are still ahead of us, and it is going to be an all-out war. At some point, as Christians, we need to go about understanding the spirit of Islam and where it comes from."
At its heart, Islam is made up of an anti-Christ spirit, Hadian said.
"It denies Him as the Son, and it denies his Father. So what do you have left? What you are seeing is a deception," he said.
He believes the next step in the Islamization of America is a massive growth in conversions. Young, secular women who have rejected Christianity will flock to Islam.
"How many liberal Christians are going to get converted to Islam after going down the road of Chrislam for a while?" he said. "So really the only explanation we can come to as believers is a spiritual one. It is a blindness, a deception at its root. But I just sure hope this administration goes full force ahead against the Muslim Brotherhood."