It was 1989, and Juliana Taimoorazy’s family was desperate to escape Iran. Facing increasing persecution as Assyrian Christians, the family had already helped Taimoorazy’s brother escape to Europe. But getting an unmarried teenage girl out of the country without attracting the government’s attention was no easy feat.
One smuggler proposed hiding her in sheepskin, and driving her through Pakistan to India in the back of a truck. But her father thought the proposal raised red flags for human trafficking. Another smuggler proposed marrying the teenage girl, converting her to Islam, and taking her to Germany. But he was unwilling to promise that he would then divorce her and relinquish any claim to legal rights over her. If he liked her, he said, he would keep her.
After months of fasting and praying, the family found someone to smuggle Taimoorazy to Switzerland. She was granted asylum in the United States in 1990, at the age of 17.
Today, Taimoorazy runs the Iraqi Christian Relief Council (ICRC), which she founded in 2007 to raise awareness and humanitarian aid for persecuted Christians in Iraq and throughout the Middle East. She has served as a United Nations delegate and has spoken to lawmakers in the United States and Europe about policies that affect persecuted Christians.
Last month, she was nominated for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize for her advocacy work.
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