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Prisoner of Tehran: A Memoir Hardcover – May 1, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press; First Edition edition (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416537422
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416537427
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.5 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (92 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,201,124 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Nemat tells of her harrowing experience as a young Iranian girl at the start of the Islamic revolution. In January 1982, the 16-year-old student activist was arrested, jailed in Tehran's infamous Evin prison, tortured and sentenced to death. Ali, one of her interrogators, intervened moments before her execution, having used family connections with Ayatollah Khomeini himself to reduce her sentence to life in prison. The price: she would convert to Islam (she was Christian) and marry him, or he would see to it that her family and her boyfriend, Andre, were jailed or even killed. She remained a political prisoner for two years. Nemat's engaging memoir is rich with complex characters—loved ones lost on both sides of this bloody conflict. Ali, the man who rapes and subjugates her, also saves her life several times—he is assassinated by his own subordinates. His family embraces Nemat with more affection and acceptance than her own, even fighting for her release after his death. Nemat returns home to feel a stranger: "They were terrified of the pain and horror of my past," she writes. She buries her memories for years, eventually escaping to Canada to begin a new life with Andre. Nemat offers her arresting, heartbreaking story of forgiveness, hope and enduring love—a voice for the untold scores silenced by Iran's revolution. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In Tehran in the early 1980s, after she leads a strike in high school to get her math teacher to teach calculus not politics, Marina, 16, a practicing Catholic, is locked up for two years and tortured with her school friends in the Ayatollah Khomeini's notorious Evin political prison. She is saved from execution by an interrogator, Ali, who wants to marry her and threatens to hurt her family and Catholic boyfriend, Andre, if she refuses. Forced to convert to Islam, she becomes Ali's wife; then he is assassinated by political rivals, and she rejoins her family and marries Andre. They immigrate to Canada in 1991. For more than 20 years, secure in her middle-class life, she keeps silent, until she writes this unforgettable memoir. Haunted by her lost friends and by her betrayal of them, Nemat tells her story without messages and with no sense of heroism. The quiet, direct narrative moves back and forth from Toronto to Nemat's childhood under the shah's brutal regime and, later, during the terror under Khomeini. Despite the rabid politics and terrifying drama, the most memorable aspect of the story is the portrait of Ali, Nemat's savior, in love with her, so kind to her--Does he kill people when he goes off to work in the prison each day? Her comment that she wishes "the world were a simple place where people were either good or evil" is as haunting as her guilt and love. When she asks Andre to forgive her long silence, he asks her to forgive his not asking. Hazel Rochman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

Very well written; very raw.
First of all Marina Nemat was faced with criticism from a number of former political prisoners about some details of the book.
Ky. Col.
It also made me very thankful to live in a country like Canada.
Russell Pangborn

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 105 people found the following review helpful By Jessica Zimmerman on May 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
You know, I read the other review of this book and it angered me a little. This book is a memoir written by a woman who was subjected to torture and treatment that nearly all reading this will never have to endure. Look at the title of the book, of course it is going to be depressing. She was the victim and this is HER memior, she never claimed to be a writer. It took her twenty years to write this book because of how difficult the whole ordeal was. In writing this book she became physically ill with all the same ailments that she suffered while imprisoned. Please do not let that review make your decision. I had the opportunity to hear her on NPR and I was very impressed with her.
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39 of 45 people found the following review helpful By nursebettyknitting on May 15, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Marina Nemat's book is riveting - absolutely! Could not put it down - finished in one night. Her story is a tale of spiritual triumph -love over hate, freedom over opression.Marina's beautiful spirit emanates from pages of the book, instilling hope despite immesurable suffering.

Prisoner of Tehran is a vivid reminder to the world about how cruel and bigoted is Aytolla's regime in Iran.It is an alarming testimony, a wake up call to all.While reading, I wondered if Marina's book will ever be published in her birth country.
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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on June 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Tied tightly to a pole, Marina Nemat, age 17, watched the firing squad level their rifles and prepare to end her life.

But they never fired at her.

Several fellow prisoners in Tehran's brutal Evin prison were executed that night, but Marina was spared, literally at the last minute. A pardon from Ayatollah Khomeini himself had commuted her sentence to life imprisonment. One of her prison guards had fallen in love with her and interceded on her behalf. But her salvation came at a heartwrenching price: Ali, her protector, wanted to marry her --- with the stipulation that if she refused him, her own family would be subject to arrest, torture, perhaps even execution.

Marina Nemat has no previous track record as a writer beyond articles in her high school newspaper in Tehran, but she tells this incredible story with grace and eloquence in this engrossing memoir. She offers no outright acknowledgement of ghostwriting help, so take her at her word --- this is her own account, subject to the usual reservations about fading memory and the need to protect the identities of others.

Marina, a member of Iran's tiny Christian minority, comes across in her own words as a spunky teenage political activist, but also as somewhat naïve. Born in 1965, she was dismayed by the excesses of the radical Islamist regime that had taken over Iran when the Shah was driven out. She attended anti-regime street demonstrations and wrote protest articles in her school newspaper, but seemed oblivious to the consequences of such actions. Like any teenager, she was more preoccupied with adolescent crushes and summer vacations on the shore of the Caspian Sea.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Ky. Col. on July 13, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The term good would not do justice to my opinions of this book. This is not to say that I agree with all of the author's opinions on all matters, but this well-written account of faith, suffering, and the price of totalitarianism is on the whole superb. Marina is thankfully a talented written and usully manages to keep even the more mundane aspects of growing up in Iran during the Shah's reign interesting. Essentially the story of her arrest, imprisonment, interrogation (with torture in at least one instance), near execution, and an essentially forced relationship with a guard is alternated with her childhood and experience of the 1979 Revolution. The interrogator Ali Moosavi is a fascinating character in the book. In some ways he is one of the most sinister characters but deep down he has numerous good qualities. Marina confesses that she very understandably still doesn't know how to feel for this man who combined ruthlessness with idealism. From one angle he cruelly convinced her to temporarily betray her Christian faith and slept with her against her will. On the other side he twice saved her life including the second time as his final actions on earth. He seemed to have the potential to change right at the moment when he himself became the victim of the regime he had once suffered and fought for
(he not only fought the Iraqis but had himself been tortured earlier by the Shah's men). Despite all the pain and suffering from totalitarianism and war, Nemat herself retains a dignified humility and care for other human beings and thankfully does have a relatively happy ending in the book by emmigrating to Canada with her husband and children. The book also features an interview with the author that is rather interesting.
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20 of 24 people found the following review helpful By R S Cobblestone VINE VOICE on May 13, 2007
Format: Hardcover
There are many places on this planet that treat human beings in cruel ways. Man's inhumanity to man (and woman) is well known. I'm not excluding excesses and abuses in the United States (however rare), but reading Marina Nemat's memoir about her life from age 16 to 19 points vividly to why we need an international human rights police force. For want of a calculus lesson, Nemat came within minutes of execution. She does not escape torture, a marriage in a desperate attempt to escape a life prison term, and a drastically changed life. The other women and men imprisoned and tortured by the revolutionary guards lived, and died, because of absolute intolerance of anything other than the official state ideals.

I thought Marina wrote well, alternating chapters of life in prison with life before prison, until they merged together. Her first forced marriage with prison guard Ali until his murder, her forced conversion to Islam, the torture, the execution of her cell mates... Nemat's prose was engaging and compelling.

I hope this memoir provided some amount of healing for Marina. I hope it is embarrassing to the people of Iran. I hope life only gets better for Iran's political prisoners, her women, and her freedoms. And I hope those involved in state-sanctioned torture and murder will be called to the carpet as soon as possible. Alas, I have little hope my latter wish will happen anytime soon.

Marina, on behalf of humanity, I offer you my sincerest apologies for how you were treated.
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