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Prisoner of Tehran: One Woman's Story of Survival Inside an Iranian Prison Paperback – May 6, 2008
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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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
*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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
I followed the revolution in Iran in the news back when it was happening, but never could imagine how horrible things got for the average person there. I have an Iranian friend who fled Iran with nothing more than her husband, her daughter, and a couple of suitcases, leaving house and bank accounts behind. They are Zoroastrian, and they felt that they had no future in Iran. Although they had to start over in the United States with nothing, they are now doing much better than they would have been had they stayed.
Although most Iranians were better off under the Shah, Marina doesn't gloss over the abuses carried out under his dictatorship. She doesn't paint Muslims as all bad. There were Iranian Muslims who were tolerant of the Zoroastrians, Christians, Jews, and atheists living in their country. Unfortunately, these moderates were not the people who ended up in power. Marina's book illustrates clearly the suffering that can result from a government based on a religion. I am grateful for the First Amendment and hope this book will inspire everyone who reads it to be diligent in guarding against encroachments against religious freedom.
(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. If there is one criticism of the book it is that I wish the author had focused more on the return to her Christian faith and how her experiences had worked to shape her beliefs. This is discussed some but I felt there may have been so much more which could have been contemplated here.
overall, i highly recommend the book.
This work does bring up a number of issues. First of all Marina Nemat was faced with criticism from a number of former political prisoners about some details of the book. I can't of course know every single detail in the work was accurate; the author herself admits that time has obscurred some details. It is also worth mentioning that other former iranian political prisoners responded to the attacks by supporting Nemat.
on a larger scale the book should bring to mind three important realities.
1. Political oppression and torture still occurs in Iran though argueably not to the level as under Khomenini (less mass executions anyway).
2. Christian minorities (and other religious minorities) suffer oppression and persecution in vast swathes of the Middle East. This often violent persecution in of course not limited to iran but also includes U.S. allies such as Saudi Arabia which is in truth even worse than the Iranians in some respects.
3. There are a surprising number of torture victims living in the West from a whole range of countries. Before writing the book, Nemat worked at a Swiss Chalet restaurant and was living a middle class Canadian life with her husband and children. In short, this reality should give us some pause about the possible experiences of others we may run into. Sometimes it is the most seemingly normal of people who have lived through the nightmare of totalitarianism (whether religious or atheistic or neither).
Nemat's story is just one of many--women who have learned throughout time the destructive mentalities of political systems used to control people--control driven by fear clothed in religious fervor. What makes this story all the more surprising is the age of these political prisoners...mere children! This generation--from abortion to Africa's childrens armies to Nemat's schoolmates--paints a devastating portrait of what we have created in the minds of our people. The vulnerable are now our manipulated, our murdered, our punching bags for the frustrations of our lives. No matter how progressed we think we have become, indeed we have only become worse. Worse because we deny, worse because we have learned to call bad good and good bad, worse because indeed we no longer know what good is at all.