Reading “Prisoner of Tehran”

In light of the current events taking place in Iran, I decided picked up Marina Nemat’s memoir Prisoner of Tehran, which I’ve been meaning to read ever since I heard her speak at Acton University in 2013:

I’ve just read the first 100 pages. In the first few pages, she recounts being arrested on January 15, 1982 as a sixteen-year-old “political prisoner” who was taken to the Evin Prison and tortured. Her tenacity, courage, and truthfulness while suffering excruciating agony at the hands of her captors is an exemplary triumph of the human spirit over evil.

At one point, after having had the soles of her feet whipped with a cable while she refused to give her tormenters the names and addresses of her friends and classmates, one of the torturers said to her, “This isn’t bravery any more! It’s stupidity! You could easily be executed for not cooperating with the government. Don’t do this to yourself.”

“Don’t do this to me,” Marina corrected him.

What moral clarity.

This episode also reminds me of Vaclav Havel’s reasoning for why he did not want to be called a “dissident.” In the “Power of the Powerless“, he wrote:

Perhaps it is now appropriate to outline some of the reasons why “dissidents” themselves are not very happy to be referred to in this way. In the first place, the word is problematic from an etymological point of view. A “dissident,” we are told in our press, means something like “renegade” or “backslider.” But dissidents do not consider themselves renegades for the simple reason that they are not primarily denying or rejecting anything. On the contrary, they have tried to affirm their own human identity, and if they reject anything at all, then it is merely what was false and alienating in their lives, that aspect of living within a lie.

I look forward to reading the rest of Nemat’s book about her struggle to live in truth under a regime of lies.


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