Thursday 23 October 2008

Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat

A true story about a young girl being arrested in Iran after the fall of the Shah and held in the infamous Evin prison was never going to be a fun read. And yet I never suspected it to be this captivating either.

I couldn't put the book down despite reading with only one eye open for fear that the next paragraph would bring just more tales of the unthinkable. This was a sort of non-fiction version of The Kite Runner. I know very little about the experiences of every day families living in Iran. I know even less about their experiences under the Shah and during the Iran-Iraq war.

Nemat was just 16 years old when she was arrested. She was part of a small minority of Christians descended from Russians who had immigrated to Iran during the Russian revolution never imagining their descendants would be caught up in the Cultural Revolution.

During her imprisonment she is tortured and is forced to marry her interrogator. The relationship she forms with him eventually saves her but it doesn't make what she is forced to endure any easier.

Nemat now lives in Toronto with her family and she refused to speak about her experience for several year until the imprisonment and execution of another made headline news and she felt that by speaking about her experience she could saves others.

The early chapters of the book alternate between the terror of the torture and the events leading up to her arrest. The writing style is factual and not flowery.

My experiences are so far removed from the threats and reality of what Nemat endured it is difficult for me to understand. But I will continue to try. Her story deserves to be told and read and stopped. Recommended at 280 pages!

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