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Letters to My Torturer: Love, Revolution, and Imprisonment in Iran

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Houshang Asadi's Letters to My Torturer is one of the most harrowing accounts of human suffering to emerge from Iran and is now available for the ... Show synopsis

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Reviews of Letters to My Torturer: Love, Revolution, and Imprisonment in Iran

Overall customer rating: 5.000
MadamBookNerd

Inside the Prisons of Iran

by MadamBookNerd on Oct 1, 2010

I must stop immediately after reading this book and praise it as highly as I possibly can. Journalist Houshang Asadi has a pedigree of experience that came of age alongside the Iranian revolution of 1979. As a man who fairly represents the archetypal experience of 20th century Iran, he has written an incisive, unforgettable book that fastens to the truth more definitively than any restraining device ever will. As a member of the Baha'i Faith, I've heard some chilling tales of abuse and persecution from survivors of Iranian prisons. Having read both historical account and contemporary report, I've often wondered why the phenomenon of torture within Iranian culture has not been scrutinized by some of the great Iranian scholars currently writing. Mr. Asadi has begun a much needed conversation from a high vantage point and has set the bar for future discussion of this topic. Torture was consistently, heinously, almost inexorably applied by Iran's imperial governments of the past and is now used by the IRI system to intimidate and coerce its citizenry. Houshang Asadi is to be praised for allowing his readers to see into the palpable if squalid personality of his interrogator, called inthe book "Brother Hamid." According to the book, "Brother Hamid" was later spotted as the ponderous ambassador from Iran to a certain Central Asian nation. A deep love of country underlies "Letters to My Torturer" as Asadi notes the suffering of those alongside him. The author lets us see the immediate and long term devastation of this post-revolutionary experience without edging into self-pity or vengeance. Mr. Asadi was incarcerated under the Shah and the IRI. While imprisoned as editor and political leftist by SAVAK, (the infamous intelligence service of the Shah), he shared a cell with a 37-year-old cleric named Khamenei, now known as the "Supreme Leader" of Iran. One can't help but be fascinated as the then unknown cleric is described cheekily satirizing his prison guards and weeping unabashedly when Asadi is transferred from the cell. The relationship between the two men continued after prison, until the IRI virtually eliminated all other political parties in Iran. At one point in the book, Asadi explains how, unbeknownst to his wife and friends, he joined SAVAK, the Shah's much feared service,unoffically as a Tudeh party operative, working as a double agent After the revolution, seeking to diffuse suspicion, Asadi's newspaper ran a public notice explaining Asadi's relationship to SAVAK hoping to stem the ire of the IRI as they consolidated power. Needless to say, the attempt failed and the author began a terrifying journey through the IRI's prison system. In one short fantasical chapter, Asadi describes coming across a damning poem about his own SAVAK involvement posted at Tehran University. There he encounters a young Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad, not recognizing Asadi, claims directly to the author, that he had been tortured by the subject of the poem unaware that he is speaking to the self-same man! Asadi's narrative moves easily back and forth between the past (not all of it grim) to the terrible moment of torture. Apparently, Asadi expected to be released quickly. Iranian leftists of the early eighties thought themselves to be the acknowledged allies of the then newly formed Islamic Republic. That illusion ended abruptly as political arrests escalated through the eighties and mass execution of political prisoners abounded. While the subject of torture is deeply disturbing, anyone holding their breath for democracy in Iran should read this account for its inspired, hard-wrung humanity. Mr. Asadi makes clear that the wounds of his experience linger painfully as he lives in exile, an exile still shared by many Iranians also seeking to escape similar threats of incarceration and abysmal torture.

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