In 1968, I was only three years old and very keen to start school early. With some help, I had finished reading Grade one text books along with eight English novels. My parents enrolled me in a private school, so that I could be in a more protected and secure environment. Nevertheless, given my tiny appearance, a few girls always bullied me and I lost my confidence during my years in elementary school. My mother had to come to school to literally feed me so that I would eat my lunch. I regained my self-confidence after signing up for martial arts courses for a few years, where I excelled to a brown belt in karate.
I was just 13 when Khomeini came into power by hijacking the people’s revolution and overnight all women, including elementary school girls, were forced to cover their bodies from head to toe and were ordered to only wear dark colours. We were no longer allowed to attend school with the opposite sex. Our once praised school curriculum was now replaced by Arabic, Islamic studies and the Quran; which most of us simply loathed. It was at this time that I had an awakening and started my activism. I was robbed of my teen years by a radical regime that sought to force its values on the masses by devastating force. My childhood memories were replaced by a reality created by a regime where women were now treated as second class citizens to men and even the most mundane detail of our lives was strictly controlled by Khomeini’s Revolutionary Guards and the morality police.
Like most teenagers in high school, I also spoke my mind about the changes that were happening in my country. In a modern society, teenagers attend school, openly spend time with friends, listen to their favorite music and do all the things that teenagers do. In going about their lives, they do not have to worry about political and religious consequences of engaging in normal everyday activities enforced by their government… They do not have to live in fear of expressing their opinion, no matter how unpopular that opinion. What we no longer had and would never have again under the Islamic Republic, simply put, was freedom of speech. Those who did speak up put themselves and their families in grave danger or simply disappeared behind the walls of the notorious Evin prison in Tehran. At that time even 12 year old children faced the firing squad for political dissidence.
Imagine for a moment a mother living a quiet uneventful life with her children in the safety of her own home. Imagine the horror of that same woman when in the early hours of the morning she comes face-to-face with the infamous Revolutionary Guards. Unannounced, they forced their way into her home and arrested their 16 year old daughter. The young girl, her only daughter and the eldest of her three children, was taken to the much feared Evin prison where she knew her child would be interrogated and tortured. She also knew that many mothers never saw their children again as that time people simply vanished without a trace. That child was me. I was arrested by five very large, heavy set guards. I remember distinctly four vehicles that came to our house to take me away; a 16 year old girl who barely weighed 90 pounds. Imagine the terror and anguish felt by that child. This may be unfathomable to the western mind, but this was to be my reality for the next 18 months.
In my young trustful mind, I did not think that a simple conversation, having an opinion and simply expressing it, would put my life in danger. I never considered the possibility of being tortured as a teenager and that my life would be forever changed and that I would be reminded of this torture every time I would look in the mirror and the terrible scar on my face.
My interrogator was a man known simply as the “rapist of Evin.” I never saw his face as we were always blindfolded. Both the guards and interrogators were very protective of their identity as if they knew that someday they may be the hunted like the Nazis. This gave me a clue that they knew well what they were doing was wrong or they simply could not look into the face of a child when they tortured her/him. As time went by, I realized that my interrogator had taken pity on me and decided to leave me outside the torture chambers from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day, blindfolded, cold and hungry, instead of physically torturing me. I can tell you that there is only one experience worse that being tortured; having to listen to others scream and beg, not for their lives but for their death.
At the end I was given an 18-month sentence but in reality I should have been hanged for my anti-Islamic and anti-revolutionary views. To this day I have no idea why and how my life was spared. But I do remember making a deal with God, in that corner of the torture chamber, that if he spared not me but my parents of the pain of my death, I would dedicate my life to fighting the Islamic Republic to my very last breath. I also silently promised each and every one of those who screamed in pain that I would live and bear witness for them. I wanted to live as surviving was the only act of resistance in Evin. At night I would count around 60-70 bullets which meant 60-70 souls had been executed and I was hearing the last shot they would give the victim in the head. Many of my beautiful cell mates were taken before my eyes. All left bravely and without fear in their eyes and soul. We had decided that dying proudly was our final act of resistance. We were children but we wanted to die like high ranking officers….proud and defiant.
After I was freed from the clutches of Evin, I decided to find out exactly why I was taken and why so many were killed.
I found out that the Islamic Republic of Iran demanded absolute compliance with the penalty of torture and death for those that dared question it. There is absolutely no room for error by the citizen and there is no forgiveness. There were teenagers who were shot for simply being in the possession of leaflets or books of the opposition. The Islamic Republic ran elections to give an image of democracy, while allowing the masses to choose only among its carefully handpicked candidates who had subscribed to the fundamental beliefs of the regime and had an invested interest in seeing the continued survival of a dictatorship.
What are these beliefs? That boys and girls are separated throughout their schooling. That girls as young as nine years of age are forced into marriages, traded like property. Women are treated as second class citizens only second to men. Islamic Republic of Iran demands compliance to the regime and does not tolerate dissent. Young men and women that speak against the regime are rounded up and sent to notorious prisons, where they are tortured and left with scars for life, and others executed, some in public settings to teach a lesson to others. Sex outside of the marriage is at times punished by a brutal practice of stoning to death.
Outside of Iran, the regime openly and covertly supports terrorist activities. The Islamic Republic of Iran supports terrorist organizations including, the Hezbollah and Hamas in the Middle East. Those who hold positions of authority in Iran have been found responsible for bombings in Argentina and murders in Germany, to name a few. These are not isolated cases, with growing evidence of Iranian covert and terrorist activities in the Americas. 1 Inspired by North Korea, it has sought to further guarantee its existence by building its nuclear know-how.
There has been a great deal of effort by the international community to persuade Iran to slow down its nuclear program. Promises of relaxing economic sanctions and opening up relations have been put on the table. In fear of Iran becoming a nuclear power, world leaders are willing to put aside the fact that the Islamic Republic of Iran is a dictatorship that continues to deny its people their fundamental rights and will remain on course to export its radical ideology. Removing sanctions and opening relations will make it easier for Iran to achieve this end.
The regime and its followers are trying hard to revive and better market a dictatorship that has brought so much pain and suffering to Iranian people for 35 years. I wish that Khomeini never started an Islamic revolution (or devolution) 35 years ago let alone try to revive it today.
The Islamic Republic of Iran enshrined the clergy and brought three decades of pain to an entire society and humanity as a whole. It speaks of moderation, reform and protecting the establishment yet during the regime’s time in power, has restricted human rights, engaged in mass executions, taken hostages, and stood in defiance of the world.
The reformists who are part of this establishment have blood on their hands. Today it is time for them and the regime which Khomeini was so instrumental in establishing to go.
Let’s hope this regime is overthrown soon so that our world is set free from this dangerous contamination. I hope that Iranians can live in a free society and have their deserved human rights which this regime has taken away from them completely. The truth about the Islamic Republic of Iran needs to reach the ears and hearts of the world for knowledge is the vessel of constructive change.
I believe that many world organizations and politicians have made the Islamic Republic stronger by refusing to hold it accountable for its dubious activities both inside and outside Iran. The regime has become even more brutal and vicious due to the impunity it has been given for the last 35 years by the international community.
- Prosecutor in Argentina Sees Iranian Plot in Latin America, New York Times website, 29 May 2013.
EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the Mackenzie Institute website. Featured photo courtesy of the Mackenzie Institute.