S's Reviews > Prisoner of Tehran: A Memoir

Prisoner of Tehran by Marina Nemat
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May 07, 09

Read in May, 2009

I had not heard of this book before I added it on my list of books to read by Iranian authors and the only reason I wanted to read it was that I had read an autiobiography of anybody that was a political prisoner of the Islamic Republic and particularly, had spent time in Evin prison.
Evin prison was built by the Shah and during his reign, when I was a child is when I was introduced to the word prison and though my parents never talked about the torture and horrible things that went on behind its walls, whenever Evin prison was mentioned, it seemed to always be in hushed voices because it was too horrible of a place to talk to about where all kinds of evil acts were committed.....Well, after reading this book, I am even more fearful of Evin Prison.

The author was a bit older than me when the Islamic Revolution took place (most of story written in a voice of a 13 yr old) but unlike me, she was not sheltered from what was going on around her. She was an only child of Russian descendant, Christian parents that really did not talk to her much about anything and she came and went freely and they had no idea she was getting involved in politics in a time where if you were on what was deemed the wrong side (against the Revolution), you would be jailed, tortured and/or killed.

The author got involved in demonstrations against the new Islamic State and spent a little over 2 yrs behind Evin where she was horribly tortured and was (stop reading if you plan on reading the book since I am going to give a lot away) blindfolded, put in front of a firing squad to die and granted clemency just seconds before the firing squad starting firing by a man named Ali who was an interrogator who had seen her, unbeknownst to her, fallen in love with her and had miraculously gotten her a pardon from Ayatollah Khomeini (the architect of the Revolution) himself. She then is forced into marrying Ali and forging a new life with him. You learn about the friendship she makes with other female prisoners, about how violent and scary the times were in Iran and in some ways continue to be.

This woman's experience is extremely tragic and she suffered so much so young but she was extremely lucky to live to tell the tale. She had never aspired to be a writer but what compelled her to finally talk about her experience (she never talked about what she went through) is when a Canadian journalist was captured in Iran, brutally tortured, raped and finally killed and she felt like she had been silent for long enough and in the comfort of her new life in Canada, she wanted to speak out for the political prisoners of Iran and from all other countries and tell their story.

The only reason I give this only two stars is that Marina would leave any reader totally terrified of all things Iranian. She does not attempt, in even one sentence, to say that though the currnet Iranian government might have some shady practices, the Iranian people are good adn the country is good and beautiful and we have this incredibly deep and rich history etc. She is clear on what her goal is which is to educate people on the plight of political prisoners but in doing so, she will definitely put off any person in ever visiting Iran.

Maybe my interpretation of this book is a bit skewed and I will admit that since I indeed am an Iranian/American who grew up in Iran during the Shah's regime and lived through the Islamic Revolution but I have dealt with so much ignorance in my years in American regarding Americans and the way they view Iranians and their culture and particularly about Iranian politics, it just seems that a book that focuses purely on the evils of the Islamic Republic, just feeds into all the negative ideas the Western world already has about Iran.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Rachel I definitely disagree with your assessment about how Marina left the reader feeling about Iran. With all respect, from reading the book, I find Iran to be mysterious, beautiful, and dangerous all at once. She never takes the beauty away from the country or the people, she simply stated how the regime had altered and vastly changed the beauty she once found there.


Veronique I don`t think it makes Iran look bad. It just shows what extremism does to a country. I didn`t see that it would leave a reader terrified of Iran. In fact, it left me really wanting to go there, although I`m a strange person myself XD


Sara Sg I wanted to say the same things as the above readers. Thanks for doing before me


message 4: by Denise (new)

Denise Interesting review. I have not read the book yet, but I want to. My husband escaped Iran in the 80's. I think he is about the same age as the author. He told me once he went to jail simply because they couldn't find his brother so they made him take his place. That's when he decided to leave. (Just like in the book "Not Without My Daughter" only I don't think it was as difficult for him being a man and without a child.)


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