Saturday, October 15, 2005

Amil Imani: Will Iranians around the world hear Ali's story -- and do nothing

Providence Journal:

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Saturday, October 15, 2005

ALI WAS A STUDENT at the University of Tehran. He was one of the students brutally attacked by the Ansar-i Hezbullah, the militia forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran, during the storming of a dormitory on July 9, 1999. The attack sent shock waves around the country and for six days brought the Islamic regime to its knees.

Ali was one of the protesters who was captured and sent to the notorious Evin prison, in Tehran, for interrogation. He was beaten, forced to confess to crimes he had never committed, and held there for nearly four years.

The Islamic Republic, which uses techniques similar to Stalin's forced confessions, has resorted to such "confessions" to pave the way for prosecuting political activists in Iran.

Arrests usually occur at night. Individuals later find themselves held in "detention" for days, weeks, months, even years, without any formal charges. By obtaining self-incriminating confessions, the Islamic Republic is focusing on destroying individuals' reputations, dignity and honor.

The Intelligence Ministry of the Islamic Republic has often arrested and persecuted people not necessarily for what they did, but for who they were and what they were capable of doing. The ministry's targets have been groups whose members who are well known or fluent in foreign languages, educators, writers, intellectuals and, of course, journalists.

I ran into Ali not long ago and asked him if I could briefly expose his story to the world. He agreed on the basis of anonymity, because he still has relatives in Iran. "Ali" is the pseudonym to protect him from the wrath of the mullahs.

He recalled how he had been interrogated and spent most of his time in solitary confinement for crimes of "waging war against Allah," ultimately punishable by death. According to the words of the merciful and compassionate God of the Koran, "The punishment for those who wage war against Allah and His Prophet and make mischief in the land is to murder them, crucify them, or cut off a hand and foot on opposite sides. . . . [T]heir doom is dreadful. They will not escape the fire, suffering constantly" (5:33).

Ali gives us just a glimpse of the prison-punishment schemes, harassment and intimidation of Iranian youth by the Islamic Republic lackeys. He says that the Islamic Republic is dreaming of world domination through Islamic wars, and for this it needs the brutalization of the Iranian people to bring them to the will of Allah. For the Islamic Republic, brutality, violence and terror are necessary tools.

In prison, Ali was held in solitary confinement in a tiny cell, too small to lie down in. He was thus confined for months.

Others faced a more terrible lot. They were subjected to inhuman tortures. Beatings were common. Some prisoners even went insane.

Ali paused for a moment, and I saw that his eyes were filled with tears. He sighed deeply and asked, "Where were the human-rights and humanitarian groups during that time?"

He told me that there were four revolutionary guards who took turns beating him up for no reason, frequently in the middle of the night.

"They would strip off all my clothing, take me into a small room, and put me on my knees with my head down," Ali said softly.

"A bearded heavy man pushed the edge of his knife down against the back of my neck. He told me he would slit my throat if I didn't confess, that I was part of a dissident organization."

Ali continued: "Suddenly, you hear nothing except silence. There were no more questions, only silence and the weight of a knife at the base of my neck. One wonders how these people live with themselves. Do they have children of their own? How would they like their kids to be treated like animals?"

He started mumbling as though there were not enough time in his life to express his story. This is the story of thousands upon thousands of innocent young and old Iranians, forced to waste their precious time in the Islamic Republic prisons simply for wanting a better life for themselves and their countrymen. To the Islamic Republic, this is called waging war against Allah.

Some prisoners, said Ali, "would sit in solitary confinements, starving and rotting. Many die, due to the heavy beating, and the officials remove their bodies quickly in the middle of the night to an unknown area."

"My cell was very small and impenetrable. The walls were made of heavy cement. No windows. The doors were made of thick metal and very strong. On the ceiling, there were two ventilation holes, from which you could hear the screams of others, repenting and begging the torturers to stop beating them up."

"The methods of tortures ranged from mechanical devices designed to inflict gross tissue damage to psychological and physiological techniques, such as solitary confinement and sleep deprivation."

Ali had a lot more to say -- a lot more than a man can bear to hear. Ali and others like him are prisoners of conscience. They believe in freedom and justice. These principles are forbidden in the Muslim countries.

Iranians must learn that history does not repeat itself; we repeat history! What is sad is that the world community and, in the case of Ali, Iranian communities do not do enough to expose the Islamic Republic's war against humanity.

Unfortunately, most Iranians in the West are more interested in making money than in helping people such as Ali. Iranian communities have become extremely nonchalant. Thus, they have become pseudo-Iranians -- merely spectators.

Amil Imani, a native of Iran, is a poet, essayist, novelist, literary translator, and political activist.


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