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

Overview


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 first time in paperback. Kept in solitary confinement for over two years in one of the most infamous prisons in Tehran, prominent Iranian journalist, Houshang Asadi suffered inhuman degradations and brutal, mindless torture at the hands of a man who introduced himself as ‘Brother Hamid’. A man without whose permission he couldn’t eat, sleep, receive medical care, or go...
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Letters to My Torturer: Love, Revolution, and Imprisonment in Iran

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Overview


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 first time in paperback. Kept in solitary confinement for over two years in one of the most infamous prisons in Tehran, prominent Iranian journalist, Houshang Asadi suffered inhuman degradations and brutal, mindless torture at the hands of a man who introduced himself as ‘Brother Hamid’. A man without whose permission he couldn’t eat, sleep, receive medical care, or go to the toilet. A man who knew no limits when it came to extracting ‘confessions’: suspended from the ceiling, beaten, and forced to bark like a dog, Asadi became a spy for the Russians, for the British – for anyone. Narrowly escaping execution as the government unleashed a bloody pogrom against political prisoners that left thousands dead, he was hauled before a sham court and sentenced to fifteen years. In exile, tormented by nightmares and flashbacks, Asadi’ first attempt at recording his experiences resulted in a heart attack. Here at last he confronts his torturer one last time, speaking for those whose voices will never be heard, and provides a chilling glimpse into the heart of Iran and the practice of state-sponsored justice. In 1983, the journalist, writer, and translator Houshang Asadi was locked in a Tehran prison. Under torture, he said he was a spy. Many of his friends also confessed and were later executed. He was released after six years. Today he lives in Paris with his wife, Nooshabeh Amiri. They write for the high-profile Iranian news website Rooz Online. "Remarkable on any terms, but it is made especially memorable by the chilling irony and heartbreaking naïveté that characterize Mr. Asadi’s tale." Wall Street Journal "With moving stories about fellow prisoners, biting commentary on the religious dictates imposed by his jailers, and meditations on the soul-destroying effect of false confessions and the special cruelty of his ideological, authoritarian interrogators, Asadi’s simple prose attracts even as the facts he reports repel... A horrifying glimpse of the decades-long nightmare still afflicting the people of Iran." Kirkus
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Iranian journalist Asadi offers a searing and unforgettable account of the six years he spent in prison after being arrested in 1981 in the aftermath of the Islamic revolution. Twenty years later, now living in Paris, Asadi records his recollections of torture and imprisonment in the form of 27 letters to his interrogator, whom he calls Brother Hamid. Required at all times to wear a blindfold in Brother Hamid's presence, Asadi developed a relationship with and a perverse dependence upon his torturer, which he describes in graphic detail, along with the endless parade of humiliations he was required to endure while being falsely accused of being both a British and a Soviet spy. Asadi is a gifted storyteller; even if the text, which jumps about chronologically, can be momentarily confusing, his ability to convey the toll of torture and imprisonment is undiminished. And the choice of the epistolary narrative device is a felicitous one: it's as if the reader has found these letters in a shoebox or a locked drawer, making for harrowing and unique reading. (June)
Library Journal
Iranian journalist Houshang Asadi was arrested in 1981 and spent the following six years in prison. While in prison, a man Asadi calls Brother Hamid brutally and extensively tortured him until he would admit to anything. Through frequent exposure to extreme pain and humiliation, Asadi confessed to spying both for the Soviets and for the British. Finally, because of a chance encounter with the Ayatollah Khameni, Asadi regained his freedom. Each chapter here begins with a short section addressed directly to Brother Hamid and is followed by passages recounting the memories and thoughts that the letter brings to mind. The passages are beautifully crafted, lyrical, and sad. When he speaks about his torture in detail, his story is also deeply disturbing. For the lay reader unfamiliar with the details of Iran's complex political history, however, Asadi's story is ultimately confusing and inaccessible. Although there are occasional explanatory endnotes, a special foreword addressed to foreign readers would make this book less opaque to a general audience. VERDICT An important firsthand account of Iranian prison conditions during the 1980s that scholars of Iranian history will want to read.—April Younglove, Rochester Regional Lib. Council, NY
Kirkus Reviews
A harrowing memoir of imprisonment and torture under the Islamic Republic of Iran. As a little boy, Asadi kissed the hand of the Ayatollah Khomeini, just prior to the cleric's exile from Iran. Khomeini returned in 1979, as leader of a revolution Asadi vigorously supported. By then this thoroughly secular intellectual had already been imprisoned three times for political agitation against the Shah. During one stretch, Asadi, a navy veteran and trained journalist, formed a jailhouse friendship with the deeply religious Ali Khamenei, who would later become the country's Supreme Leader. Asadi taught his cellmate how to interpret newspaper content and how to read "between the lines." Seeking to consolidate their power, the religious fundamentalists who ran the regime incarcerated thousands, accusing them of plotting against the revolution. In 27 chapters, each styled as an epistle to his torturer, Brother Hamid, who later became an ambassador for Iran, Asadi recounts his life, his political disillusionment and especially the unspeakable mental, spiritual and physical scarring he suffered in Tehran's Moshtarak and Evin prisons. Living among rats and cockroaches, forced to wear a blindfold in his captors' presence, Asadi was ordered to walk on all fours, to bark like a dog and to eat his own excrement. Suffering from broken teeth, chronic headaches, shoulder pain (from being strung up) and regular bouts of vomiting and diarrhea, and beaten regularly on the soles of his feet, he attempted suicide at least twice. After supplying under brutal duress the "confession" to spying his tormentors required, he barely avoided execution and was finally released in 1989. With moving stories about fellow prisoners, biting commentary on the religious dictates imposed by his jailers and meditations on the soul-destroying effect of false confessions and the special cruelty of his ideological, authoritarian interrogators, Asadi's simple prose attracts even as the facts he reports repel. A trip to Moscow in 1980 had already soured him on communism. Six years in prison turned him against the fanatics his wife once described as "the sandals of despotism." Now in exile in Paris, he has rejected politics entirely, declaring, "I . . . freed myself from myself."A horrifying glimpse of the decades-long nightmare still afflicting the people of Iran.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781851688005
  • Publisher: Oneworld Publications
  • Publication date: 9/16/2012
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,473,354
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

In 1983, the journalist, writer, and translator Houshang Asadi was locked in a Tehran prison. Under torture, he said he was a spy. Many of his friends also confessed and were later executed. He was released after six years. Today he lives in Paris with his wife, Nooshabeh Amiri. They write for the Iranian news website Rooz Online.

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Table of Contents

Preface

1 Two Articles of the Constitution 1

2 Iran of Those Days: The Age of Compassion 20

3 Kissing the Hand of Khomeini 31

4 In the Shah's Prison with Mr Khamenei 41

5 Playing "Full or Empty" with Mehdi Karroubi 55

6 As Always There's a Woman Involved 62

7 How I became a Spy for MI6 76

8 Bakhtiar's Le Monde, Khomeini's Sandals of Despotism 83

9 Kharnenei Kianuri: Political Ping pong 90

10 I used to be Ahmadinejad's Torturer! 108

11 Kabul a Few Days after the Red Army's Arrival 112

12 Defending Khomeini in the Heart of Moscow 129

13 Visiting the Dead 142

14 Drinking Hard Liquor in the Islamic Torture Chamber 152

15 Woof, Woof. I am a Spy 169

16 The Coup and the Bullshitters 182

17 The Night of the Coup 198

18 Return from the Grave 212

19 My Wife's Voice and her Eyes 229

20 Sex in the Torture Chamber 237

21 Goodbye to Moshtarek Prison, Hello to Evin 246

22 Ghezel Hesar Prison and Stalin's Massacre 261

23 Purgatory in Hell 269

24 Genocide in the Islamic Republic 277

25 Gallows and Mass Murder 289

26 Iran of Today: The Reign of Thugs 300

Endnotes 308

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 4, 2010

    Must read.

    Houshang Asadi a young journalist and political activist was use to being arrested. But that one day in 1983 would change his life forever. Thinking it was just like every other time he had been arrested he wasn't worried when he was taken into custody. He did not know he would be held captive for 6 years being brutally tortured by "Brother Hamid" to confess crimes he had not committed. A friendship with a fellow prisoner, Ayatollah Khamenei, now Leader of Iran, saved his life. The "confessions" were used to sentence him to fifteen years in prison. Asadi was released with other prisoners on the anniversary of the revolution in 1989. Major themes and messages of the book include Transformation, strength, and belief. Asadi transformed from a young strong political activist to feeling like he hardly existed. Throughout his stay in Prison he had to remain strong and believe that he would survive. What I really liked about this book was how heartfelt it was. He had to really dig deep to write his experiences down and face his torturer. I also liked how the book didn't go into very detailed accounts of the tortures. It described it just enough for the reader to feel his pain but not enough to disgust the reader. Someone should read this book to gain a better understanding of Iranian history and culture. The book gives a detailed account of Irans political history. Other literary works I would recommend are A Time to Betray: The Astonishing Double Life of a CIA Agent Inside the Revolutionary Guards of Iran By: Reza Kahlili. It is also about Iran's political struggles. My overall rating of this book would be a 8 out of 10. It was a really good book and kept me interested the entire time I read it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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