New Internationalist

Letters to my Torturer

Issue 434

By Houshang Asadi

Journalist Houshang Asadi has written this book 25 years after his imprisonment as a political dissident in Iran. He had not, until now, been able to re-live the trauma.

A member of the Communist Tudeh party during the Shah’s regime in the 1970s, Asadi was often arrested. During his 1979 incarceration he shared a cell and became friends with the future Supreme Leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei.

However, it was during his imprisonment in Moshtarek prison in 1983, arrested as part of a clampdown on political parties during Khomeini’s ‘Decade of the Great Terror’, that he met his torturer, Brother Hamid. This memoir is the writer’s remonstration to Hamid in a series of letters.

Blindfolded and made to bark like a dog, Asadi was beaten on the feet, whipped, and hung by his wrists and feet for days on end. Vomiting in agony, he was made to eat his own excrement. Kept in solitary confinement for 682 days, he falsely confessed to being a spy and was sentenced to 15 years. After serving six, he was eventually saved from execution when his old friend Khamenei intervened. Many were not so fortunate – an estimated 5,000 political prisoners were executed in 1988.

Life in today’s Iran has not greatly improved. Torture and the extraction of confessions persist. Hundreds have disappeared following the June 2009 elections. Exiled in France, Asadi is still haunted by the memory of his tormentor. The torturer Hamid, meanwhile, enjoys diplomatic privilege as an Iranian ambassador.

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