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December 10, 2007

29 Days of Beatings, Torture, and Confinement

Zarah GHAHRAMANI tells her story

My Life as a Traitor, Zarah Ghahramani

Photo Credit: J. Muckle/Studio D

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In 2001, 20-year-old Iranian Zarah Ghahramani spent 29 days in Tehran's Evin prison for participating in student protests against her country's fundamentalist government. In her new book, My Life as a Traitor, she describes beatings, torture, and survival in a place known for killing political prisoners. She spoke to MC about the experience.

MC: How were you arrested?
I was walking along the road, and a car stopped next to me. A woman got out, asked me my name, and said to come with her. I said, "Who are you?" She responded, "Oh, you'll find out." I knew that they were going to take me regardless, so I just went.

MC: What were the interrogations like?
The first time, they brought me into a room with a table. The guy started asking me questions, and eventually he was yelling at me. He said, "This is Evin prison — I'm the one who asks questions!"

MC: And you were beaten?
They hit me, punched me. I had broken ribs. My entire body was bruised. I had bruises all over my face and a big cut on my chin from being hit there. One time, I got hit with something — I still don't know what it was — on my shoulder and arm. My whole body was in pain, and I would faint and wake up hours later not knowing where I was or what had happened.

MC: How did you survive?
When they had first put me in my cell, the guy in the cell above me started talking to me, and I realized I knew him. He taught me the rules of prison.

MC: What kind of rules?
I thought I could have a conversation with these people — tell them this was a peaceful protest, that we're only students. But my friend said to tell them what they want to hear. He taught me to keep walking or do yoga so I would be tired enough to sleep at night. He said that whatever the food was, to eat it. If you're depressed, you don't get hungry, so I ate just to have energy to survive.

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