Friday, December 11, 2009

Al Jazeera English - Focus - 'My torturers deserve pity'

 Al Jazeera's Anita McNaught interviewed Ebrahim Mehtari, an Iranian pro-democracy campaigner, who says he was held for two weeks in a detention centre run by the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence section in East Tehran.
He says he was beaten, tortured, and sexually violated.
He is now living in Turkey under the protection of the government and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)


You say you were injured quite severely in jail and have had to have surgery in Turkey. What happened in that jail cell?

I don't have the mental strength to describe to you what they did to me, but the reality is this: For a long time Iran's rulers have spoken a great deal about morality - and to be fair, part of this ruling system was genuinely moral - but today my country is infected by a disease of lying and immorality, and this sickness is spreading throughout the state.

The people shouting in the streets whose blood is spilled, who are tortured and raped in the prisons or killed, or suffer other hardships at the hands of the system – everything they endure is the result of a disease called "the lie", and the loss of morality.

And at the same time, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad can - blatantly - sit on that chair, stand on that platform at the UN and announce that "I am coming from a country where people are very hospitable".

When those men can sit in front of cameras and stand on platforms and say: "We are all moralists, we are the sacred Islamic Republic system …" perhaps they should delete the word "sacred".

He and his cabinet spread nothing but superstition, lies, insults and immorality.


What is happening in Iran right now?

My country is like a dormant volcano that has been heating up for a long time. My country is growing and developing. The Iranian people who are calling for a return to constitutional law and democracy, are merely trying to grow and develop, too.

Iran is a big country and its people are very decent. But unfortunately the country has been ruled by inadequate men who have abused their people's hearts. People today are trying to choose leaders with the same stature as themselves. The people who have taken to the streets have endured batons, torture and prison.

This shows that they're ready to pay the price to achieve a greater goal: Freedom for their country - not freedom for oppressive regimes.

For me, it's been a long time since you could genuinely find either the concept of a republic, or of Islam in Iran. Perhaps those people protesting in the streets are doing so because of these two missing concepts, or at least one of them…

According to Article 27 of the Constitutional Law of the Islamic Republic of Iran, all gatherings are permitted if you are unarmed and do not disturb the public order.

My friends in the streets ... and those in prison – what crimes have they committed? These are our crimes: First: We participated in a presidential election and tried our best to uproot the lie in Iran. The second big crime was that we took to the streets asking for our rights, and the third crime was that we didn't keep silent about Ahmedinejad's lies.

A journalist friend of mine tells this joke: We have freedom of speech in Iran, but we don't have post-speech freedom! We can speak one sentence freely, but after that, no-one can protect us.


If you could face your torturers again, what would you say to them?

It's a difficult question, but I feel they are more tortured than me. Now when I look back on it, I feel those men deserve pity. And need help. Because these guys - knowingly or unknowingly - have become part of a system which has turned them into machines of torture and death.

If you had asked this question immediately after my release, or after the things which they did to me, I might have talked about killing them, but today - look, I don't want to pretend to be all intellectual about it - my impression is that dictators are miserable people.

And dictatorship is a disaster. I don't wish the deaths of dictators, but I wish for the death of dictatorship.

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