Marina Nemat certainly did not think so at the time, but she lived a charmed life during the twenty-five years she was in Iran before finally being allowed to immigrate to Canada with her husband. Born into a Christian family of Russian descent in 1965, Nemat was not overly familiar with the laws of Islam, nor did that religion often directly impact her daily life. Her dance instructor father and beautician mother provided her and her brother with a relatively prosperous lifestyle that allowed for summers spent at the family lake cottage socializing with her friends and reading as many English language books as she could find.
But in spite of her intelligence and education, she was not particularly interested in internal politics, although that all changed when her first boyfriend was shot to death during a protest march against the shah. Ironically, it was when the shah finally fell from power that Nemat herself felt compelled to speak out against the injustices of the new system forced on the country by his successor, Ayatollah Khomeini. What started for her as a simple protest against her math and history teachers who turned every class into an opportunity to lecture on political thought and the Koran resulted in her arrest and imprisonment at the infamous Evin prison.
Despite having been tortured during her initial interrogation and, at one point, finding herself within seconds of being executed by a firing squad, Nematís charmed life continued to protect her when one of the Evin interrogators fell in love with her and offered her his protection. She only agreed to marry Ali, and to convert to Islam, in order to protect her own family but soon found herself growing closer to Aliís parents than she had ever felt to her own.
Nematís amazing good fortune continued when, before his death at the hands of rivals within Evin, Ali was able to get her life sentence reduced to three years and to gain his fatherís agreement to protect her in his absence. It was Mr. Moosavi, Aliís father, who by using his connections with Khomeini was finally able to gain Nematís release from prison and even to save her from being rearrested when she later denounced her conversion to Islam and married in her own religion.
The remarkable story that Marina Nemat tells in her straightforward style reads more like a fantastic movie script than a memoir. Against all odds, she survived imprisonment in a system that left many of her friends and schoolmates dead, tortured and raped. Somehow, the guardian angel, in which she devoutly believed, always came through for her just when she needed him most and with Prisoner of Tehran Nemat is finally ready to share her courageous story with the world.
Prisoner of Tehran is not an easy book to read because of the frankness with which Nemat describes the utter brutality of an Iranian prison system that is in the hands of religious fanatics who truly believe that they are doing the work of God. But if this young woman has found the strength to revisit the tragedy of her teenage years and is willing to share that experience with a world that needs to hear her story, the least we can do is to give her the attention she deserves.