02 March 2013

Reading Lolita in Tehran, excerpts

The excellent book (Reading Lolitia in Tehran) by Azar Nafisi provides excellent insight into the Iranian Revolution and the early days of the Islamic Republic, its "Golden Age" for so-called reformists like Moussavi and Karroubi and Khatami.  The following excerpts are my favorite quotes from the book.

Prison rape has been a cardinal feature of the Islamic Republic since its inception under Khomeini. The following passage describes the experience of one of Dr. Nafisi's students who later became part of her secret reading group. Nafisi is recounting what she was told in 1988 about the arrest of her student Nassrin when the latter, at the time of her arrest still in her early teens, was taken for passing out leftist literature.

"...most of the stories you hear about the jails are true.  The worst was when they called people's names in the middle of the night.  We knew they had been picked for execution. They would say good-bye, and soone after that, we would hear the sound of bullets.  We would know the number of people killed on any given night by counting the single bullets that inevitably came after the initial barrage.  

"There was one girl there--her only sin was her amazing beauty.  They brought her in on some trumped up charge. They kept her for over a month and repeatedly raped her.  They passed her from one guard to another.  The story got around the jail very fast, because the girl wasn't even political; she wasn't with the political prisoners.  They married the virgins off to the guards, who would later execute them.  The philosophy behind this act was that if they were killed as virgins, they would go to heaven.  

"You talk of betrayals.  Mostly they forced those who 'converted' to Islam to empty the last round in the heads of their comrades as tokens of their new loyalty to the regime. If I were not privileged, she said with rancor, if I were not 'blessed' with a father who shared their faith, God knows where I would be now--in hell with all the other molested virgins or with those who put a gun to someone's head to prove their loyalty to Islam." (from page 212)

Another quote about life for women in the Islamic Republic:

"Life in the Islamic Republic is like having sex with a man you loathe...it's like this: if you're forced into having sex with someone you dislike, you make your mind blank--you pretend to be somewhere else, you tend to forget your body, you hate your body.  That's what we do over here.  We are constantly pretending to be somewhere else--we either plan it or dream it." (from page 329)

Dr. Nafisi's comment on the second-class status of women and what it does to relationships:

"It take two to create a relationship, and when you make half the population invisible, the other half suffers as well." (from page 70)

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