Sunday, March 10, 2013

I Confess - Revelations in Exile by Kooshyar Karimi

I am reading the most incredible book right now - "I Confess - Revelations in Exile" by Kooshyar Karimi

Kooshyar Karimi was born in December 1968 in the slums of Tehran, Iran, to a family living in abject poverty. His mother, Homa, was an orphaned Jew who married out of desperation to Khalil, his Moslim father, a bus driver with three wives and six other children to feed. At the age of six, Kooshyar was compelled to work in order to contribute to the paltry income of his family. He was only eleven years old when the Iranian Islamic Revolution ended the oldest lasting monarchy in the world.

Amidst this post‐revolutionary chaos, and the bloodshed of the Iran‐Iraq war, Kooshyar pursued his education through to medical school with the determination to avoid war, stay alive, and support his mother. It is from here that he went on to become a published author, award‐winning translator, doctor, husband and father by the age of twenty six. After over two years of military service, Kooshyar began to successfully practice medicine and began the research for his book, A History of Iranian Jews. It is due partly to this dangerous project that Kooshyar, walking down the paved footpath to his home, was kidnapped by the Islamic Intelligence Service in the winter of 1998. Tortured, burnt, and whipped over 62 days, Kooshyar found himself faced with an unimaginable decision ... to spy for MOIS against his own people or to be tortured slowly to death. His forced cooperation was a significant factor in the arrest of thirteen Iranian Jews in March 1999, a case that caused an international outcry.

Later, knowing that his value to the intelligence service had expired, Kooshyar realised that if he did not escape, he would soon be executed. Using the survival instincts he had acquired in childhood, and a fateful connection from the past, Kooshyar manages to make his escape from Iran. Finally, after 13 long months of dread and secrecy hiding with his wife and children in a tiny basement deep below an apartment block in Istanbul, he and his family were granted a political refugee visa to Australia by the UNHCR. He is now an Australian citizen, fellow of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners, a member of the Australian Society of Cosmetic Medicine, and member of the Skin Cancer Society of Australia and New Zealand. He practises medicine full‐time in New South Wales, and writes in his spare time.
The book tells the inside story of many aspects of life in Iran under different regimes.  Jews are free to live, but are feared and hated.  Persecution takes many forms - such as forced conversion to Islam, firebombing businesses, arrests, and executions.  Kooshyar is secretly brought up my his mother as a Jew - a secret he must keep hidden if he is to survive.

When the Islamic revolution comes, there is a celebration of freedom, but it is shortlived.  The brutal and hated Shah is replaced with something worse.  The torturers remain, but have a new boss, which seems to like their work even more.  Massive Propaganda murals spring up, and gangs of state sponsored thugs can give you a beating for looking at them the wrong way. The Ministry of Interior Security are kidnapping a thousand people a week off the streets.  Rape victims must keep quiet - if they speak up the onus of proof is on them - if they fail to prove, then they will be hung.

The general population of Iran are not much better off.  Boys are sent to the front of the Iran-Iraq war to die in horrific circumstances.  Young men are forced to walk through minefields with blankets wrapped around themselves.  The blanket is not for protection, but to keep their bones together when they inevitably step on a mine.  Fanaticism is used to whip them into a fervour for martyrdom.

This book was indeed a rare find, and one that has truly opened up my understanding of Iran.  As well as the grim aspects of the regime, we also get a down to earth feeling of day to day life amongst the normal population.  Aspects of multiple marriages, affairs, pets are all beautifully described in this amazing book.

I can't recommend this book highly enough.  If you are going to do yourself one favour this year, read this book.

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