THEN THEY CAME FOR ME (reviewed on May 15, 2011)
This harrowing memoir provides an illuminating glimpse into the security apparatus of one of the world’s most repressive countries.
The elections of 2009 led to the largest street protests in Iran since the fall of the Shah, and the establishment responded by arresting and torturing thousands of the participants. With the assistance of Molloy (co-author: Jantsen’s Gift, 2009, etc.), Newsweek correspondent Bahari details his incarceration at the hands of the Revolutionary Guards in Teheran’s notorious Evin prison. Because both his father and sister spent years in Iranian prisons for their political activism, Bahari was better prepared for his ordeal than most people, but the reality was shocking even to him. He learned from his interrogator, a man he knew only as “Rosewater” due to his overpowering perfume, that the Islamic Republic believed he was an American spy and one of the chief instigators of the protests. The key piece of evidence against him was an interview he once gave to a correspondent from the Daily Show with John Stewart, who was dressed as a spy and who introduced him by saying, “He goes by the code name Pistachio.” Rosewater also presented him with the damning evidence of his membership in a Pauly Shore fan club on Facebook, and that he had traveled to New Jersey. Much of the book concerns the psychological impact of imprisonment and separation from loved ones, and Bahari draws upon the strength of his relatives to survive. While contemplating suicide, he imagined his father telling him, “You shouldn’t do their jobs for them. If they want to kill you, they can easily do it themselves.”
Especially timely given recent events throughout the Middle East, this book is recommended for anyone wishing to better understand the workings of a police state.