Proving One’s Faith in Tehran Jails, 1980s

We exchanged stories as we walked that day. Nassrin told me more about her time in jail. The whole thing was an accident. I remember how young she had been, still in high school. You’re worried about our brutal thoughts against “them,” she said, but you know 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 soon 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 had been her amazing beauty. They brought her in on some trumped-up immorality charge. They kept her for over a month and repeatedly raped her. They passed her from one guard to another. That story got around 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 had “converted” to Islam to empty the last round into 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.

SOURCE: Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, by Azar Nafisi (Random House, 2004), p. 212

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