Persia: The Cradle of Infidels
by Ali Sadeghi
Berlin: Saraye Andische, 2006. 257 pp. 20
Reviewed by Michael Rubin
Middle East Quarterly
In Persia: The Cradle of Infidels, Sadeghi relates his imprisonment and torture at the hands of Iranian security and his eventual flight from Iran. His narrative begins in 1999 when, as a university student, he sat bound, awaiting interrogation, hearing screams and sounds of torture coming from the next room. The police accused him of possessing "prohibited" books, such as Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, and of planning the protest (which was in fact spontaneous) that occurred after pro-government vigilantes stormed a University of Tehran dormitory. The police demanded a confession, and not getting one, they threw Sadeghi into solitary confinement. There follows a serpentine account of court, bail, threats, new interrogations, and a new arrest that illustrates the capriciousness of law and power in the Islamic Republic.
Sadeghi's firsthand account illustrates the depravity faced by young Iranians who dare question the regime. His description of fellow young Iranians as they await execution is moving, even as his descriptions of prison and of judicial procedures add depth to the often sterile reports found in Western newspapers. For example, he describes how once bail is decided, intelligence officials transfer their charges to ordinary prisons, and how their families learn of their status, pay bail, and pick them up.
Sadeghi's depictions of life outside prison are also useful. He humanizes the struggles faced by ordinary Iranians, illustrating how Iranian youth maneuver to enjoy life despite the restrictions imposed by a theocracy. Unlike many other memoirs, his is not one of affluent Iranians partying hard into the evening but rather the toils of everyday existence. He describes, for instance, how he and his girl friend get a forged marriage certificate so they can walk or dine together without fear of arrest by religious police. He also discusses how oppression in the name of Islam sparks disillusionment with religion, hence his choice of title. Sadeghi's account of surreptitiously checking his passport status and, after finding his passport revoked, negotiating with people-smugglers to help him leave the country adds insight into the hidden smuggling networks that so flourish in Iran.
Persia: The Cradle of Infidels is not without its flaws. While his prose is clear, Sadeghi is prone to flowery language. His philosophical musings distract. The book's organization could be more straightforward as well. Had he gone to a U.S. publisher, print quality would also be better. Still, while a diamond-in-the-rough, Sadeghi's first book is nevertheless a gem and well-worth ordering.
Related Topics: Iran | Michael Rubin | Summer 2007 MEQ
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