Tuesday, October 7, 2014

'I am not a spy. I am a philosopher.' 125 days in an Iranian prison by Ramin Jahanbegloo

The heavy steel door swung closed behind me in the cell. I took off my blindfold and found myself trapped within four cold walls. The cell was small. High ceiling, old concrete. All green. An intense yellow light from a single bulb high above. Somehow I could hear the horror in the walls, the voices of previous prisoners whispering a painful welcome. I had no way of knowing whether they had survived. I had no way of knowing whether I would. So many questions were crowding my mind. I heard a man moaning. It was coming through a vent. I realized that he must have been tortured. Would I be tortured, too?
I was, and am, a philosopher, an academic. Life had not been easy for Iranian intellectuals, artists, journalists, and human-rights activists since the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in 2005. As a thinker on the margin of Iranian society, I was not safe, and so, rather than stay in Iran, I had accepted a job offer in Delhi, India. I had come back to Tehran for a visit. On the morning of April 27, 2006, I was at Tehran’s Mehrabad airport to catch a flight to Brussels, where I was to attend a conference. I had checked in my luggage and gone through security when I was approached by four men. One of them called me by my first name. "Ramin," he said, "could you follow us?"
"I’ll miss my plane," I said.
"We just want to ask you a few questions."
People around us were watching, but nobody moved. I realized that I had no choice but to go with them. I was placed in a car. Two of the men got in the front; the other two climbed in the back with me between them. They pushed my head down, and the car headed toward an airport garage where another car was waiting. With fewer witnesses around, the men were more aggressive now, pulling me out of the first car and throwing me into the second. They pushed my head down again, and this time one of them covered it with his jacket, which smelled of rotten onions. It had a hole in it, so that I could see out of one of the side windows. As the car sped away, one of the men said into a walkie-talkie: "We have the package. The package is arriving."
For the first time, I realized that my life was in danger. I knew that in the early years of the Islamic regime, many people had been taken away and executed without notice or trial. Their mutilated bodies were found in the suburbs, and the police pretended to look for the assassins. Those abductors were similar to the men surrounding me—intelligence officers who picked up intellectuals and activists and killed them on the spot. I panicked. An agitated voice kept escaping me, though I was not aware of speaking. It echoed, bouncing around the car, falling back into my throat and escaping again. "Where are you taking me? Where are you taking me?" And the simple, hollow reply, "Shut up!" over and over again... read more