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I know the true nature of Iran's regime


Tuesday, June 23rd 2009, 2:45 PM

Most reasonable people believe that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's reelection was a fraud, and that the leaders of Iran have lost any right they had left to rule. But there are still many people in America and Europe who do not entirely grasp how far the regime is willing to go in order to hold on to power.

It is to such people that I address my story.

After graduating high school in Tehran, I joined the Revolutionary Guard and served as a lieutenant in the Quds force. I eventually moved on to Ansar-e Hezbollah and became political secretary. Our loyalty was to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and, among other things, my comrades and I attacked members of then-President Mohammad Khatami's cabinet.

It was in 1999, just after I resigned from Ansar-e Hezbollah, that I was first arrested. That July we were ordered to attack student demonstrators at Tehran University. I refused to take part and quit my unit in protest. Ten days later, I was abducted by several plainclothes agents, among them Col. Akbar Sharafi, a police intelligence officer whom I knew when we were both on the same side of the fight.

For most of the next five years, I was imprisoned in secret detention facilities around Tehran. More than a year and a half of that time I was held in solitary confinement. My cell was a space roughly the size of a coffin

I was physically and psychologically abused on a regular basis. I was whipped repeatedly with cable wires and beaten over and over. I was denied any contact with the outside world. My family was threatened, and my grandfather arrested. I was forced to confess to all sorts of trumped-up charges, including having sexual relations with my lawyer, Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi.

Those torturing me had close ties to the Office of the Supreme Leader. I even knew one of them personally, a brigadier general whom I had served with and called a friend. He now heads the Revolutionary Guard unit responsible for protecting the supreme leader.

After a total of 41/2 years in captivity, I was finally released, but my ordeal was far from over. In 2003, I was targeted for assassination. I was lucky to escape into exile.

Such was my treatment for being a "threat" to the regime.

The protesters now out in the streets in support of Mir Hossein Moussavi are undoubtedly also being viewed as "threats" to the ruling establishment. What treatment will they suffer in the coming weeks and months? Will they share the fate of the student demonstrator my comrades killed in July 1999? There is more than enough evidence to believe that they will suffer greatly.

I would urge anyone who thinks otherwise to read the stories being collected by the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center in New Haven. Students, journalists, economists, even one of the founders of the Revolutionary Guard - all of us interviewed by the documentation center shared the fate of being abducted and tortured by intelligence agents answering only to the Office of the Supreme Leader.

Our crime? Nothing more than refusing to ignore the regime's ongoing rape of our country.

Today, many of my fellow Iranians are bravely out on the streets in protest, but tomorrow, they may be in prison - or worse. Will America and Europe stand up for them, or will they be left to suffer like I did?

Ebrahimi, a former member of the Revolutionary Guard's Quds force and of Ansar-e Hezbollah, a militant conservative Islamic group in Iran, lives in exile in Berlin. This oped was translated from the Farsi.


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