Pink Shoes and a prison cell in “My Life as a Traitor”


My girlfriend has been filling up our DVR
with movies that she feels she should
watch and kind of wants to watch, but is never in the mood to watch.
It’s hard to get excited about Boys Don’t

Cry and Hotel Rwanda because, even though she knows they’re good,
they’re so incredibly depressing.
I just stumbled across a book that triggered a similar conflict for
me. It sounds fascinating and well-written, but
convincing myself to read it is going to take a little effort. The book
in question is My Life as a
, by
Zarah Ghahramani
(with Robert Hillman).

My Life as a Traitor
is the story of Ghahramani’s 29 days in Iran’s Evin Prison, which is notorious for its political
prisoner wing. (This place is no Larkhall.) When she was 20 years old (in 2001),
the relatively privileged Ghahramani was arrested after taking part
in a student protest about the strict dress code and the general rigidity
of the mullahs. (She had been protesting dress codes since she was six
years old and drawn to forbidden pink shoes.)

Afterward, she was stopped
by a car while walking, and was taken to Evin, interrogated, and locked in a
6-by-5 cell. She was beaten twice, but was never taken to the secret
torture room and was eventually released in good physical condition.
She seems to have come out of it well. She left the country, continued
her education and wrote the memoir.

Mentally, it seems the ordeal
was quite harrowing. When asked in an interview whether she regretted participating
in the protest, she replied:

“You regret being born. You
face reality. Before, I thought I could save the world. But when you
sit in that room, you realize you don’t have any power. They can bring
you down with interrogation, slap you down, and you hate what you’ve

Again, fascinating story. Inspiring
woman. But a wee bit depressing. It does, however, remind me to appreciate
the freedom I frequently take for granted. I’m not a huge fan of the
current U.S. administration, and I’m certainly not impressed with their
respect for civil liberties. But I’m not even a little bit worried about
being arrested and tortured. And I remember that when my college roommate
and her compatriots played out their Vietnam War protest fantasies by
taking over the Administration building to protest the Gulf War (the
nexus between the UCLA administration and the Gulf War was lost on me),
they knew they were only risking a misdemeanor charge and a possible
small fine. So, the idea of protesting when you can face serious consequences
is sobering.

For the record, Ghahramani
moved to Australia after her ordeal to avoid both the possibility of
re-arrest and the accompanying suffering of her family.

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