© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

Survival at a Price in an Iranian Prison

Marina Nemat was minutes from being executed when her life was spared by the jailor who forced her to marry him.
Marina Nemat was minutes from being executed when her life was spared by the jailor who forced her to marry him.

Marina Nemat's name had been scrawled on her forehead, and she was about to be shot.

She had been locked up in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since early 1982, when, at age 16, she complained that math and history lessons in her school had been replaced by Koran instruction and political propaganda.

Nemat was rounded up for speaking out against the Ayatollah Khomeini's brutal regime, and she was sent to Evin to be interrogated, tortured and executed.

Just minutes from death, her life was spared. But the blessing came with a heavy price.

A prison guard named Ali had fallen in love with Nemat and used his father's connection to the Ayatollah to commute her sentence to life in prison. Threatening to harm her family and friends, he forced Nemat — a Christian — to marry him and convert to Islam.

In her new memoir, Prisoner of Tehran, Nemat tells the story of her life as a political and domestic prisoner, married to a man she feared. Though she grew to care for Ali's family, Nemat lived in a constant state of anxiety and guilt about what her family would think when they learned of her marriage to Ali and her conversion to Islam.

Twenty months after Nemat was imprisoned, Ali was gunned down on the doorstep of his parents' home. Six months later, Nemat returned home. It was only after her mother's death, when Nemat started filling notebooks with memories, that Nemat's family and friends learned of her past.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.