Essays & Articles

Marina Nemat: 'I Live to Testify' ~ Globe and Mail

Is it a Crime to Want to Live? ~ Winnipeg Free Press

We Can All Stand Against Violence ~ Globe and Mail

Lessons from a Revolution (Iran’s, that is) ~ Globe and Mail

Please Don’t Abandon a Canadian in Need ~ Globe and Mail

Iran’s Grave-Like Prison Cells ~ Globe and Mail


by Marina Nemat

As a young child from a Russian Orthodox family growing up in Tehran, Iran, for me, Christmas meant going to a very long mass and getting terribly bored -- but it was all worth it, because after the mass, my grandma would rush me home and allow me to take a star-shaped cookie from the Christmas tree. My parents were not religious at all and never attended mass with Grandma and me. The Russian Orthodox were a very small minority in Tehran, and most of the people attending mass at our church were old women. Even though Grandma, or Baboo as I called her, couldn’t carry a tune, she was a member of the church choir. I remember her clearly, standing next to the other singers, who were all at least as old as she was, her gray hair gathered in a tight bun behind her head, her white blouse and black skirt perfectly ironed, and a little red scarf tied around her slim neck. I watched her as she smiled singing the joyful hymns, which had found their way out of her heart and were now floating over the little flickering flames of candles, images of the Virgin and the Child, and the congregation. I saw my grandmother smile almost only at Christmas and Easter. She was a very kind and generous woman who had lived a very difficult life, and, as she had explained to me, had forgotten how to smile. So Christmas became a miracle to me at a very young age because it was one of the two very special days of the year when I could see happiness in my grandmother’s eyes.

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Religious Minorities in Iran
by Marina Nemat

Even though the Islamic Republic of Iran has tried to pretend that it respects the rights of religious minorities in that country, in reality, this is far from the truth. This study demonstrates how the Iranian constitution openly discriminates against religious minorities and that even the basic rights that the constitution has granted the recognized religious minorities (Christians, Jews, and Zoroastrians) have been systematically disregarded in one way or another.
In order to study the condition of religious minorities in Iran, it cannot be overemphasized that divine law is the unique source of legitimacy and political authority in that country. Even more important, it is critical to understand that the sole accepted interpreter of this divine law is the Supreme Leader. The Supreme Leader has control over all aspects of civil and political society; he is in control of the judiciary, the army, the police, the radio, and the television, and he also controls the elected president and the parliament.

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Democracy in Iran? Will We Ever See the Day?
by Marina Nemat

The word “democracy” comes from the Greek "demos" meaning "people" and "kratos" meaning "rule,” but as the wheels of history moved along, it became evident that the rule of the majority can actually lead to a terrible disregard of the rights of minorities, so in the modern world, democracy is defined by civil and political rights. But will democracy ever be possible in Iran? In order to answer this question, we should learn a little about Iran’s history. In this essay, I will not attempt to give a complete history lesson, but I will do my best to help the average reader who doesn’t have the time or patience to read all the available books to gain a very basic understanding of the complexities of Iran’s history.

In 1935, Reza Shah Pahlavi, who was the king of Iran at the time, declared “Iran” the official name of Persia (Persia was the name by which the country had been known in the Western world for a very long time). The name “Iran” is a cognate of “Aryan” and means "Land of the Aryans.” A few Persian scholars protested this decision on the grounds that it created a break with the history of the country and that it seemed to be influenced by the Aryan propaganda of Nazi Germany, but Reza Shah argued that, in their own language, the people of Persia had called their country “Iran” for hundreds of years and that “Pars” or “Fars,” from which “Persia” had derived, was the name of a province in central Iran. He hoped that officially calling the country Iran would give it a modern image.

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Ripple Effects
Posted by Words At Large Guest on August 20 at 12:35 PM

I believed that once I put my memories on paper, the past would go away. But it didn’t. Instead, it became larger than life, magnified through every single word. I promised myself that the pain would disappear once I shared my story with the world. But it didn’t. So I charged ahead, fueled by a desperate need to find closure, to make sense of all that had happened, of torture, death, rape, betrayal, forgiveness–and my survival.

With my book being published in 20 countries, I had to travel around the world to promote it. City after city. Two continents. Tens of interviews. And every interview left me emotionally exhausted. Like a seed in fertile soil, the past had sprung back to life from the shards of my broken silence.

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Dissidence and Literature
by Marina Nemat

Last August, when I was at Lake Como to speak at an event, a teenage boy asked to interview me. I was exhausted, but I decided not to say “no” to him, because I remembered that I was about his age, maybe a little younger, when I began writing articles against the Islamic government in my school’s newspaper. I had grown up during the time of the Shah, the king of Iran, and I had had a rather idyllic childhood. I was 13 when the Islamic revolution succeeded in my country in 1979 and turned my world upside down. I was not from a political family and had never been political. How political can you be at the age of 14? I was a young girl who had grown up listening to the Bee Gees, watching Little House on the Prairie, reading C. S. Lewis and Jane Austin, and wearing bikinis at the beach. I had dreams of becoming a medical doctor, which was quite possible, and I wanted to marry a handsome young man like Mr. Darcy one day and raise a family. Then, I ended up writing articles against the Islamic regime in my school, which the government had turned into one of the first fronts of the Islamic Cultural revolution. Immediately after the revolution, there was some freedom of speech in my country as the new government was trying to define itself and write its laws. During this period of relative lawlessness and anarchy, all political groups that had been illegal during the time of the Shah surfaced. I had no idea what a Marxist was and now they were everywhere, selling their magazines and newspapers. The doors of the world had been opened to my generation, who had lived most of their lives in the controlled society of the Shah, and we were very curious and excited and eager to understand the world and to change it for the better. The word “democracy” made our hearts beat faster, and our young minds were completely unaware of the complexity and danger of the road ahead. After all, at the age of 14, you believe you’re invincible.

But things took a turn for the worse.

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