Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fleeing torture in Iran


A great incentive to keep Europe free of any sort of Islamic rule!

Ali looks young and healthy for his 32 years. But during the course of our interview it becomes clear that he still suffers from the physical and mental effects of the torture he suffered at the hands of the Iranian authorities.

At university in Shiraz, southwest Iran, Ali got involved with a number of student protest movements. In 1997 he led a demonstration against the newly elected President Khatami.

"The militia came and beat us with batons. As I tried to protect my head they broke my arm."

A few weeks later the police came and arrested him. They had been to the university and taken the names of everyone involved in the protest.

"This time not much bad happened. I was slapped maybe ten times, and they made me sign papers saying I would not cause any more problems."

Shortly afterwards he graduated with a degree in environmental engineering. His employment prospects should have been good but his blemished record meant he was unable to find work and he was forced to go into military service in Tehran.

At first he committed himself to his training and military studies and, because of his high level of education, was soon assigned the task of teaching other recruits.

"When I was teaching the other soldiers I always questioned the mullahs. I asked why we should believe everything we were told about our government."

One night while on guard duty in the barracks he was attacked by a masked man armed with a knife. Ali pulled his pistol to defend himself but somebody had removed the live rounds from the weapon. He was stabbed eight times in the chest, back and legs then left for dead.

The knife had somehow missed his vital organs. When he was well enough to talk he spoke to his superiors about the attack. Nobody was listening to him. They thought it was his fault for forgetting to check his weapon was loaded and they blamed the attack on "some criminal element". The fuss that Ali kicked up about the attack led to him being discharged dishonourably.

Feeling embittered with the regime, he formed his own underground group whose stated aim was to "free Iranian people from tyranny". With five other core members, including his younger brother, they used the internet and student contacts to drum up support for the movement.

"The problem with my brother was that he didn't show patience. He was so proud of our group that he wanted to tell people about it."

As the group became better known and the network of supporters grew, his brother was arrested and later executed. Ali's wife was taken into custody and tortured. After several months on in hiding, Ali was arrested himself.

"For 40 days they beat me. They stamped on my head: they broke my jaw and they broke my pride. They told me I was against the Supreme Leader and therefore against God and they were going to cut off my hands and feet and then kill me."

Ali was forced to sit for hours in a small wooden box, leaving him with permanent injuries to his knees. At night they would haul him out of bed with a knife to his throat and tell him he was going to be killed. As we speak he keeps shifting position to try and ease the pain in his legs.

"They destroyed my mind. Now I find it hard to concentrate because of the pain in my body and the flashbacks."

Then after the beatings and the threats, it was time for Ali to meet the same fate as his brother. He was bundled into a car and driven towards Tehran to be executed for treason.

On the way the two soldiers stopped the car and told Ali to run. He later learnt his wife had sold everything she had to bribe soldiers to help him escape.

Ali spent weeks, his health deteriorating, travelling clandestinely through Iran, before being brought to England by an agent. In 2007 he applied for asylum. He is still waiting for a decision.

Ali has made great progress. With the help of NHS doctors and counselling from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture his flashbacks are now far less frequent.

But he is still in pain every day. He is on 11 different types of medication for his physical and mental symptoms. He is separated from his wife and his mother blames him for his brother's death.

Looking at Ali now it seems a lot of the fight has left him. The pain in his jaw stops him from sleeping and he is having physiotherapy on his knees. He feels that he is getting the best care for his injuries and his psychological problems.

But what would really help would be if he felt he was contributing to society rather than just waiting for handouts.

"The Home Office didn't send me home, but they don't accept me as a citizen. It is very difficult for me when I don't have permission to work. I cannot even apply for a driving licence."

In Iran he couldn't work because he had spoken out against the government. Not being able to work in Britain makes him feel he is still being punished.

Telegraph

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