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Let's dream
Abu Ghraib and Evin prisons are never destroyed

By Amir Ali Fassihi
June 4, 2004

Let's dream today. Let's dream that Evin prison is never destroyed and will forever stand to symbolize torture, fear and death. No, this is not a nightmare. Don't get me wrong. I don't want to champion torture. But I want the world to know what happened there. I want us to know, and our children to know.

President Bush in his speech last week said he wants to destroy Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and build a new, modern facility. I want to keep it as I want to forever keep Evin. But not as a prison, but as a museum, as a memorial.

Us Iranians know what Abu Ghraib means to Iraqis. Zendane Evin means the same. For decades now, that structure has symbolized death and torture. Most of us know or knew of someone who has walked the floors of that building. It is still a nightmare for any mother to hear her child is in Evin. Zahra Kazemi was killed just for taking photos of it.

This is why we have to keep it. Evin must always be a reminder for us and our children for the price we paid to reach freedom. It must be a memorial for those imprisoned and tortured under Savak. For the thousands who were ordered to their death in 1988 by Ayat. Khomeini. Our children must be allowed to walk the halls of that building and read the names of those killed. Their stories, their struggles. Their names and stories should forever be etched in stone and on those walls.

How else can we rid ourselves of a culture where the authority has used torture for thousands of years to subjugate its people? How else can we teach our children that it is not OK to kill for one's belief? How else can we show our children this generation's struggles? How they were beaten, sleep deprived, psychologically tortured, just for what they believed. Shah claimed he never knew of such acts. That he was lied to and betrayed. President Bush says the same about the current abuse. Let's keep these monuments forever as a reminder to ourselves and especially to such leaders.

When the current constitution of Iran was being written in 1980, many who were tortured under the Shah wanted to add a provision to ban torture. The islamists countered such move. They wanted to know, how can one subjugate its citizen, if one cannot torture them!!! Shoraye Negahban has repeatedly ruled for having torture as an act that is NOT against Islam.

Let's not be shortsighted here and blame Islam, or the Shah or individuals here. Torture has been in our culture since Babylon. In fact, even doctors were tortured in Babylon for malpractice!!! And to get rid of torture is not to change individuals, regimes or prisons. We must remind ourselves of its horrors. Of its barbarism. We must talk about it. We must write about it. Our children should read the memoirs of our prisoners just as Americans read the diary of Anne Frank.

Replacing Abu Ghraib will do nothing but to relocate the site of torture and abuse. The same abuse done by the American soldiers and Baath members could easily be done in Rashid Hotel. It is not the site, but the culture of abuse.

I dream of Amnesty International purchasing that entire site from a free, democratic Iranian government. I dream of Evin prison as a memorial to those who dreamt of freedom. I want their names, their faces, their stories, and their dreams forever written in stone on those walls.

To those who call for a change in regime these days, remind them that our generation doesn't want a change in a regime or individuals. We want a change away from a culture of torture, abuse, and iron-fist authority. We don't want revenge. We don't want to change the names of the prisoners for a new generation of prisoners. We don't have hatred. We want to forget. We want to forgive. We just want to live and let others live. We just have to.

And we want to remind ourselves and our children of the abuse. Of our abuse. Our stories and our dreams. We want Evin to be a memorial for this struggle and a reminder of a price paid for freedom.

This piece was published in Amir Ali Fassihi's weblog,

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By Amir Ali Fassihi
Weblog from LA



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