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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Zarah Ghahramani's My Life As a Traitor saddens James Buchan

Zarah Ghahramani's My Life As a Traitor saddens James Buchan

Saturday March 1, 2008
The Guardian

My Life As a Traitor by Zarah Ghahramani
Buy My Life as a Traitor at the Guardian bookshop
My Life As a Traitor
by Zarah Ghahramani with Robert Hillman
250pp, Bloomsbury, £12.99

Evin prison stands in the Elburz foothills overlooking Tehran, and casts a shadow over all Iran. Built for the Shah in the 1970s, it symbolises a sort of continuity of despotism between the monarchy and the Islamic republic.

As you would expect in Iran, which has a separate sub-category of lyric verse called the Habsiyeh or "Prison ballad", Evin has produced a rich literature and not just in Persian. Abbas Milani, who mingled with the clerical prisoners in Evin on the eve of the revolution, describes teaching English to no less than Ayatollah Montazeri (A Persian Memoir, 1996). There is Ehsan Naraghi's From Palace to Prison (1994, originally written in French) and, from a Persian-speaking Englishman, Roger Cooper's Death Plus Ten Years (1993). Recently, women prisoners have emerged from Evin to tell their stories, including Marina Nemat (Prisoner of Tehran , 2007) who got out by marrying her guard and, now, Zarah Ghahramani. Imprisoned for 30 days in solitary confinement in early 2001, Ghahramani now lives in Melbourne, Australia and has combined with the Australian writer Robert Hillman to tell her tale in English. According to Frances Harrison of the BBC, who visited part of the women's section in 2006, there were then 375 women prisoners in Evin. My Life as a Traitor adds greatly to our knowledge of what a female must expect there. [click on the heading for more]


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