Ahmad Batebi is free at last
From the Economist:
NINE years ago, Ahmad Batebi appeared on the cover of The Economist. He was a 21-year-old student, one of thousands who protested against Iran’s government that summer. He was photographed holding aloft a T-shirt bespattered with the blood of a fellow protester. Soon afterwards, he was arrested and shown our issue of July 17th 1999. “With this”, he was told, “you have signed your death warrant.”
During his interrogation he was blindfolded and beaten with cables until he passed out. His captors rubbed salt into his wounds to wake him up, so they could torture him more. They held his head in a drain full of sewage until he inhaled it. He recalls yearning for a swift death to end the pain. He was played recordings of what he was told was his mother being tortured. His captors wanted him to betray his fellow students, to implicate them in various crimes and to say on television that the blood on that T-shirt was only red paint. He says he refused.
(…) He suffered a partial stroke that left the right side of his body without feeling. He needed medical attention. The regime did not want to be blamed for him dying behind bars, he says, so he was allowed out for treatment. Three months ago, on the day of the Persian new year, he escaped into Iraq. On June 24th he arrived in America.
(…) He is cagey about how exactly he escaped. But he says he used a cellphone camera to record virtually every step of his journey, and will soon go public with the pictures and his commentary. Meanwhile, he seems to be enjoying America. He praises the way “people have the opportunity to become who they want to be”. Shortly after he arrived, he posted a picture of himself in front of the Capitol on his Farsi-language blog, with the caption: “Your hands will never touch me again.”
in Iraq, his former captors had one more chilling message for him. Not long after his arrival in Erbil in March, the new cellphone provided by United Nations officials rang. Mr. Batebi was shocked to hear the familiar voice of the chief interrogator at one of Iran’s notorious prisons.
“We know where you are,” the interrogator, a man known by the prison pseudonym Javad Javadi, said. “You must turn yourself in.”