Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival
Maziar Bahari, Aimee Molloy
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THE BASIS FOR THE MAJOR MOTION PICTURE ROSEWATER, DIRECTED BY JON STEWART
When Maziar Bahari left London in June 2009 to cover Iran’s presidential election, he assured his pregnant fiancée, Paola, that he’d be back in just a few days, a week at most. Little did he know, as he kissed her good-bye, that he would spend the next three months in Iran’s most notorious prison, enduring brutal interrogation sessions at the hands of a man he knew only by his smell: Rosewater.
For the Bahari family, wars, coups, and revolutions are not distant concepts but intimate realities they have suffered for generations: Maziar’s father was imprisoned by the shah in the 1950s, and his sister by Ayatollah Khomeini in the 1980s. Alone in his cell at Evin Prison, fearing the worst, Maziar draws strength from his memories of the courage of his father and sister in the face of torture, and hears their voices speaking to him across the years. He dreams of being with Paola in London, and imagines all that she and his rambunctious, resilient eighty-four-year-old mother must be doing to campaign for his release. During the worst of his encounters with Rosewater, he silently repeats the names of his loved ones, calling on their strength and love to protect him and praying he will be released in time for the birth of his first child.
A riveting, heart-wrenching memoir, Then They Came for Me offers insight into the past seventy years of regime change in Iran, as well as the future of a country where the democratic impulses of the youth continually clash with a government that becomes more totalitarian with each passing day. An intimate and fascinating account of contemporary Iran, it is also the moving and wonderfully written story of one family’s extraordinary courage in the face of repression.
Praise for Then They Came for Me
“I really connected to Maziar’s story. It’s a personal story but one with universal appeal about what it means to be free.”—Jon Stewart
“An important and elegant book . . . a prison memoir enlarged into a family history.”—The New Republic
“Clear and compelling . . . engaging and informative—a gripping tribute to human dedication and a cogent indictment of a corrupt regime.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
“Then They Came for Me is not only a fascinating, human exploration into Bahari’s personal experience . . . it also provides insight into the shared experience of those affected by repressive governments everywhere.”—Mother Jones
“A damning account . . . Then They Came For Me turns a lens not only on Iran’s surreal justice system but on the history and culture that helped produce it.”—The Washington Post
“Then They Came for Me is a unique achievement. It is a story not just of political cruelty (a subject Bahari treats movingly), but also about the two poles of Iranian political culture, bent together in upheaval.”—The Guardian (UK)
“A beautifully written account of life in Iran, filled with insights not only into the power struggles and political machinations but into the personal, emotional lives of the people living in that complicated country. Maziar Bahari is a brave man and a wonderful storyteller.”—Fareed Zakaria
chance of having a fair election is if Mr. Khamenei prevents the Ahmadinejad gang and the Guards’ intelligence unit from rigging the votes. All we can do is pray that the supreme leader will make a wise decision.” On my way home that evening, as I passed by murals of Khamenei on walls throughout the city, Amir’s words stayed with me. I hoped that Khamenei would consider saving his legitimacy not by helping Ahmadinejad steal the election but by listening to his people. Of course, I highly doubted
reforms to take place, we will fall into a terrorism abyss like the years after the revolution.” My friend played with his green worry beads as I translated the article for him. I told him that I had nothing to hide and that I had even mentioned that I’d filmed the attack in the article. I assured him that by this time in my career, I’d grown accustomed to criticism from all sides. Usually, the Islamic government and different opposition groups criticized my films and articles for remaining
now is the future of my children.” As we talked on the sidewalk, I noticed that convoys of armored riot-control trucks with water cannons and crowd-control barriers were moving toward us, headed for the intersection of Revolution and Freedom Avenues, where the day’s demonstration was scheduled to take place. The convoy of vehicles was followed by thousands of guardsmen and anti-riot police wearing black helmets and riding black motorcycles. Everyone on the sidewalks stopped and stared at this
not mention any names, but there was no doubt that he was urging people to support Ahmadinejad. With the help of Khamenei and the Guards, Ahmadinejad had taken every measure to secure his reelection. With the rising price of oil, which accounts for 80 percent of Iran’s revenue, the government had billions of dollars to spend. Ahmadinejad had been unabashedly using quite a bit of this money to hand out unguaranteed loans for anything that could secure him a vote: mortgages, college educations,
relationship with one woman in my whole life,” I said. “And that is my wife.” “Who is this, then?” Rosewater asked as he started playing a video behind me. I heard Paola’s voice. “No, no,” she was saying. I realized what the video was. I’d recently bought a cheap laptop in London and had wanted to test the camera. I’d filmed Paola, who was having a bad-hair day, without her knowledge. When she realized I was filming her, she covered her face with her hands. “No, no,” she said, trying to duck