By Jane Davis - Special to THE DAILY
Marina Nemat was 16 years old when she received a death sentence in Ayatollah Khomeiniís Iran.
Only seconds before the squad raised its rifles to fire, one of the prison guards scrambled over to her waving a commuted sentence.
Instead of death, she must spend the rest of her life in prison.
As an Orthodox Christian, she asked her mathematics teacher to teach algebra instead of political ideology. She was told to return to her seat or leave class. She left and many other students joined her. Even at her young age, she knew her words and actions would have enormous consequences.
Only a few months later, as she prepared to take a bath, she heard a knock on the door and realized the guards had come for her. She was taken to the infamous Evin prison and tortured.
Whereas one interrogator beat her until she fainted, another fell so deeply in love with her he was willing to ask his father, a boyhood friend of the Ayatollah, if he would intercede on Marinaís behalf. So began Marinaís life behind bars. She shared a room with 50 other women and girls imprisoned for reading western novels or disobeying their fathers. Periodically, several would be removed and the remainder heard gunshots a few minutes later.
Ali, the guard who saved her, had his own agenda and soon circumstances shift so much that Marina later believes she would have preferred death. While imprisoned, she holds on to the memories of life outside Evin and especially the handsome musician at the local Catholic Church. Her existence endangers all those she loves, and Aliís demands present her with a choice no one, especially one so young, should have to make.
But this is a memoir, meaning the author is looking back and remembering the way things were. Even as one reads her story, there is the knowledge she will survive. She had to write this account for her own sanity and for all those women who were taken from that room in Evin and never returned.
Her story should be told with that old axiom in mind: We must know what happened before so we do not allow it to happen again.