Iranian dissident leader escapes to America… with a video camera

by twit

Via the International Herald Tribune:

After nearly 8 years in prison, Ahmad Batebi fled Iran, documenting the journey on a pocket-sized video camera.

A July 13, 2008 video report can be seen here. More information is available from a July 13, 2008 article:

… He rose to fame in 1999, appearing on the cover of The Economist magazine holding the bloody T-shirt of a fellow student demonstrator – an image he first saw when a judge slapped it before him and declared: “You have signed your own death sentence.”

At the age of 31, after nearly eight years in Iranian prisons, subjected to torture and twice taken to the gallows and fitted with a noose, Batebi had fled.

His own awakening began in the fourth grade, when his teacher, fed up with the distortions of an official history textbook, burst out: “Go out and read other things to try to get the truth.”

“The teacher probably doesn’t even remember,” Batebi said. “But he changed the course of my life.”

A few weeks later came the stoning. Though forbidden by his mother, he slipped out of the house to see the commotion near his school. He saw a man, accused of adultery, buried to the waist, his head covered with a sack that turned red as Revolutionary Guards hurled chunks of concrete.

A mullah standing atop a wall gave the orders, and an ambivalent crowd of neighbors looked on.

“I was utterly shocked,” he recalled. “My hands and legs were shaking.” Afterward, he suffered from nightmares.

Years later, he would witness public hangings and dismemberments. “But nothing had the impact of that stoning,” he said. “I thought, This can’t be Islam.”

At the University of Tehran in the mid-1990s, Batebi embraced his photojournalism studies and made two dozen short films with existentialist themes. He also joined in student protests, getting arrested three times. In fervent late-night discussions, he recalled, one admired model was the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

and if the US strikes Iran?

… Batebi speaks of working from afar for peaceful change in Iran. He recoils when asked about the possibility of U.S. military action against Iran, saying that if the United States attacked, “I might go back and fight for my country myself.”

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