An interview with AB, an Iranian Dissident in Exile in Ireland

The final victory will be the people's

AB, x years old fled with his brother from Iran after they were arrested and tortured for demonstrating for basic civil liberties. He spent months hiding in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey before he made it to Ireland where he was granted refugee status within 5 months. I met AB in his flat in Dublin and asked him about his experiences in Iran and Ireland.

Why did you leave Iran?

Because after my brother and me were arrested and tortured my family decided it was safer to leave.

Why were you arrested? Were you acting violently, throwing rocks at the police or anything like that?

It started with demonstrations at the university in Tehran. There were big student protests for freedom of speech, freedom of the press, the freedom to meet. They lasted for days. We would be at the gates of the university shouting and chanting. We didn't use any violence, we just had rolled up newspapers to symbolise our desire for freedom of speech. Then the special police, the religious police came and dispersed the crowd. They had shields and weapons like sticks and chains and knives which they used to attack the crowd. My brother and me were arrested.

What was it like in jail?

You [anarchists] in Ireland think your police are bad, but they are nothing like the police in Iran. First you are put in a room this size (15' x 15') with 30 other men and left for days. Then they bring you to another room and torture you. I have cigarette burns on my back, and look at my wrist (It's twisted out of shape). This comes from when they hanged me from the ceiling while is was handcuffed. The worst part was when they would bring in my brother and torture him in front of me.

How long were you in jail?

We were in jail for six weeks, then we were released but would have to come back for trial later. We decided it was better to leave and my father gave us money and we went to Azerbaijan. The Iranian government tried to bring my father to trial over us leaving the country and in the end all the family had to leave the country.

Have you heard from your family recently?

Last spring I heard that they are ok. My brother is in prison in Azerbaijan because he has no travel documents.

Did you come to Ireland after going to Azerbaijan?

No after that I went to Georgia and then illegally by boat to Turkey. Then to Ireland by plane.

Why did you pick Ireland?

I didn't know I was coming to Ireland. I just wanted to get to Europe. Germany or England or any country. When you leave your home like I did your thoughts are to save your life not on where exactly you're going. The trafficker put me on the plane with a fake passport and told me to claim for refuge when I arrived.

So you claimed asylum at the airport?

No, the trafficker told me to tear up my documents when I landed or I would be sent back to Turkey. But I couldn't find the toilets before the gate. But the officials just waved me through no problem. After that I got a bus to the city-centre and walked around for hours. I asked a policeman that I wanted to claim asylum and he said "That's your business, not ours"

What did you do then?

In the end I got a taxi and said to the man. "I have ¤10 and I am a refugee" (my English was very poor at this time). He brought me to the Irish Refugee Council and they found me somewhere to stay for three weeks. Then I was sent to Cork where I stayed for a year. Now I am in Dublin.

What is your attitude towards Islam now? Do you go the mosque regularly?

No, we've suffered so much at the hands of people in the name of Islam that it's difficult to go back to it so soon. After a religious dictatorship you have a hatred of religion. We would not trust the Shia centre here, they are spied upon by the regime. Not all Iranians who live in Ireland are against the regime. Some who have Irish citizenship from the 1980s travel back to Iran to their families and have an interest in not opposing the regime. After torture we are careful about who we talk to, because if you don't know them well, they might be reporting to the regime. For me this doesn't matter as much as for others because my family is now outside of Iran and the government can no longer hurt them as revenge for my actions.

There were major anti-government protests last summer in Iran. Have they finished do you think?

There are protests and there will be more in the future. It is not easy to go on a demonstration in Iran. If you go on one, you don't know whether that night you will sleep in your bed or a police station. Or maybe even death. The people don't win against the government on the first day. You need big numbers and this takes time.

What role, if any do you think the western countries could play in helping the people get rid of the regime? Would you support an Ameri-can invasion?

No, never to invade the country. Genuine help is ok, but we don't want any other country inside Iran after the fall of the regime or any exploitation of the oil by the west again. It must be sold for a fair price. We don't want Iran to be like Iraq is now. The first thing Western countries can do to help the people is to stop supporting the government.

The West trades arms with Iran and supports their economy. This is a green light to the government to repress the opposition. France should not arrest members of the opposition living there just because the Iranian government wants it. It was very bad for opposition morale to see the foreign ministers of the EU (Straw of England, Villipein of France and Fischer of Germany) joking with the rulers of Iran. It makes them seem just people when in fact they are torturers. If the countries of the world stopped supporting the government the people could deal with them ourselves.

What is your opinion of reformers like Khatami within the regime?

We don't support reformists in the government. They are former revolutionary guards and they have come back to save the government not to change it. Khatami is no different. It's just a play to save them. The number of jailings and stonings has increased since Khatami came to power. The government has taken some of the money given by Europe for the earthquake. The people don't have enough blankets yet millions was given. That is robbery.

Do you think the Religious Dictators can be overthrown soon?

The strongest dictatorships don't last forever. The final victory will be the people's. I can't predict whether it will fall soon. But we believe we must be active and do something rather than be silent.

interview by James O Brien

See also

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This edition is No79 published in Jan 2004

Workers Solidarity 79