Marina Nemat (@marinanemat) is a human rights activist who survived torture and imprisonment in Iran after Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution. She chronicled her ordeals in Prisoner of Tehran: One Woman’s Story of Survival Inside an Iranian Prison.
What We Discuss with Marina Nemat:
- How life for women in Iran prior to Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution mirrored their contemporaries in the United States.
- Why most of the populace optimistically thought the Islamic Revolution was ushering in much-needed changes over the first few months — and what happened when things started to quickly turn sour.
- How 16-year-old Marina got on the regime’s radar and wound up in Tehran’s notoriously brutal Evin Prison.
- The torture Marina endured while imprisoned, and the ultimatum she was forced to accept in lieu of execution.
- Why Marina was eventually released from prison, and what she’s done with her time since then.
- And much more…
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When you’re a regular teenage girl growing up in a regular 20th-century city with regular aspirations and regular teenage problems like homework and boys, you’re caught a little off guard when religious fundamentalists take over your country and throw you in prison for demonstrating what most reasonable people would consider a regular amount of teenage rebellion. But this is exactly what happened to our guest Marina Nemat, author of Prisoner of Tehran: One Woman’s Story of Survival Inside an Iranian Prison.
On this episode, Marina joins us to discuss what landed her in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison when Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution turned Iranian society upside-down in a matter of months. Here, she details the torture she endured and the alarmingly close call she had with a firing squad before a smitten prison guard made her an offer she couldn’t refuse. She’ll share how she survived years in this Iranian prison, what eventually secured her long-awaited release, and what she’s been up to since. Listen, learn, and enjoy!
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Did you miss our conversation about the most recent bout of protests in Iran with Yass Alizadeh, the Persian program coordinator at New York University? Catch up with 746: Yass Alizadeh | Iran Protests | Out of the Loop here!
Thanks, Marina Nemat!
If you enjoyed this session with Marina Nemat, let her know by clicking on the link below and sending her a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at email@example.com.
Resources from This Episode:
- Prisoner of Tehran: One Woman’s Story of Survival Inside an Iranian Prison by Marina Nemat | Amazon
- After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed by Marina Nemat | Amazon
- Marina Nemat | Website
- Marina Nemat | Twitter
- Marina Nemat | Facebook
- Inside Iran’s Evin Prison | The Atlantic
- Yass Alizadeh | Iran Protests | Out of the Loop | Jordan Harbinger
799: Marina Nemat | Surviving Inside an Iranian Prison
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Special thanks to Peloton for sponsoring this episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:04] Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:07] Marina Nemat: What if there is this middle ground somewhere? This middle ground that would save me from hellfire. I think all I have to do is to try to understand the fact that he was human and that he did awful things and made terrible mistakes, but I don't have to do anything about it. I don't have to forgive and I don't have to hate, to neither forgive him nor not.
[00:00:40] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with scientists and entrepreneurs, spies and psychologists, even the occasional former cult member, investigative journalist, drug trafficker, or music mogul. And each episode turns our guest's wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better thinker.
[00:01:05] If you're new to the show or you want to tell your friends about the show, our episode starter packs are a great place to begin. These are collections of our favorite episodes organized by topic that'll help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show — topics like persuasion and influence, technology and futurism, China and North Korea, negotiation and communication, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com/start or search for us in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:29] Quick reminder to use the AI chatbot. A lot of you have been using that to great success. You can find any promo code you can find any Feedback Friday question we've ever answered. You can ask it questions about the show such as what's going on in Iran, or which episodes talk about Iran, and it will surface a bunch of episodes for you. It's way better than the search we had before. Jordanharbinger.com/ai is where you can find it.
[00:01:50] Today, on the show, born in 1965, Tehran, Marina Nemat's mother owned a hair salon. Her father was a dancer. She had a boyfriend in a fairly normal family life until the Islamic Revolution took over the country. We're going to hear a firsthand account of what it's like when religious fundamentalists take over your country, take away your freedom, dismantle your society, and do their best to extinguish any hope you had for the future. She spent a lot of time in an Iranian prison. We're going to get into some heavy details, so no kids in the car for this one. There's some pretty graphic descriptions of torture and other types of violence. It's a harrowing tale that I found riveting and I know you will as well. And here we go with Marina Nemat.
[00:02:32] What's really scary about your story is just how similar your childhood is or was to any young girl in the United States, Canada, and just how seriously your life was upended by religious fanatics. And I'm wondering if you can give us an idea of how normal your life was prior to the Islamic Revolution in Iran.
[00:02:50] Marina Nemat: You know, definition of the word normal, I guess, that's a bit difficult, but I would say my life, yes, it was quite comparable to the life of a teenager, even in North America. I went to a wonderful school and I was a top student. We had amazing teachers. We studied not only Persian, we studied English and math and sciences and all of that. And girls were being educated just like boys. There was no difference whatsoever. I loved going to school, I loved sciences. And there were girls going to university. They were becoming engineers and doctors and lawyers. And when people asked me, what do you want to be when you grow up? I never thought of saying a wife or a mother. I always thought I'm going to become medical doctor because I am a very good student and I can get into university. And universities were free, so you didn't have to be rich to go to university to become a doctor.
[00:03:50] I had a very good social life. I mean, it wasn't overdone or anything, but I had friends and we would go have a pizza after school. We would go have ice cream and we would hang out and life was good. I loved reading. I read a lot of Persian literature, but also a lot of Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, C.S. Lewis, and we had a cottage by the Caspian Sea where I spent my summers and we would party almost every night. We would be on the beach, and it was a very safe environment. We had never heard of any violent acts being committed, and we would be dancing to the tunes of the Bee Gees to Donny & Marie Osmond. We would hang out until like wee hours of the morning and I was like 13 years old, but it was fine. You know, I wore bikinis on the beach. I had a green one with white polka dots and I rode my bike with my friends all day. I mean, I, my family was dysfunctional, as dysfunctional as anybody's, but in general, life was good. I have hopes, I had aspirations.
[00:04:50] Jordan Harbinger: I want to highlight because whenever I talk about these types of things, people go, well you didn't mention the shah and the SAVAK and the secret police and all the bad things that were going on. And I think it's an attempt at the audience from certain people in the audience at whataboutism like, well, it was bad under the shah because they had secret police. So now, it's just a different version of that. And I disagree with that. And I assume you do also.
[00:05:12] Marina Nemat: Yeah. No, no, no. It's different in the sense that when I was 13, the revolution happened. So it happened in 1979 and I was 13 years. And before that I had all sorts of personal freedoms that a teenager could want. As a teenager, I didn't care about political freedoms. I didn't care. I didn't give a damn if you could criticize the shah or you couldn't. I mean, I saw nothing wrong with the shah from the perspective of a 13-year-old girl. And all I cared about was going out with boys and partying and dancing, wearing nice clothes, wearing a little bit of makeup and just having a good time, and in the future, going to school, going to university. And all of that was entirely available. I didn't care that the shah was a dictator. I mean, give me one teenager that has all of his or her or their personal freedoms and they would be concerned with political freedoms. I think that would be very, very unusual. So yes, the shah was a dictator. Of course, he was. But he gave the people of Iran all the personal freedoms they wanted. So from the perspective of me, of course, a lot of people would disagree, a lot of people who were older, who knew more. But from a perspective of a naive teenager, life was great.
[00:06:31] Jordan Harbinger: So under the shah, which I'll say installed by the United States, there were no political freedoms, but there were personal freedoms. And under the Islamic regime that they have now in Iran, there are no personal freedoms and there are no political freedoms, essentially.
[00:06:45] Marina Nemat: Exactly.
[00:06:46] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:06:46] Marina Nemat: Exactly. So once the revolution happened, it took about a year. I think the people of Iran had hoped that once the revolution happens, not only they would keep their personal freedoms, like nobody had imagined that they would go away. Like why on earth would they go away?
[00:07:02] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:07:03] Marina Nemat: But people thought they were going to gain political freedoms that they can now, you know, have democracy, whatever that entails. That was the plan. That was the plan. A lot of Marxists, a lot of socialists, they supported Ayatollah Khomeini, a religious man who was a fanatic, and they supported him because they believed him. They believed him when he promised. He promised, there are recordings, that when he comes into power, he will not take away the freedoms that we already have, but he would just simply add to them. People believe these promises. But then he comes into power and a few months in very slowly, wearing the hijab becomes mandatory in government offices.
[00:07:49] Jordan Harbinger: The headscarf, just for those people who don't know, that's the headscarf, which is—
[00:07:52] Marina Nemat: Yes.
[00:07:53] Jordan Harbinger: —currently causing a sh*tstorm.
[00:07:54] Marina Nemat: No, not the headscarf.
[00:07:54] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:07:55] Marina Nemat: Not just the headscarf, but you had to wear baggy clothing and the uglier you looked at the happier the government was.
[00:08:02] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:08:03] Marina Nemat: You know, I couldn't wear my normal blue jeans. The blue jeans became a sign of imperialism of the Satanic United States, and we were like, "What the hell are you talking about? This is what we have always worn. It has nothing to do with Satan, I promise." But this became the rules. I mean, my father was a ballroom dancing instructor in Tehran. My father was one of the first people who brought modern dance to Iran to the capital, and he was teaching before the revolution. He was teaching Muslim couples how to do the chacha and the tango, and now suddenly he lost his job. He couldn't dance anymore because now they said dance is satanic. What on earth? Now, they said that any kind of music, any kind of music is satanic. They said that Jane Austen is satanic. If they caught you with one of her books walking on the street, you would be arrested. I mean, what on earth?
[00:09:03] Jordan Harbinger: For the first year of the ayatollah coming into power, you'd said everything was kind of legal that hadn't been before. So people had political freedom, they were discussing Marxist, Lenin, right, left, communism, capitalism, whatever it was. And then, was this sort of like boiling frog where you woke up one day and you realized this had been changing slowly over time? Or was it like, suddenly, "By the way, as of tomorrow, no head scarves, no jeans, no dancing, no singing." How quick was this process?
[00:09:33] Marina Nemat: It took a few months. It wasn't very quick. It was the frog being dipped—
[00:09:38] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:09:38] Marina Nemat: —into water and their temperature gradually increasing. And you know what the problem was? From the beginning when it started happening, people didn't take it very seriously. When they said, "Oh, when you go in a government office, you have to wear the headscarf and wear baggy clothes and it has to be the dark colors." I mean, if you went in with yellow and green, you would be arrested. And then people said, "Oh, it's not a big deal. I mean, you're making too much of a fuss, because I was making too much of a fuss and I was kept on. I was a teenager. What did you expect me to do? A teenager who grew up in a bikini. So yes, I would say, "No, mom, I don't want to. I don't want." "Well, honey, you know, don't be so difficult. This will just last a little bit and then, people are going to be upset and they're going to talk about it, and then they're going to ease it up. Why are you so upset?" But then they tightened the news around our neck and it got tighter. And it got tighter.
[00:10:37] And then once, you're dangling from the news, you're like, "Oh, holy, how did this come about?" Like, I remember those very first protest rallies. It basically started as soon as 1980, but it got more, very much more serious in 1981. And I was going to all these protest rallies. and we were just young people. We were just a bunch of teenagers, maybe early 20s, and all the older people, they were saying, "Oh, you are just young. You don't understand. This is just temporary. Why are you guys doing so difficult?" And then, things got worse. They were throwing acid in women's faces.
[00:11:15] Jordan Harbinger: Throwing acid in women's faces?
[00:11:17] Marina Nemat: Absolutely.
[00:11:18] Jordan Harbinger: Why? That's awful. Why do that?
[00:11:21] Marina Nemat: You wouldn't know because a woman would be walking down the street. Her hijab was not perfect. You know, a little bit of hair was throwing from under the scarf. And back then, well, they still exist. It's called the Basij. Basij, basically, I don't even know what the word exactly means. It's an Arabic word. To us, it meant the militia. So the militia that is connected to the Revolutionary Guard, but these were civilian clothing, wearing men that they would ride motorbikes and they would just come on the street in groups and they would scan the women. And if they decided that you were not wearing the right thing, they would come towards you. They would either beat you, by any means they could basically, to a pulp or they would throw acid in your face.
[00:12:11] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:12:12] Marina Nemat: Now, in those days, when I was walking down, like always my mother said, "Marina, be careful. If these guys show up, take shelter." And I live downtown, so the streets, you know, they had all these shops and I knew the shopkeepers. I had grown up in that neighborhood. Everybody knew everybody. So if I heard the motorbike, or if I saw something, I would just run into one of the stores. Or if it was one of the residential neighborhoods, I would just knock on the door. You know, these were my neighbors. I trusted everybody. I would just go and take shelter until they were gone.
[00:12:46] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. So I looked up Basij, it says, is a Persian word, although it probably comes from Arabic, like you said, which means mobilization, public preparation, nation will, and people determination, which sounds a little propaganda.
[00:12:58] Marina Nemat: Yeah. Again, we saw it like to us, in practicality. Words take different meanings politically in certain circumstances. To us, it meant the Revolutionary Guard, militia. Yeah. You know, and they never wore the uniforms of the Revolutionary Guard. They had like this military-style uniform, but they didn't. You couldn't even tell. Like, unless they were in groups on their motorbikes, you couldn't tell.
[00:13:24] Jordan Harbinger: So are this kind of like, secret police, but religious fanatics? Secret police, are these the guys that just go around Saudi Arabia or Iran and do what they did back then, which is beat people up who have their hair uncovered or are wearing nail polish or whatever?
[00:13:43] Marina Nemat: Yeah, nail polish was definitely a big no-no. Any kind of perfume was a big no-no. Yes, colors again, were big no-nos.
[00:13:50] Jordan Harbinger: It is.
[00:13:51] Marina Nemat: It's interesting how this attack on women was the first thing that I remember, but one of the reasons is probably because I am a woman and it mattered to me. Again, if you couldn't — now, Ayatollah, says, "You cannot criticize me." I didn't care, you know, what I care about is how I can live my daily life without being beaten to a pulp.
[00:14:15] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, to be fair, yes, it might be because you're a woman, but also because in a regime like this, I mean, the rules are written by guys who are also living in the stone age or want to live in the stone age, right? So women's rights have changed a lot over the last, I don't know, 500 years. Men's rights, I mean, if you're living in a regime that's also trying to go back to the stone age, your rights have kind of, maybe you can't just sell your daughter anymore as easily as you could, but maybe you can. I don't know.
[00:14:44] Marina Nemat: Guys were affected too. I mean, you were not allowed back then, in the '80s as a guy to wear short sleeves.
[00:14:52] Jordan Harbinger: Short sleeves.
[00:14:53] Marina Nemat: Yeah. You weren't.
[00:14:54] Jordan Harbinger: How tragic.
[00:14:55] Marina Nemat: Again, jeans, you could not wear jeans. You couldn't be clean-shaven. If you were clean-shaven, they would be suspicious of you.
[00:15:03] Jordan Harbinger: I see. So that's more of a symbol of, this guy is more westernized. Look, he doesn't have a beard.
[00:15:08] Marina Nemat: Yeah.
[00:15:09] Jordan Harbinger: Maybe I'm reading into this, look, I don't want to, I'm not trying to virtue signal here, but it feels like for women, it's, "If you wear nail polish, you're a whore." And for guys, it's, "Hey, where's your beard? You're not religious enough. Maybe you like America."
[00:15:20] Marina Nemat: Yes.
[00:15:21] Jordan Harbinger: It's a little bit different. And I can't quite put my finger on it.
[00:15:23] Marina Nemat: No, it is different, definitely. Honestly, I never saw them. That didn't happen. I don't know, but I never saw them beating guys who were clean-shaven.
[00:15:35] Jordan Harbinger: That was my next question. What's the punishment, right?
[00:15:37] Marina Nemat: I never ever saw that. Now, maybe if you had a government job, I don't know. You might be fired if you didn't abide by the new rules if you were a guy. But I mean, if you worked for a private firm or something like that, then no, you will have your job.
[00:15:53] Jordan Harbinger: Again, I can't quite put my finger on it, but it does seem much more restrictive for women in the punishment, much more severe.
[00:15:59] Marina Nemat: Definitely. And you could get arrested.
[00:16:01] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:16:01] Marina Nemat: I mean you would be taken in, there were like these things, they were called Islamic committees, so there would be like these government facilities and they would take you in and it was like a small jail and they would keep you for a day or two or five and they would threaten you like crazy. And they would try to reeducate you by telling you, you're a whore and how badly you have behaved and the reasons why you should be behaving better. Yeah. And they would sometimes meet people when they arrested them, oh, absolutely, people were beaten all the time.
[00:16:41] Jordan Harbinger: It's a little terrifying because you think, oh, this is something that happened in a rare instance. But really, if you go to church in the United States or Canada or anywhere in the West, if you think about the most conservative person at your church, the older people who really, they disapprove of everything, imagine those people now make all of the rules and they can detain you. And so instead of them telling you something and you roll your eyes and you say, "Well, my parents aren't going to enforce that. You're 80, fine." Now. Those people are the police, they're the judges, they are the legislators, and they are able to harass you in the street and detain you and throw you in jail and essentially torture you in there too. That should scare anybody, even if you live comfortably somewhere in California or New York.
[00:17:22] Marina Nemat: It is absolutely terrifying. And when those who are in power have all the guns, Have all the resources and the only thing you have is your little voice screaming on the street or a kind of spray paint that you know you would get out of your house at 2:00 a.m. I never did this. I didn't have the courage, but you know, I had friends who did, they would get out at like 2:00 a.m. and go to these big walls and write, death to Khomeini—
[00:17:52] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:17:53] Marina Nemat: —and down with Islamic dictatorship and that sort of thing. I wasn't that brave. You know, the most I did was going to the process. They were scary. I mean, the rallies were scary. We would be attacked by the and the Basij all the time, and I was a fast runner and I could definitely make a run for it. And I knew where to hide. I knew the neighborhoods really well, so—
[00:18:15] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:18:16] Marina Nemat: —I got lucky. But when you are 15 and you are at a protest rally, and there are bullets flying by your head—
[00:18:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:18:24] Marina Nemat: —you think it's never going to hit you, you think it's other people who die. You think it's other people who get arrested because you're 15 and you're full of life. And that adrenaline of being a part of a large group of people asking for amazing, wonderful, beautiful things like freedom and democracy and, you know, well, being able to wear jeans, of course, is part of it. But you know, it was good. It was adrenaline. You know, even now talking about it, I feel that tingling feeling in my body. It was amazing.
[00:19:00] Jordan Harbinger: I can tell you're being sort of transported back into that and it does seem like there's a lot of energy there and I can see why that's attractive for somebody who's young because it's almost like there's a lot of purpose behind it. You think, okay, potentially, we're changing the country. It's an electric environment. You're fighting for your own future. Is that how it felt?
[00:19:20] Marina Nemat: It did, but you know, there was something else about it that I think at my age now, I'm 57. I have lost that. There is something at the age of 15 and 16 that ideas, these beautiful grand ideas of freedom for everyone, equality, justice, democracy. Even though I had read about them in books and heard about them from people who were older than me, but it almost felt like I had invented them. When you're so young, it almost feels like every beautiful idea you encounter, you have almost given birth to it. It's yours and you are the one who's going to change your country, forget what your country, you are going to change the world. You are going to create Eden and everything is possible. You just need to reach out and grab it, and then everything will be all right. And that kind of optimism, that kind of hope, I don't have it anymore because I'm older.
[00:20:22] Jordan Harbinger: I know your grandmother was from Russia. Did she see the writing on the wall at all? Because the communists did kind of the same thing, right? "Ah, we're going to build this utopian society. Everybody's going to contribute where everyone's going to be equal." And then, it was, "Just kidding. We're corrupt crony, kleptocratic bastards who are going to oppress you and then throw you in a gulag and kill you.
[00:20:41] Marina Nemat: Exactly. No, my grandmother, both of my grandmothers were Russian. One of them died before I was born, and the other one died when I was seven. So unfortunately, you know, fortunately maybe, she didn't see the revolution, but she had escaped in 1917. I remember these little snippets of what she used to always, it was her refrain. She would say, "These stupid communists will be gone and I will go home one day." And I never understood that. I kind of thought, because I was a kid, and I thought, "Oh well, you know, Iran is our home right now and it's great. So why do you even say that? Like, where do you want to go? Why do you want to go there?" And then, I began to understand that longing. But one of my aunts, she was 17 when she came to Iran from Russia, and she understood it so well. She warned me even before the revolution, she always said, "Listen, the same thing that happened in Russia is going to happen here. Don't for a moment believe this ayatollah and his cronies and his people, because this is history." There is a dictator. People want him out and they make all these crazy promises and they never keep them because power corrupts. And they get into power and they will do their own thing and that's will be the end of it.
[00:22:06] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. They never want to leave.
[00:22:07] Marina Nemat: No.
[00:22:07] Jordan Harbinger: And it becomes about enriching themselves. And we've talked about that on the show as well, the kleptocratic tendencies of people in power. What was going on at school at this time? Because you mentioned you had really great teachers. I assume that started to change because one of the first things to go in a fanatic takeover like this, a theocracy, I would imagine one of the first things to go is free-thought education, anybody talking about anything other than religion and propaganda.
[00:22:32] Marina Nemat: Yes. Our teachers were fantastic and I was a good student. I cared about my education, about what I was learning in school. Again, it didn't happen overnight. I mean, it took about a year, but one by one, they got rid of our teachers and they were replaced by fanatic young women. They were members of the Revolutionary Guard. They were not qualified to teach. They all were a very strict Islamic hijab, you know, totally black and totally baggy and oh my goodness, they looked like death. Like one by one, the teachers were gone and our principal was actually arrested early on in the revolution because she was close to the minister of education. She was a very educated woman, [Mrs. Faraheim]. We loved her with very scared of her. She was really strict. She was an amazing woman to very, very strong. She was executed by—
[00:23:28] Jordan Harbinger: No.
[00:23:28] Marina Nemat: —by the new regime. Yeah. And simply because she was a good person, because she was an educated woman, because she was just marvelous. And yeah, she was executed. So they replaced her with this fanatic 20-year-old, I don't know. And she was a member of the Revolutionary Guard. And it was shocking to see her because there was nothing fantastic or amazing about her. I'm sorry to use this word, but she just looked stupid to us. Like she didn't look anything like a principal is supposed to look. She came in and then after a while, I mean, imagine you're a teenager and you spend from, I don't know, I think the bell rang at 8:30. You would spend from like 8:30 a.m. to like basically 3:00 p.m. one hour lunch in the middle, sitting through propaganda. And these new teachers, they were not there to teach chemistry and biology and math and English and Persian literature. They were there to brainwash. So it was basically Islamic studies and propaganda for all of those hours. And you're sitting there and you can hardly keep your eyes open and it's just boring and it is infuriating and you don't believe a word that they're saying and it's just frustrating. So I just got to the end of my rope. It was just rage.
[00:24:52] Jordan Harbinger: You're Christian though too, right?
[00:24:54] Marina Nemat: Yes, I am a Christian.
[00:24:55] Jordan Harbinger: So it was even worse because it wasn't like they were teaching you your religion and it was boring. They were teaching you a different religion. It was boring.
[00:25:00] Marina Nemat: I don't care what religion they were teaching. Honestly, it could be God himself there. And if he's preaching something that is so damn boring. I mean, sorry, but I'm not going to sit through it. So you know, I felt my temperature rise, you know, every day. And it got to the point that I was like, I can't do this anymore. So it was during calculus and I raised my hand and I said to this 18-year-old teacher, I said, "Miss, can you please teach calculus?" Now, I had never imagined that I would beg someone to teach me calculus because math is not my favorite subject.
[00:25:34] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:25:34] Marina Nemat: It's never been. I love biology and sciences but I never loved math, but it was calculus time. And she looked at me straight in the eye and she said, "You don't like whether I teach, leave," but okay. And you know when you're a teenager and your whole class is looking at you because you are on.
[00:25:53] Jordan Harbinger: Right, like, what are you going to do? Are you going to call it or are you going to raise?
[00:25:57] Marina Nemat: Yeah. So it was like this moment of absolute silence and I evaluated the situation. I thought, "Oh, well, the hell with it. I'm going to go." So I collected my books. I walked out and I got in the hallway and I remember this cold dread that's spreading in my body. I was thinking, "Oh my God, I just left the class. Like I was a good student. I would never do that so like what happened?" And as I was thinking that there is this noise behind me, and I turned and most of my friends followed me out and I was like, "What are you doing?" And they were like, "Well, we are doing what you are doing. What are you doing?" And I said, "Well, she said, leave." I said, "Well, yeah, but I don't like it." They said, "Well, who cares? Let's just go in the yard." So we went in new yard, we laughed, we had our lunch and we just thought, "Oh wow." And then somebody from the village suggested they said, "Oh, this is a strike." It's like, "Ooh, strike?"
[00:26:57] Jordan Harbinger: Getting serious, yeah.
[00:26:58] Marina Nemat: Amazing. Oh my gosh. There was so much adrenaline and yeah, it was just back and forth with the principal who kept screaming at us, "Go back to class. Go back to class." "No, we are not going to go." It was very exciting.
[00:27:13] Jordan Harbinger: I'm guessing this is what then put you on the radar of the regime or the bad side of it because she's not going to let that go, right?
[00:27:21] Marina Nemat: No, she hated us.
[00:27:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:27:23] Marina Nemat: This woman hated us. We were her worst nightmare. She called our parents and the parents, most of them, I guess my parents said, "Well, I mean, you are the principal. The teacher told her to leave. What did you expect her to do?"
[00:27:39] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:27:39] Marina Nemat: "So she hasn't done anything wrong in our books." It lasted three days, and then she called a bunch of us to the office and she said, "You go back to class or I will call the and you will all go to jail. So it's your call."
[00:27:52] Jordan Harbinger: Did you think she was serious or is it like, "We're going to call the police?"
[00:27:55] Marina Nemat: Yeah.
[00:27:55] Jordan Harbinger: Because you know, sometimes adults make empty threats.
[00:27:57] Marina Nemat: No, because we had seen what was going on on the streets.
[00:28:01] Jordan Harbinger: Hmm.
[00:28:01] Marina Nemat: We had been to rallies. We had seen the shootings, Revolutionary Guards, it's like they say, I don't know, the zombies. And you know, zombies are real. I mean, how are you going to react to that? It was terrifying. "The Revolutionary Guard? Oh wow. Okay. No, no, no. Sorry sir. Sorry about that. We didn't really mean it. Yeah. It's okay. We are going to go back to class. We made our point, didn't we, guys?"
[00:28:24] Jordan Harbinger: At this time were friends of friends or people's brothers, uncles going to prison and getting shot. Did you know other people that were going to prison or getting killed?
[00:28:34] Marina Nemat: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:28:35] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:28:36] Marina Nemat: You know, every protest rally that I went to there were shootings and there would be people, like you would see people fall. You never thought it would be you. You saw, you heard or even saw the collecting people and putting them in their vehicles. You didn't pause, you ran. You know, you ran so that you wouldn't be caught. Yes, absolutely. And friends, I mean friends or friends of friends, there had been arrests and the arrest had never happened in school. Always, they came to your house, usually in the middle of the night. So then, you would hear the next day at school, "Oh, so-and-so was arrested." Or they came to so-and-so's house and their brother was arrested. Or their sister was arrested. And you were like, again, it was like always happening to other people, but it got so bad. It was in 1981, in the spring, it got so bad and there were so many people arrested that I had a nervous breakdown. And the school had become intolerable with all the propaganda and whatnot. So I cried my eyes out for days and by the time, the September came, September, 1981, I said to my mother, "I can't go back to school. I just can't. I can't do this anymore. I can't pretend this is okay and I'm going to get in trouble. I'm going to get arrested." And my mother, even though she believed in education, all of that, she just saw I was depressed, like clinically depressed. She said, "Okay, stay home for a year. I mean things, maybe they will get better by next year. Then, you can go back." So I stayed home that school year, 1981 to 1982, I stayed home. I stayed away from all of it because I couldn't deal with it anymore.
[00:30:21] Jordan Harbinger: Were there waves of arrests as well? Or is it kind of just one person at a time or did you think, oh man, 20 people are not here today?
[00:30:28] Marina Nemat: No. By the time, I got to that stage of depression, it was because the phone would ring like five times, every day and they would say, "Oh, so-and-so, you know, this friend, that friend, this family member, that family member, that, this." It was hard to fathom. Like everybody was getting arrested. I couldn't understand it. So this is why I said, "Whoa, I'm not doing this anymore. I'm going to stay home." So we are talking about thousands and thousands of people being arrested. Like I didn't know a family who didn't have a loved one or two or five who had been arrested.
[00:31:07] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Marina Nemat. We'll be right back.
[00:31:11] This episode is sponsored in part by Better Help. If you're going through a tough time, there is no shame in getting help and I wish I knew that years ago. I highly recommend it. You need not suffer any longer. Better Help is a great option for this. The Better Help platform makes receiving therapy so much more realistic for people who are busy, can't get around, won't get around like me. I love how convenient it is to communicate, chat, phone, text, video sessions. You can text your therapist at any time. Share journal entries with your therapist, all within the Better Help app, which by the way, I checked my phone, it has over 94,000 reviews in a five-star rating. That's pretty impressive. Better Help will match you with a therapist tailored to your needs. You can switch anytime you want. If you don't click and you have access to over 25,000 licensed professional therapists on Better Help's platform all verified and vetted by Better Help and it's really easy to switch. Like I said, if you don't click, no additional charge. I can't tell you all the excuses that I originally came up with as to why I didn't need to go to therapy, but once I did, I really wished I'd started sooner. I encourage anyone looking for mental health help, even a little bit, maybe kind of to give it a try.
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[00:34:11] Now, back to Marina Nemat.
[00:34:14] The impact of this must have been so severe because, of course, when you know every other family in your neighborhood has somebody who's arrested, don't you think, "They're coming from me at some point," especially you think, "Oh, that thing I did last year, I wonder if they're still mad about that." You know, the paranoia is a feature of something of this kind of police and government oppression. It's not a bug, it's not a fluke. It's by design that everybody is scared, right?
[00:34:37] Marina Nemat: It is true, yeah. And I was petrified and this, you know, again, depression, but I knew I will be arrested if I go back if I don't lie low. So my thought was that, "Okay, I don't feel right, I'm just going to stay home and I'm just going to lie low and hopefully, this will blow over." And that was my hope but of course, I was wrong because they came for me in January, 1982.
[00:35:02] Jordan Harbinger: Were you still politically active? No?
[00:35:04] Marina Nemat: No.
[00:35:04] Jordan Harbinger: They just came for you because of the strike.
[00:35:06] Marina Nemat: I was terrified. I was home. I had gotten all the school books. I was reading them. I was talking maybe to a couple of friends on the phone, but just to see what was going on in school and it was all depressing. And I was going to church every single day. The church was within a walking distance from my house. I was going to church every day and I was just sitting there on a pew and I was just praying and praying, lighting candles, and praying, and praying just for my friends were in prison and saying, just, "God, please don't let them come for me," because I don't want to do this. I don't want to go to jail. And I was terrified. I would just go to a church, just hang out there for a while, maybe talk to a priest or two to a couple of friends there at the church, but nothing political. It was just friends and then, go home.
[00:35:54] Jordan Harbinger: Tell me about your arrest.
[00:35:56] Marina Nemat: Oh, they came for me on January 15th, 1982. I was home. I was going to go take a bath and it was nine, 10 o'clock at night. I went in the bathroom, closed the door behind me, turned on the tap, waiting for the water to heat. It was cold. The bathroom was always cold. It was always freezing. I was waiting just for the water to steam, and as I sat on the edge of the bathtub, I still had my clothes on and all of that. The doorbell rang and the moment the doorbell rang, the moment it did. I knew it. I thought, this is it. I'm done. It was almost like death. It literally was in away. So my mom called my name. I opened the bathroom door and I looked into the barrel of a huge gun. I had never really realized how big those guns are, you know? But now, it was straight in my face and something happened in that moment. I think it was a state of shock. And it's difficult to describe it for those who, and people respond to, I guess, trauma differently. But for me, it was an out of body almost experience. It was like I left all emotions behind. Suddenly, fear vanished. I was not afraid anymore. It was just this absolute numbness.
[00:37:18] So my mom and dad were crying and I was looking at them. I was thinking, "Huh, this is not as scary now, is it?" And honestly, it was weird. It was like I became a different person. There were two guards to and they said, "Oh, where is your room and where are your books?" And they went through all of my stuff. And they picked up a few books. Jane Austin, C.S. Lewis—
[00:37:42] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:37:43] Marina Nemat: —and Pride and Prejudice. And yeah, they told me to get ready and they said, "Oh, put on a chador." Chador is a form of hijab, but it is basically like a sheet, like think about a bedsheet, but it's all black and you're supposed to cover yourself completely with it. Not a burqa. It's different. Burqa covers your face too. Chador doesn't cover your face, just the body. I didn't have one because I said to them, I said, "I'm a Christian, I don't wear a chador. I just have headscarf." They said, "Okay, headscarf." So I put it on and then I wanted to grab my rosary, which was right there on my bedside because I was praying all the time. I thought I grab it and they said, "Oh, what's that?" And I said, "Oh, it's my rosary." And they looked at it suspiciously and they said, "Okay, you can bring. that." And I remember one of them said, "Well, where you are going, you need to pray a lot."
[00:38:27] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:38:28] Marina Nemat: So they put me in the car and the car was parked at our door. And I remember looking back and seeing, I guess, my mom and dad from distance standing in the doorway. And in a way, I did die that evening. It was the end of me as the person I had been. I became a completely different person. During the ride, the two guards were chatting with each other. I guess one of them, their sister was getting married or something. And I remember listening to them and feeling absolutely nothing. It took probably about close to an hour to get to the prison. It's north of the city. We were downtown. There was hardly any traffic. It was all clear. And we got to the prison. I had never been in that area, and I realized how massive it was. I mean, those walls, tall, tall walls with barbed wire on top, they just snaked across the hills and guards and blood lights, you know, all sorts of stuff.
[00:39:27] Then, we got to the gates, massive metal gates and the guards, gave me, I don't know, it was the length of fabric and they said, "Blindfold yourself." And I put it on and the car moved in and the car stopped. They said, "Get out." And I got out and they took me in a building. They shoved me down the stairs, I fell, get up, get up. You know, especially when you're not seeing where you're going—
[00:39:51] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:39:51] Marina Nemat: It was extremely confusing. It was like, go up, go down, go left, go right, go up, go down, go left, go right. And then, eventually a hallway I guess, I could see a little bit because the blindfold wasn't a hundred percent on. I could see a tiny bit and it seemed like a hallway. And there were a lot of people sitting on the floor by the walls in this hallway. And they said, "Sit down." And I did and what I remember most is the silence. It was so quiet. There were all these people sitting there, and there wasn't a peep out of anybody. I was sitting there, I don't know, probably hours, I don't know. And then, eventually, this girl sitting next to me, she started crying like loud. And it made me so nervous and uncomfortable because I thought, you know, there was this silence, and then the silence ended and there was this girl bawling. And I thought this is not good. Like, this is not good.
[00:40:54] And I tried to talk to her. I said to her, "Hey, are you okay? Don't cry, don't cry, don't cry. This is not good. You're just attracting attention. Like, be quiet." And then, she kept crying. She said, "We are all going to die. We're all going to die." I said, "No, no, no. We're not going to die. We are just going to be fine. Just stop crying." And then, this guy came and called my name and told me to follow him. He had a pen, like it was just a regular pen in his hand. He had one end of the pen in his hand and he told me to grab the other end of the pen so that I could follow him because men and women are not opposed to touch each other, right?
[00:41:31] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, right.
[00:41:32] Marina Nemat: Yeah. So he guided me using that pen. Sometimes, it was a length of ropes, sometimes it was a pen. So anyhow, we went into a room and he closed the door and there was a chair. He guided me, he said, "Sit here." And then, he started reading from me, from the Quran in Arabic, and then the translation, of course. And this whole time I'm thinking, "What the hell is going on?" So then, he started asking me questions like, about my religion. Like, "Are you a Christian? Yes, I'm a Christian." Then, we went through the whole, you know, my family history and my school history and basically, he wanted to know the whereabouts of someone I vaguely knew an acquaintance, and I didn't know where she was.
[00:42:14] Jordan Harbinger: So they're reading, they're interrogating you essentially. You were a very small person. I know at this point it, it must have been very intimidating to be in what is essentially a political prison with a bunch of other people. You have no idea what's going to happen. What do you think they want from you at this point?
[00:42:30] Marina Nemat: That point, I wasn't quite sure because he kept pressing me about the whereabouts of this girl, a friend of a friend. I had met her once and he kept saying, "Where is she? Where is Shahrzad?" And I said, "I don't know where she is. I don't even know her last name. I don't have an address." I met with her once. She came to my school. She walked home with me. She was very pleasant. She was like 20 and she was a member of a Marxist group. She wanted me to join them because I ran the school newspaper. She had read some of my articles. She said, "They're really good and we would like you to join us and work for us." And I was flattered, but the arrest had begun and was planning to lie low.
[00:43:11] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:43:11] Marina Nemat: So I said, "No, thank you, Shahrzad." She went her way, I went mine. So he tells me, the interrogator, whose name was Ali and he says, "Well, we were watching her and we saw you with her. Until she has escaped, but you're here. So where is she?"
[00:43:28] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:43:28] Marina Nemat: "I don't know, an absolute truth, absolute truth." And then he said, "Well, how about your friends in school? Who are they? Who are the ones who are against the government? Who are the ones who joined you in that strike you had?" And he knew so much about me. I already knew that our principal had told on us to the Revolutionary Guard, like one of the teachers was—
[00:43:50] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:43:51] Marina Nemat: You know, a nice person. She had told us that, "You know what the principal is telling stuff to the Revolutionary Guard." So it wasn't an entire surprise, but what was a surprise was how much he knew, like, all the details he knew. He kept talking to me. It took a long time. And then, at the end, he said, "Okay." And I said to him, "Listen, I have nothing to tell you. You know so much. You probably know everything from my principal. You know, who's against the government, who's not against the government, and I don't know where Shahrzad is. I don't." And he was like, "Oh, well I don't think so." So he guided me out of the room and down the hallway somewhere. And then, he said, "Sit and listen." So I sat down and there was a man screaming. I had never heard screams like that. I thought they must be cutting his limbs off. That's how it sounded. It sounded like they were like opening him up or something like that. And I sat there and it made me unable to breathe properly because every time the man spoke, my breath would just stop. And I just sat there for a while. And then, eventually, Ali came and there was this other guy actually and at this point, no, it was the other guy who came, it was this other guy named Hamehd.
[00:45:06] He came and he said, "Did you hear that man screaming?" And I said, "Well, yeah." And then he said, "Well, do you have something to tell me now? Do you want to tell me where Shahrzad is?" And I said, "I don't know." And he said, "Okay, come with me." So he guided me into this other room, and here he took off my blindfold. I was in a small room, very small room, no windows or anything, and there was a bed on the left-hand side. There was a small desk on the right-hand side and then a metal chair. And he said, "Okay, last chance, where is she?" I said, "I don't know." So he made me lie down on the bed. I was going down my stomach. He tied my wrist. First, he tied them with a rope, but then he decided against it. He put my hands in handcuffs and then, he laughed because my bones are very small. And he saw that they were going to slide out of the cuffs. And then, he put both of my wrists into one cuff. And when it clicked, I literally felt my right wrist crack.
[00:46:08] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[00:46:08] Marina Nemat: And I screamed my head off. And then, he made me lie down. And he put that free part, you know, free cuff, I guess, he fastened it to the metal part to the bed and then he tied my ankles to the bed. So I was laying down my stomach and he took off my socks and my shoes. And then he lashed the soles of my feet with a length of cable. It's about one inch thick, and it's heavy rubber. I mean, I had heard about torture but in my 16-year-old mind, I could not even imagine the pain that each strike was inflicted. I mean, the best I can describe it is I've never been hit by lightning, but it's probably quite painful. It was like being hit by it. And the problem was that the pain wasn't just in my feet. I mean, it started there, but it would just travel and it would explode in my body.
[00:47:11] And then, later on, someone explained it to me in the prison. He said, "Listen, your nerve ends are in your feet, so when they hit you like that hard, the pain travels through the nervous system and it just destroys you." And you don't pass out. Your feet don't get numb. It doesn't get better, it just gets worse. And I got to the point that I couldn't think, I couldn't do anything to escape and just kept going. They didn't even pause to ask questions because I would have told them whatever. I probably would have said, "Wait a, again, I know where Shahrzad is," and I—
[00:47:48] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:47:48] Marina Nemat: —would have given them some fake stupid address just to stop, just to make it stop. But that was not an option. So they beat me. Then, they finally stopped and they made me sit up and I looked at my feet and I think I laughed. My feet looked like, I mean, the best I can describe them, big party balloons with toes on them, indigo blue, I mean for the human body to swell that much and to look that ridiculous. It was funny and the pain was gone. So that was a relief, but I didn't even know how will I be able to ever walk on these. I mean, it was, I don't know, even just thinking about it creates that, I guess emotional vacuum. You have to protect yourself. It's a defense mechanism that just kicks in and disconnects you. You feel the pain, but you don't have emotion.
[00:48:44] Jordan Harbinger: The idea behind this is obviously not to get information at this point. They didn't ask you anything and the information would've been bad anyways. It's just punishment, right, at this point.
[00:48:52] Marina Nemat: It's not just punishment. I wish it were punishment. This is about control. This is about we will control every aspect of your body and your mind. We will completely control you or we'll kill you, simple. So you either just show us that you are on board with us and with whatever we want, and with whatever we tell you, or you die. Punishment, you know, it has limits. You know, they would say, "We'll beat you, I don't know, 50 lashes." It was open-ended.
[00:49:34] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:49:35] Marina Nemat: This was, "We'll either own you entirely or you'll die. Pick one." Of course, it wasn't really communicated as well.
[00:49:44] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:49:45] Marina Nemat: But you get the message, you understand. And then they kept telling me, you have to confess. And I said, "Okay, whatever you want me to confess, just please let me know. And I will certainly confess. You want me to tell you I'm Jesus Christ. Oh, totally, I'm the guy." They wanted me to confess that I am an anti-revolutionary and that I have been spreading corruption on Earth with my everything, the way I dressed with my religion, with my political, it wasn't even really political, but whatever you want to call it, with the stuff I believed in, you know, believing in freedom and democracy and race of women and, you know, whatever, that it was all corruption. That I am a corrupt person and that I need to repent from all of this and I need to say loud and clear that I regret everything I said and everything I did. And only then they might stop doing this to me. So I was like, "Weah, absolutely. I regret everything. I'm everything you said, and I'm even worse, I'm like the top of it. I'm their leader, and please just stop."
[00:50:51] Jordan Harbinger: While you're in prison you mentioned that you heard gunshots at night and you always knew that you could be next, right? These were clearly executions of people that probably had just gone through something similar to what you had gone through. You mentioned also that they put camphor in the tea to stop the women from menstruating. Why? Why do that? That part, I didn't quite understand.
[00:51:11] Marina Nemat: I don't either. I mean, I hope one day — the problem is that generation is, the generation of the interrogators and whatnot is basically more or less gone. But the tea smelled because, you know when you're in prison and you hardly get any food and they bring you tea, you're like, "Oh, yay, jackpot—"
[00:51:31] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[00:51:31] Marina Nemat: "—you have tea." And I was so excited the first time about tea, and then I brought it like to my mouth and I'm like, "Ew, that smells not like tea."
[00:51:41] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:51:42] Marina Nemat: "It kind of looks like tea, but it doesn't smell like tea. What is this?" And then, my cellmates were there longer. They knew more than I did. They said, "Oh, you know, there's camphor in it." I'm like, "Uh, why?" They said, "Well, because it stops us from menstruating." Why? Because they don't want to spend money on feminine pads—
[00:52:00] Jordan Harbinger: I see.
[00:52:01] Marina Nemat: —or tampons or whatever we might need. Oh, but it also has side effects. Okay. So I said, "Okay, tell me about it." So it causes depression. Well, not that we need help with that, but it also makes your body absorb water. So your body swells. I was very thin. I was 48 kilos, which is very thin, skinny, skinny, skinny, skinny. And while I was in prison, even though I was always hungry and we were malnourished, I looked chubby. You know, for the first two, three months, we didn't have any visitation from family. But then after, when we did, of course, from behind the glass, they said to me, "Oh, you look good." And I was like, what? I might look good but my face looks all around and chubby as water absorption. So, they kind of covered their tracks because we were really malnourished. We didn't get much food and we were all beaten up, but usually on our feet, which when you're all covered up and you're behind glass, and you sit down and nobody, your family don't know, "How are you doing?" the family would say, and you would say, "I'm doing great." Because if you said, even like, "I have a headache, kind of under the weather," the guards would take you and beat you because you gave your family a signal that you are not feeling well. Well, then you were in trouble. So yeah, there was the camphor in the tea and yeah, it did stop us from menstruating it did and, yeah, it made us absorb a lot of water.
[00:53:27] Jordan Harbinger: The prison guards then, what, marry you off to somebody? You're 17 at this point. This is such a weird part of the story. I had to listen to it several times because it's so outside the bounds of what you would ever expect. Because if they're treating you like human garbage, they're poisoning you, they're torturing you, and then it's like, ta-da, you're going to be this guy's wife. What? Like, I can't wrap my head around this.
[00:53:51] Marina Nemat: Jordan, you have to, you know, this is a different mindset. This is legalized rape.
[00:53:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:53:58] Marina Nemat: You legalize it.
[00:53:59] Jordan Harbinger: I see.
[00:54:00] Marina Nemat: When you have a bunch of, well, hundreds, thousands, thousands, thousands of 16, 17, 18, 19, 20-year-old, young, beautiful women in the prime of their life right there in a prison, or you know, the people who are holding you there are absolutely accountable to nothing. Nothing. They can do whatever. They can take you out and shoot you, and nobody will ask any questions whatsoever. So if you want to rape anyone, you can't just go ahead because this is the Islamic Republic and we have to hold the appearance that we actually don't rape women. What do we do? We marry them off, very simple. Now, there are two kinds of marriage in Iran according to Sharia law. There is the kind of, I can say, regular kind, that you would marry someone kind of like it is in the West, kind of. Yeah, you're married, you're supposed to live together through the thick and thin, wherever, until you die. Of course, divorce is available, you can get a divorce. It's very difficult for a woman to get a divorce, so it's much easier for the guy to get divorced if he has problems with his wife. There is that, but then there's this other kind of marriage, which is called Shari'a. A guy can marry a woman as young as nine, nine years old for half an hour. It has an expiry date on it and the man has absolutely no obligation, so doesn't have to provide the wife with anything. If the woman gets pregnant, the guy has absolutely no responsibility towards it. So the history of it goes way back. I don't exactly know, but it goes probably even close to the time of the prophet when there were wars and whatnot. So the men would travel very long and very far from home and they had needs. So this was kind of a loophole that created the possibility for them to fulfill their needs without actually officially raping anybody, but it just makes it legal.
[00:56:10] Jordan Harbinger: Sure. It's just a technical loophole to rape somebody and then I assume the woman is not required to give any sort of consent to this kind of marriage.
[00:56:17] Marina Nemat: Well, she kind of does. Like the Sharia judge would ask you, do you consent? But when there's a gun held your head, well, not literally, maybe in that very moment. A lot of times, this is the prison. So if the prison guard tells me, "You're going to marry me. I'm going to arrest your parents." I'm going to say, "Yes, absolutely. I would love to be your wife. That is like the greatest thing that has ever happened to me."
[00:56:42] Jordan Harbinger: And is that what happened to you?
[00:56:43] Marina Nemat: Exactly, that's what happened. "I'm going to arrest your parents, I'm going to arrest—" They even knew about my boyfriend. I had a boyfriend named Andre who was the organist at my church. so he said, "I'm going to arrest your boyfriend, I'm going to arrest your parents." So, how's that going to be? I said, "Absolutely. I'll do anything you want." He owned me. He completely, entirely, and absolutely owned me. So I said, "Fine." The thing is that outside the prison, I don't know, if 14-year-old, 10-year-old girl, you know, a lot of poor families, they sell their girls into the temporary marriage because the guy would pay the family money—
[00:57:19] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:57:20] Marina Nemat: —to take the girl. So, you know, there is usually a financial thing. And then if you are a girl and you're a woman, let's say in your 20s and you are from very poor family, you had difficulties. You basically sell yourself being into this kind of marriage because they pay you. But this was different because I was in prison. There was no need to pay anybody.
[00:57:42] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. It wasn't even that. Did you have to convert to Islam then at that point? Or is that just irrelevant?
[00:57:47] Marina Nemat: Yes, yes, I did. It wasn't that I absolutely had to because, well, I kind of did, officially. A Muslim man is allowed to marry a woman who is not Muslim, can be Christian, Jew, atheist, whatever. But a Christian man is not allowed to marry a Muslim woman. So if a Christian man wants to marry a Muslim woman, he has to convert. Absolutely, he has to convert. So, according to the laws of Islam, I didn't have to convert because I was Christian. He wasn't. So he was a Muslim, it was fine, but he told me that because his family were very, you know, I don't know, I guess they were believers and they just didn't like the idea of having their son marry and infidel like Christians not good, doesn't look good, a lot of other things didn't look good, but that was fine. So yeah, they said, "You'll have to convert." I said, "Absolutely. Sure, no problem."
[00:58:51] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Marina Nemat. We'll be right back.
[00:58:56] This episode is sponsored in part by Peloton. It's very helpful for people who are looking to take on a new fitness skill or a routine. Everything is designed to be as simple and streamlined as possible from easy-to-use touchscreen interfaces to a ton of class options, personalized recommendations. There's all these on-demand classes, including cycling, running, strength, the rower, which I actually really like. Rowing is great for a full-body workout, which means you're going to be engaging multiple muscle groups all at once, including your legs, core, arms, back. That stuff helps you burn more calories naturally, build more strength, improve your overall fitness. It's better than just isolating one body part and going ham on it. I mean, sometimes that's fun, but I prefer the full-body thing. That said, one of the main reasons that I'm actually into Peloton right now, especially the new Peloton Row, is because I cannot afford to get sick. I've got the business to run. I've got little kids. My parents are here for the next several months, and gyms at least around me, they're gross. I don't want to name in shame, but the people there are not careful. There's a lot of people using it as like a second home kind of, and I get that. It's impossible to be careful when you're working out, when you're breathing heavily, but that's not really comforting to those of us who are trying to avoid whatever plague is going around and then bringing it home to the family. And also, like me, some people may feel more comfortable working out at home rather than in a public gym setting. There's no people judging you. There's no waiting for a machine. There's no dirty or broken equipment. I'm not wiping off other people's sweat and drool that they've somehow slathered all over the place. Also, you can really go for it and be gross yourself if that's kind of your thing. I mean, that's the hallmark of a great workout. Anyway, I'm also disgusting when I'm working out super hard and I'm often working out with my trainer. Yes, we incorporate the Peloton gear into my workouts, even with my online trainer, and it's always a bit weird working out with an online trainer in a gym, even if the Wi-Fi is decent, which you know, hit or miss. That and bringing my laptop to a gym is a bit awkward, not just because there's no good place to put it, but because somehow gym dude bros have carelessly stepped right on my laptop several times. I'm not sure how they managed to do this, but I guess when you're so freaking self-absorbed that your workout is 60 percent staring at yourself and flexing in the mirror, you might just not really be watching where you're going. Last, but not least, if you are one of those people who makes loud ass grunts, when you work out, you know who you are, then home is probably the best place for you to do your workouts. In fact, please do stay home. We all don't need to hear that. Back to the safety element with the COVID-19 pandemic, norovirus, the flu, I don't even know what else is going on, but I've got vulnerable people in the house. Like I said, working out at home, it may just be a safer option for some people, and it definitely is for me. I've also done the math, losing my voice, being out for a few days, even a week that already pays for all the gym equipment, maybe a gym membership for a year, and all the Peloton stuff I could ever buy. The only issue is I like working out with a group, but in the privacy and safety of home, and I still want the motivation of a coach in a community, which actually makes Peloton really perfect for what I'm looking for here. So if you're in any of those camps like me, go ahead and try our Peloton Row risk-free with a 30-day home trial. New members only. Not available in remote locations. See additional terms at onepeloton.com/home-trial.
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[01:02:30] And now for the rest of my conversation with Marina Nemat.
[01:02:35] Interesting that it didn't look good. It's like, well, yeah, she's in prison and he tortured her. Yeah, but is she Muslim? No. Oh, well, you better fix that. As if that's the problem with the situation. It's so ridiculous. It's just completely ridiculous.
[01:02:47] Marina Nemat: It is. It's very Animal Farm. I remember—
[01:02:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:02:49] Marina Nemat: —I have read Animal Farm and I remember the thoughts going in my head thinking, "Oh, this is an Animal Farm, isn't it?
[01:02:55] Jordan Harbinger: Did you meet your husband's family because or were you kind of just like a prison wife?
[01:03:00] Marina Nemat: I was a prison wife basically.
[01:03:01] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[01:03:01] Marina Nemat: But he would take me on like leaves of absence right from the prison. So we would go to his parents' house for dinner. He had bought a house, so we went to that house, beautiful house for a few days and then back to the prison. Yeah, I did meet his parents and they were the most normal-looking nice people. They were so nice to me. The mother was nicer than my mom. I mean, my mom was always difficult and she always put me down, but this woman was so nice. She was gentle. She was kind. She was always feeding me because I was always hungry and she heard that I like cream puffs. So every time I went there, there would be a box of cream puffs, and she was like, "Eat, eat, have some cream puffs. I know you like them." And every time I would get sick because a lot of problems with my digestive system but—
[01:03:50] Jordan Harbinger: You are housing food after drinking camphor tea, it's not really a good balanced diet.
[01:03:56] Marina Nemat: Yeah, I know. It was messed up. It didn't respond well. So, yeah, but they were so nice and I was looking at them, I was thinking, "Wow, your son is a torturer," like I did never said it.
[01:04:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:04:10] Marina Nemat: But you know, in my thoughts I was like, "Your son is a torturer. Like what do you say to your neighbor?" Yeah, but they knew, people knew he worked in Evin Prison, I guess, the word torture is not used.
[01:04:23] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:04:23] Marina Nemat: But he worked in Evin Prison and they were like really proud of that because he is fighting the enemies of God.
[01:04:31] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[01:04:31] Marina Nemat: Good and evil, right? So they saw themselves as good and everybody else as evil. So he's fighting evil and that is a fantastic thing. That's a good blessing. And they kept telling me that they are so grateful that their son had saved me from the infidel.
[01:04:50] Jordan Harbinger: How did you guys meet? Well, I was whipping her feet with a length of cable and I thought, she's the one.
[01:04:55] Marina Nemat: Exactly. I know, I know. You know what? He was so broken. When I got to know him, his mother accidentally, I guess she didn't know. I didn't, that I didn't know. She just slipped it. That he had been a political prisoner during the time of the shah. For three years, he'd been tortured.
[01:05:16] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[01:05:17] Marina Nemat: And I was like, "Oh, now, it kind of explained everything. Because he was angry and full of rage. Tables turned. The shah regime collapsed. The people who tortured him for three years, they were now prisoners. I mean, we hadn't tortured him. I hadn't tortured him, but I was against the system that got him out of prison. The Islamic Republic was his savior, and I was going to bring it down, and he told me how I had been tricked into believing that the Islamic Republic was evil. He told me how the left and the right, they had used me. Everybody had used me to make me believe that the Islamic Republic was that, but the Islamic Republic was good. The Islamic Republic was his savior. And you know, it stood for God and it stood for goodness, and it was fighting evil. So according to him and his family's mentality, he had saved me from evil. He was my savior.
[01:06:18] Jordan Harbinger: He also had your death sentence commuted to just a mere life in prison, right? So that maybe also played a part like, "Oh, I saved your life, kind of.
[01:06:27] Marina Nemat: You know what? But for him and for his family, it was more than life. It was that if I had died without converting to Islam, you know, the moment I converted to Islam, according to them, all of my sins were forgiven.
[01:06:41] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:06:41] Marina Nemat: So he not only saved me from death, death doesn't matter. He saved me from the everlasting fires of hell. He saved my soul. He saved me from eternal damnation. And they were so grateful to him. They saw him as this amazing savior who saved this girl who now you know is one of us. And she's not going to burn in hell anymore. She has this loving family. And the people that now she belongs to and now she's going to live happily ever after.
[01:07:17] Jordan Harbinger: Did he ever start to get conflicted about his work? I mean, at some point, you know, you and him, I assume, are having conversations and he realizes that, this what he's doing, he has to at some point realize what he's doing is terrible.
[01:07:28] Marina Nemat: He started having issues. There was this young woman, she was basically about my age, maybe even a bit younger, and she had witnessed her sister's death. Like, her sister was shot on the street during a rally and she saw it and then she goes home and she's covered in blood, her sister's blood, and like something psychological there happened and she couldn't even tell her parents for a while. And then, she went all the way. And every night she was going out and she was writing slogans, deaths to Khomeini and stuff like that on the walls. She was arrested, and she was imbalanced like mentally, she wasn't all there. And he interrogated her and then he saw how much pain this girl was in. He recognized it, that terrible death that she had witnessed. He saw it, but then one day, he actually had spent the night in my cell and then in the morning when he went to work, he got back later in the day and he told me that she was dead. And I said, "How did she die?" And his colleague, the same guy who beat me, he basically killed that girl under torture. And that hit Ali hard. It was difficult for him to understand why that girl died under torture. It didn't make any sense. The girl didn't work with any political groups. This was like, she was just psychologically imbalanced. And she was just going and writing slogans, and everybody knew that. Like Ali knew that Hamehd, everybody knew that. And yet Ali's colleague Hamehd killed the girl under torture. Why would that happen? So it kind of started there.
[01:09:22] And then, little things, big things, huge things, all sort of things here and there. And you know, he had gone, he was at the war front before we got married. He was at the Warfront because Iran was at war with Iraq for a while and he was also traumatized there. And then, he had been shot in the leg and you know, a lot of things, you know, I guess psychological things and then things going wrong. And he decided to resign. He said, "I'm done with this. I'm not doing this anymore. I'm going to resign. We are just going to go home. I'm going to work with my dad." His dad was like, you know, in trades. I don't know. He was into the rug, I think pistachios and rugs or something like that. He said, "We are done. We are going to go home and I'm going to work with my dad and we are just going to put all of this behind us. We are finished." But then the thing was that, to get me out of the prison, but he said that it was not a problem. He was going to speak with the Ayatollah Khomeini and get a pardon.
[01:10:18] Jordan Harbinger: So he's super connected if he could just go to the man.
[01:10:21] Marina Nemat: Super connected, I mean, these are family friends. So he would just go to the Ayatollah and say, "Hey, this is my wife, I married her and she's a repentant, she's converted to Islam, you know, blah, blah, blah. I'm going to get you." And all of that seemed to be on track, like we were talking another week or two max at the prison. And then, I would go home with him, not to my own house, but to his house. And it was difficult for me in the sense that I hadn't told my family what had happened about the marriage or any of that. And I thought, well, you know, being in prison was my cover. And he says he's protecting me in that sense that I didn't have to tell my family with any of this, but if he took me to his house, I would have to tell my parents because they would come to visit me and I'm not there.
[01:11:11] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:11:12] Marina Nemat: And it was hard. It was very hard for me to tell them what had happened. And I was pregnant.
[01:11:17] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my gosh.
[01:11:18] Marina Nemat: So I was about three months pregnant. So there was that the baby was going to come and, "Well, mom, dad, you know. Huh? This is your son-in-law." It was difficult for me. I was dreading it in some ways. And then one night we went to his parents' house for dinner. and was late at night, I don't know, 10, 11. The house was in this old neighborhood north of Tehran, not that far from Evin Prison, very narrow streets. And then, the streets were kind of, the width of it was not uniform. So where their house was extremely narrow. And these are houses that all have walls around them. So they have tall walls around them. There's no driveway. You park your car when you go for a visit, you park your car on the street. We had to park the car a little further down on the street because the street there was wider so that another car could get by if they had to.
[01:12:11] So we just got out of the house and we were going to walk. We were just walking to the car and I heard the sound of a motorcycle and the sound scared me. The sound of motorcycles always scared me. So we have to give it that because with the Basij and beating women and you know that, but it was just out of place. There was something wrong with it. And then, as I was thinking, "Oh, this is weird." He pushed me really hard. So I hit the pavement really hard and in the middle of all of it, there was the sound of shots being fired. And I came to myself and he was on top of me and I tried to push him off. So I said, "Are you okay? Are you okay?" And then, I looked at him and I realized he wasn't, he had been hit, but at that moment, because my whole body was in pain, the way I hit the pavement, and then he fell on top of me. I was in pain. So, I thought I was hit and I looked and I didn't think I was hit, but I was covered in blood. So he had been hit. I started yelling and screaming, and then his parents came out and they came and they called an ambulance and he died. I was taken to the hospital and I lost the baby. I was taken back to Evin Prison after a few days.
[01:13:34] Jordan Harbinger: Ugh, what a nightmare that is. Who killed him? Do you know?
[01:13:37] Marina Nemat: Well, not a hundred percent. The government blamed an organization called the Mojahedin-e Khalgh Organization, Marxist Islamist anti-government group in Iran, who had assassinated government officials from the time of the shah. And they had continued during the time of Khomeini. They blamed the Mojahedin-e Khalgh had killed him. However, days later, his father took me to their house for dinner and he told me that he believes it was an inside job. So probably, people inside the prison. The head of the prison back then, his name was Assadollah-eh Ladjevardi, he was the butcher of Evin. You know if everybody was evil, he was the master evil guy. He and Ali had were not saying eye to eye. And his father, Ali's father, believed that it was Ladjevardi who had given the order to kill him. And interesting enough, and well, Ali's father told me, he said, "I promise you I will get to the bottom of it and if it was Ladjevardi, I'll kill him." And Ladjevardi was assassinated a few years later.
[01:14:46] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting. Because I was going to say, if he's that connected and he knows the Ayatollah, he actually has a shot at getting revenge—
[01:14:52] Marina Nemat: Oh yeah.
[01:14:53] Jordan Harbinger: —for his son's sake.
[01:14:54] Marina Nemat: He had a shot.
[01:14:54] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:14:54] Marina Nemat: You even see today. They are factions within it and they have been killing each other from the beginning and they still continue to do so. But, his father, he said to me, that Ladjevardi wants you to remain in prison and wants to marry you off to another guard.
[01:15:12] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, geez.
[01:15:12] Marina Nemat: What he said to me, he said, "I promise you I won't allow it. You will go home." He said, "Just sit tight, don't worry about it. I'll take care of it. I'll get you home to your parents." And I trusted him and he did six months later, six months sitting tight with difficulty.
[01:15:30] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:15:30] Marina Nemat: One day they just called my name and they said, "You're going home." And he was there. Right at the door, he was there before they let me out. He was right there. He said, "I kept my word to you." He was in his own way, he had an interesting kind of dignity. He was a man of his word.
[01:15:49] Jordan Harbinger: Mm-hmm.
[01:15:50] Marina Nemat: He said, "I hope you remember me well." And I was grateful because if it wasn't for him, I had decided that if they don't let me go and if they want to marry me off to somebody else, I'll just kill myself. I know how to do it. There are many ways you can successfully do so, and I will kill myself, but I didn't have to do that he got me out.
[01:16:12] Jordan Harbinger: As Ali dying in front of you, did you ask yourself like, "Okay, how do I feel about this person right now?" Because I have to decide pretty much immediately whether I hate them, love them, something in between, because he's going to die right here in front of me and he's your husband, but he's also kind of a piece of sh*t who tortured you?
[01:16:29] Marina Nemat: I still ask myself that question today. I don't know. There is a part of me that one day I would wake up and I would say, "You know what? I'm getting older and I think I've forgiven him for all the bad things he did because he did some good things for me and I forgive him. And then the next day I would wake up and I would think if he was here, give me a gun. I'll shoot him myself. I keep like a pendulum going between hating and forgiving, hating and forgiving. Killing him and being grateful to him for all the things he did for saving me from death. Not necessarily from the fires of hell, but from death at least. But you know, at the end of the day, I have decided that for my own peace, I should forget about this whole idea of forgiving someone or not.
[01:17:31] Our society, I guess, is it our culture? Is it our religion? They demand forgiveness. It's as if you don't forgive, then you are hating and because you are hating, you're burning, like in this life and in the afterlife. I disagree. I don't think I have to forgive him. I think all I have to do is to try to understand his humanity, the fact that he was human and that he did awful things and made terrible mistakes, but I don't have to do anything about it. I don't have to forgive and I don't have to hate. What if there is this middle ground somewhere, this middle ground that would save me from hell fire here and in the afterlife, and that allows me to neither love him, nor hate him, to neither forgive him, nor not? What if that is a possibility? Because I find that we are demanded to do this or that, and I think that is wrong. I think there are circumstances in life where just doing neither is enough and we shouldn't be asked to do more. And I have decided to be kind to myself because there is pressure when you are expected to forgive, you know, there are those who expect me to forgive. You know you have—
[01:19:07] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[01:19:07] Marina Nemat: —you know certain people that would be like, you know, it's a religious thing, I supposed, it's cultural. It would be like, oh, you have to forgive him, or you know, you are trapped in the hatred or you know, whatnot. I understand that. But then there are those on the other side that would say, if you forgive him, you have done a terrible thing because he killed all these people.
[01:19:24] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:19:24] Marina Nemat: He was killing and torturing people. I mean, how dare you? So I would say, okay, you're both right. You are absolutely right. And this is a battle that has been going on in my head. So guess what? I'll do neither. I'm here, I'm on the middle ground and I will do neither. He was human, that's all.
[01:19:44] Jordan Harbinger: How long were you in prison?
[01:19:46] Marina Nemat: Two years, two months, 12 days.
[01:19:48] Jordan Harbinger: Wow. That's an incredibly long time.
[01:19:51] Marina Nemat: For a 16-year-old, yeah.
[01:19:52] Jordan Harbinger: For a 16-year-old, exactly. It's just unbelievable. Did you have any PTSDs as a result of this? I mean, it seems like it would come back to haunt you.
[01:19:59] Marina Nemat: Oh, it does.
[01:20:00] Jordan Harbinger: I feel bad saying something like this. I don't want to plant any seeds that don't need planting, but I think you're a lot stronger than that.
[01:20:05] Marina Nemat: No, no, no, no, no, no. I have post-traumatic stress disorder, big time. And yet it comes outta nowhere. Difficult things can happen. You know, deaths, illnesses, disagreements within the family, you know, all of that, and I am absolutely fine. I walk through it, but then little things set me off. So the thing is, there is no cure for PTSD. There is absolutely no cure. You cannot cure it with drugs, with therapy. I've been there, done that. It is like a backpack filled with rocks and it's forever glued to your back, always. You cannot switch it down, but imagine if you have a bike I filled with rocks on your back, and you just live your life like it's not there. You know what it's going to do is going to break your back and you're never going to walk again. But you learn how to carry the weight, you use your knees. I have to say, you use your emotional knees to handle things. You know, I learned certain tools when I went through therapy. There are certain tools that help me. They don't cure me, they just help me manage the weight. And this weight is manageable. But there are days, there are times where it just crushes you and you fall under the weight and you have to forgive yourself. Then you have to say, you know what? That sucked. You know, because then small thing goes wrong and you overreact and you are all angry and you start crying and you start screaming and then you basically look like an absolute nut job.
[01:21:40] But I always remind myself that yes, I am an absolute nut job, but I am the kind of absolute nut job who usually has control. And when I don't have control, I have learned to isolate myself. I have never hurt anybody else because of my condition, but when I'm like this, I have a tendency to hurt myself. I used to go in the bathroom and hit my head against the wall, close, lock the door, turn on the shower so that nobody would hear, and just bang my head really hard against the wall, and that's not good. So I have found ways to control that urge. I know I will never hurt anybody, but I have learned that when I'm like this, I just have to make sure I never lock myself into any rooms, just so that I'm alone and I have my safety net that I can reach out to people to ask for help, just so that there's always someone with me when I'm like that. So that things don't get out of control. And thank God they haven't gotten out of control. I do have emotional outbursts for no good reason. Like I would just start crying out of the blue, like really hard and silly things. But no, you learn to manage it.
[01:22:58] And I really want everybody to know, everybody who suffers from PTSD that forget about a cure. Think about ways to manage it. And once you do, you can actually live your life. And that's what I'm doing. It's not happily ever afterlife, definitely not. But you know what? It does have moments of happiness in it. There are little moments of happiness with my dog and with nature. These two things, dog and nature, these two things make me tremendously happy.
[01:23:29] Jordan Harbinger: You're married in Canada though, right?
[01:23:30] Marina Nemat: Mm-hmm.
[01:23:31] Jordan Harbinger: Wait, see? No, no husband shout out at all. Just the dog?
[01:23:34] Marina Nemat: No, just the dog. Yeah.
[01:23:36] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[01:23:36] Marina Nemat: You know what I've been married for, I married my boyfriend that, you know, we met when I was 15.
[01:23:43] Jordan Harbinger: The guy from Iran?
[01:23:44] Marina Nemat: Mm-hmm.
[01:23:45] Jordan Harbinger: So that's your husband?
[01:23:46] Marina Nemat: That's my husband, Andre, yeah.
[01:23:48] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, wow.
[01:23:48] Marina Nemat: We've been married for 37 years. After 37 years, and then we knew each other five years prior, he's like a limb in my body that actually has arthritis, has a lot of arthritis. Like, it's very, very difficult to move and kind of thing because after 37 years, all the pretend and all the, oh, I love you so many—
[01:24:15] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:24:15] Marina Nemat: —and all of that fault like that is hormones and we are past hormones. We are in life. He carries me and I carry him. I am one of his limbs. So I carry him and he carries me. But you know, after 37 years, you have to take yourself, each other for granted.
[01:24:36] Jordan Harbinger: Mmm.
[01:24:37] Marina Nemat: It's automatic. You cannot help it. Like those people who say they don't, I don't believe them.
[01:24:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:24:43] Marina Nemat: That's funny. You take each other for granted because you are just so used to each other and because you really know how to get under each other's skin.
[01:24:52] Jordan Harbinger: Well, yeah. That goes without saying. I mean, I'm just thinking about like in 30 years, am I going to say, "Yeah, my relationship with Jen, my wife. She's just like a bloated arthritic leg"? So romantic, Jordan.
[01:25:05] Marina Nemat: You know what, if you do, you know, you will have a really good laugh.
[01:25:09] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[01:25:09] Marina Nemat: And then I bet you she will nod and say, "Yes. Absolutely. That's how I feel about you and that's how you feel about me. But you know what? Let's make dinner."
[01:25:16] Jordan Harbinger: That is so funny. I love this moment of levity here at the end of the show. Before I let you go, I'm so curious what you think of the current protests where these are heading. I've done a whole episode about this episode 746 for people who are interested. But that guest, Yass Alizadeh, she thought this is the big one. This is going to shake the regime. I'm no expert, but I'm not so sure. What do you think?
[01:25:39] Marina Nemat: I'm not so sure either, in the sense that I don't think it's imminent. Okay. So, you know, I don't think we can expect the regime to fall next week or next month. Next year? I don't know. You know, the thing is that when the Soviet Union fell, nobody saw it coming. One thing for sure is that something significant has started. Now, this is a tsunami of pain and suffering and anger that has a lot of momentum now and has a lot of energy. But tsunamis are violent events. Where is it going to go? Which direction? Who is going to control it? Is anybody going to be able to control it? I mean, the natural flow of things says that this dictatorship will fall but the question is when. I don't think it is imminent, and I really do believe, sadly, that it will still claim a lot of lives, but history cannot be stopped.
[01:26:44] Dictatorships fall. You know, I've been at this since I was 16 years old, well, probably since I was 14, 13, 14 years old, and look at me, you know, all my gray hair and all of that. I'm basically becoming an old woman, and I still haven't seen this. My grandmother died saying that communism will fall. It did, but she was dead when it did. I saw it happen. So will I see the end of the Islamic Republic? I certainly hope and pray that I will because it's taken enough lives. Enough is enough.
[01:27:19] Jordan Harbinger: Knowing a bunch of young Iranian people do listen to the show, do you have any advice for them?
[01:27:23] Marina Nemat: Oh gosh. You know, I'm the wrong person to ask because when you ask me about that, I would think, you know, again, with my age and me having children and having lost so many amazing people, my best friends, I would say, please be safe. I'm tired of losing people. I'm the wrong person to ask. If you look at me to say, "Go for it. Go get shot. Go get tortured. Go in prison and just at any cost, bring down the Islamic Republic." You're looking at the wrong person. I just ache too much to be able to say that. It's out of me, it's out of my hands. You know, you'll have to look at other people, other leaders who have that in them. I do not. I have hit my soft spot. I just want people to be alive, not to be hurt, but the fact of it is with a dictatorship like that, you just can't. But you know, I want Iranians to allow me just to take a step back and to say, I did what I could do. I did my best. I have lost far too many people. I have lost far too much. I know there are those who lost more than me, but I'm not the strongest person for me. This was it.
[01:28:39] Jordan Harbinger: Marina Nemat, thank you so much. Really, really good conversation. I really appreciate this a lot and I know that the listeners do as well. Thank you so much.
[01:28:46] Marina Nemat: Thank you so, so much, Jordan. You have a great afternoon.
[01:28:49] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you. You too.
[01:28:50] Marina Nemat: Okay, take care. Thank you.
[01:28:51] Jordan Harbinger: Thank you.
[01:28:52] Marina Nemat: Bye.
[01:28:53] Jordan Harbinger: Bye.
[01:28:54] Two years, two months, 12 days, that's how long Marina was in prison. During that time, her cellmates were her closest friends in the world because really they were the only ones who could understand her and vice versa. They kept each other alive. She told me there were pregnant women in prison who gave birth in there, which is just horrible. And also if you've been in there for long enough, well, how did you get pregnant? Were they pregnant when they got there? I'm almost afraid of the answer to that question.
[01:29:19] Marina also told me there were two groups of guards or two types of guards in prison. There were the true believers. They seemed to care. They would really try to convince you that the revolution was good and that you should sort of believe what they believed in. And then, of course, there were the sociopaths. They just enjoyed hurting people. They saw the tide turn from the last authoritarian regime. They went with, it maybe even kept their position depending on what they were or how political they were previously. And they were in it for the thrill, which is even more gross. And those people, of course, couldn't be reasoned with. They had no empathy, they just didn't care. And during interrogations, they beat you, and then they would make you walk. Remember, they would beat you on your feet. They don't just keep beating you because you'll die from infected feet. So what they do is they beat your feet until they're balloon sized, and then they make you walk around outside or on the concrete floor with those feet, which hurt even more or as much as being beaten with that. So she went into some detail on the torture. I edited some of it out cause it was unnecessary. I didn't get into too much more detail on that. I think we get the point.
[01:30:18] She did go home after that. We sort of touched on that. She went to home to her parents and they didn't want to talk about any of it. They wanted to talk about the weather because they just didn't want to face what had happened to their daughter and they were not emotionally equipped to deal with it. And Marina to this day says many of my friends are buried in mass graves and that is so chilling and so haunting. And there those people still lie because that regime is still in power. And hey, I know this all sounds so scary and it's so far away, but we are not immune to these types of power grabs or revolutions here in the West either. It may seem like we are because it hasn't happened yet. But Marina later wrote an opinion piece for, I think, it was CNN and I'll grab an excerpt here.
[01:30:58] She said, "Though it took me several years and I moved to Canada, before I shared the details of my tragic story, I was determined to do so because a democracy is only as good as its citizens. Now, living in the West, I have become acutely aware that even the strongest democracies are not immune to demagogues, parading as populists. Those of us who have experienced what the loss of basic rights looks and feels like have an obligation to speak up because once the demagogues or aspiring demagogues have assumed control, it will be too late. Indeed, democracy is like water caught in the palm of our hands. If we do not focus on holding onto it, the water will drip away through our fingers and we will be left with nothing but a burning thirst. The line that separates democracy from tyranny is not as thick as Westerners might choose to believe. In Iran, we believed that our goodwill selfless efforts and desire for better governance could not possibly be manipulated and destroyed. Many of us even died during the revolution to bring the Islamic Republic into existence, but we were wrong, and we have been paying the price for close to half a century.
[01:32:01] Big thank you to Marina Nemat. All Things Marina will be in the show notes at jordanharbinger.com. Remember, go check out the ChatGPT bot at jordanharbinger.com/ai if you want to search for a promo code or any content from any episode of the show, including Feedback Friday. Transcripts are in the show notes. Videos up on YouTube. Advertisers, deals, discount codes, and ways to support the show are all at Jordan harbinger.com/deals. I've said it once, but I'll say it again. Please consider supporting those who support the show. I'm at @jordanharbinger on Twitter and Instagram. You can also connect with me right there on LinkedIn.
[01:32:33] And I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems, software, and tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course. That course is free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. I want you to dig the well before you get thirsty. Many of the guests on the show subscribe, contribute to the course. Come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[01:32:53] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen Harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Millie Ocampo, Ian Baird, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know somebody who's interested in Iran, authoritarian regimes, revolution, whatever, modern political chaos, definitely share this episode with them. The greatest compliment you can give us is to share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on this show so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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