Marina Nemat

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Marina Nemat (born 22 April 1965 in Tehran) is the author of a memoir about growing up in Iran, serving time in Evin Prison for speaking out against the Iranian government, escaping a death sentence and finally fleeing Iran for a new life in Canada.


Nemat relates that both of her grandmothers had immigrated to Iran from Russia to escape the Russian Revolution, and Nemat was brought up as a Russian (Eastern Orthodox Christian) in Tehran. Her father worked as a dance teacher, her mother as a hairdresser. She was a high school student when the secularizing monarchy of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi was overthrown by Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic Revolution. As a student Marina Nemat opposed the oppressive policies of the new Islamic government, attended demonstrations and wrote anti-revolutionary articles in a student newspaper. On January 15, 1982, at age 16 she was arrested and imprisoned for her views against the revolution. She was tortured in the notorious Evin Prison well known for atrocities against political inmates, and sentenced to death.[1]

However, she survived because a prison guard named Ali Moosavi rescued her. He used his connections to obtain commutation of her sentence to life imprisonment from which he apparently planned to obtain her release. However, after five months of imprisonment, it became clear that Moosavi had developed an attachment to Nemat and intended to force her to marry him.[1]

Under threats of persecution of her family, and to guarantee her continuing safety, she converted to Islam and married Moosavi. After 2 years 2 months and 12 days of imprisonment, Moosavi's family obtained her release so that she could come and live with him as his wife. Despite her initial hatred towards her husband, she then felt she was more loved and well cared for by him and his family than she had ever been with hers.[2] Her husband was later assassinated by a rival faction of prison guards when trying to save her. In his last breath, he asked his father to take her back to her family. [3] It was revealed in the first book (Prisoner of Tehran) that while she had not loved him as he had her, she had cared for him, and her initial hatred had disappeared long before his death.[4] Nemat then secretly married Andre Nemat, her teenage love and an electrical engineer. They married in a Christian church.[5]

They escaped to Canada in 1991 and have two sons. Nemat worked at the Aurora franchise of the Swiss Chalet restaurant chain, and wrote her life story in 78,000 words. She knew that many victims did not want to talk about their fate.[1]

Nemat teaches part-time at the University of Toronto and regularly speaks about her experiences in front of high-school classes, universities, libraries and associations. She is a regular participant in the Oslo Freedom Forum. In 2012 she is guest speaker at the San Francisco Freedom Forum of the Human Rights Foundation along with Aung San Suu Kyi and Garry Kasparov.


Her book Prisoner of Tehran has been published by 27 publishing houses around the world (2012).[6] In April 2012, a theatre adaptation of the book was staged in the Theatre Passe Muraille in Toronto under the direction of Maja Ardal. In 2010 she published another book, After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed. What led her to write her first book was a psychotic episode she experienced at her mother's funeral after her father told her that her mother had forgiven her before her death, but he didn't say for what she had been forgiven. That was when she realized that her father was referring to her mother's grudge against her for the suffering Nemat's arrest and imprisonment had caused the family. So Nemat decided to write down her experiences as a way of coping with the trauma.[7]


Marina Nemat was awarded the first Human Dignity Prize in December 2007. This prize is to be given annually by the European Parliament and the Cultural Association Europa 2004. The Human Dignity Prize "celebrates organizations and individuals working for a world free from intolerance and social injustice, a world where fundamental human rights are respected."[8] The Prize Committee said that Nemat was chosen "because of her strength of character despite her life experiences."[9]



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