Last week Marina Nemat, author of Prisoner of Tehran, was voted off by the CanadaReads panel. Ironically the scandal that arose was salvo with the winning selection last night with the winning Something Fierce by Carmen Aguirre. In either case, the dialogue about writing, writers and books is a healthy sign of a democratic society maturing. I’m proud to be a Canadian this week.
Globe and Mail background…. ……
On Feb. 6, at the Canada Reads debates, Anne-France Goldwater called my first memoir, Prisoner of Tehran, untruthful. It’s so easy to point a finger at another human being, claim that she has not told the truth, and walk away. But what if that person, the bullied, is a survivor of torture? Suggesting that an account of torture is untruthful is like picking up the lash and beating the victim again. My feet literally hurt as I heard Goldwater’s comments. I have been called a liar, a traitor, and a whore before, but on those occasions, I knew exactly where those comments were coming from; I could understand their origins. They either came from the agents of the Iranian regime, a regime that has a long history of running smear campaigns against dissidents abroad, or from members and supporters of extremist Iranian political groups. By writing Prisoner of Tehran, I stepped on many toes, and it was only natural to get a reaction from those who saw me as a threat for political, religious, or ideological reasons. But why was Goldwater calling me untruthful? I couldn’t see a reason for it. No reason at all. She was a Canadian lawyer. She was supposed to protect the innocent – or so I thought.
………. No more. No less. I live to testify. Without it, my life loses all meaning. Canada took me when I had nowhere to go. It allowed me to gradually find my way back to myself and to the reality of the person I have become, a woman who breathes because she has a story to tell, a story that is not only hers but, in a humble and imperfect yet honest way, is also the story of thousands of others …..Dear Ms. Goldwater: The witness is the cornerstone of the justice system. If we throw stones at her, we have taken a step toward burying freedom and democracy. Canada and Canadians deserve better than this.
Marina Nemat is the author of Prisoner of Tehran and After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed.
Special to The Globe and Mail