Torture Makes You Believe You Are Nobody

Matthew Behrens and Marina Nemat

“You are a nobody.  The world has forgotten you.” This is the message that Marina Nemat heard and lived during her imprisonment in Iran as a teenager.  On September 15, 2008, roughly 20 years after her experience, Marina and her friend Matthew Behrens spoke on “Torture and Illegal Detention in Today’s World” at Faith Connections' Theology on Tap.

The audience was silent as Marina shared with us some of the horrors of physical and emotional torture she and her friends endured at Evin prison. While in prison Marina realized that the “world is not black and white” and that “violence and hatred can turn a victim into a torturer”- she firmly decided that she would “never become a torturer”.    In her quest to end torture, Marina entreats people to talk openly about it (leading by example with her bestseller Prisoner of Tehran) and to work together to find a solution.  

Matthew Behrens, organizer of Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture, detailed the complicity of the Canadian government in acts of torture.  He cited current examples of the Canadian government deporting citizens despite the knowledge that they will be tortured in their homeland as well as people being tortured in North America.  If we remain silent, we as Canadians are complicit in this torture.  However, we have opportunities to put “love in action” (e.g., Caravan of Torture Survivors, October 17-22).

It was remarkable to hear that during the “2 years, 2 months and 12 days” of her torture Marina retained hope and faith, believing that God was always there with her.

Would we keep this same hope and faith?  In the here and now, will we put our “love in action”? OR upon learning about acts of torture, will we simply “feel bad to make [us] feel better” and then do nothing further because we are afraid to take any responsibility for it?

If we continue to turn a blind eye, what further injustice do we create for Marina and other torture victims?  Are we also telling them “You are a nobody”?

For more information:
Prisoner of Tehran, by Marina Nemat
Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
Matthew Behrens,

(Reflection by Doreen Wan Min Kee, photo by Joseph Marquez.)