Monday, July 14, 2008

Ahmad Batebi Arrives in America

Little wonder that the US military is so aggressively protective of any images leaving in the hands of photojournalists -- one single image can alter the course of an agenda.

Just ask Ahmad Batebi.

This July 1999 cover photo on the Economist magazine changed his life forever. As a student protester in the '99 demos, he was in Tehran along with hundreds of thousands of other Iranians, demanding civil and human rights. Unfortunately for him, a Western-based photographer took this picture of him and the Economist published it -- already under arrest for participating in the demos, the publication of this picture only worsened his plight.

At the age of 21 he was sentenced to a 15 year term in the notorious Evin prison. The judge who sentenced him allegedly stated that "with this photo you have signed your own death sentence."

Batebi was tortured, then released, tortured then released, then tortured some more -- one of the lucky ones who wasn't actually tortured to death.

And irony of all ironies -- like so many thousands of victims of torture from around the world, he has landed in the United States. Yes, Ahmad Batebi -- a true hero of Iran's struggle for civil and human rights -- with much difficulty arrived in the United States nearly 2 weeks ago.

He has already been interviewed on the Persian language US State Department broadcaster, Voice of America (click here for YouTube videos of him in Persian) and the New York Times, amongst others.

But Batebi himself is eager to tell his story (click here for Ahmad Batebi's blog). He has declared that he used his cell phone camera to film his escape through Iraq (he was granted medical leave from prison since for many years he had not been given proper medical care following his torturings) and he wants to make a report of his escape for the world to see.

There are countless Iranians who have made supreme sacrifices to expose the human rights violations of the Islamic Republic government. Only a few names are known. Ahmad Batebi is one of them.

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