CNN, CBS ’60 Minutes’, NEWSWEEK: Maziar Bahari Speaks About His Detention in Evin Prison

Nov 23, 20090 comments

CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ Profiles Maziar’s Ordeal Nov. 22See a preview

On June 21, reporter Maziar Bahari was rousted out of bed and taken to Tehran’s notorious Evin prison—accused of being a spy for the CIA, MI6, Mossad…and NEWSWEEK. This is the story of his captivity—and of an Iran whose rampant paranoia underpins an ever more fractured regime.

118 Days, 12 Hours, 54 Minutes

By Maziar Bahari | NEWSWEEK Published Nov 21, 2009 From the magazine issue dated Nov 30, 2009 Source:

Evin Prison, June 21, 2009 (around 10 a.m.)

Picture 1

The interrogator sat me in a wooden chair. It had a writing arm, like the chair I’d had in primary school. He ordered me to look down, even though I was already blindfolded: “Never look up, Mr. Bahari. While you are here—and we don’t know how long you’re going to be here—never look up.” All I could see from under the blindfold was the interrogator’s black leather slippers. They worried me. He had settled in for a long session. “Mr. Bahari, you’re an agent of foreign intelligence organizations,” he began. I had gotten a look at him when he and his men had dragged me out of bed and arrested me a few hours earlier. He was heavyset—I later learned that the guards called him “the big guy”—taller and wider than me, with a massive head. His skin was dark, like someone from southern Iran. He wore thick glasses. But I would know him now only by his voice, his breath, and the rosewater perfume used by men who piously do their ablutions several times a day before prayers, but rarely shower. I could see Mr. Rosewater’s slippers right in front of my foot. He was towering over me. “Could you let me know which ones?” I mumbled. “Speak louder!” he shouted. He bent toward me, his face an inch away from mine. I could feel his breath on my skin. “What did you say?” “I was wondering if you could be kind enough to let me know which organizations,” I repeated. “CIA, MI6, Mossad, and NEWSWEEK.” He listed the names one by one, in a low but assured voice. I was struck by Mr. Rosewater’s confidence. I did not know then exactly which branch of the fractured Iranian government he worked for. When I was arrested, hundreds of thousands of protesters had been filling the streets of Tehran for a week, outraged over the disputed reelection of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. There had been violence. The club-wielding militias known as Basij had inflicted much of it on the marchers, women as well as men. But some of the protesters had fought back too. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, had decreed that the protests stop, but nobody at that point was sure they would. At least, nobody outside Evin Prison was sure. Mr. Rosewater was another matter. I would later discover that I had been picked up by the intelligence division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC. Before the June election, this unit of the Guards was little known; whenever journalists and intellectuals ran afoul of the authorities they were usually questioned by the official Ministry of Intelligence. But the IRGC, which reports directly to Khamenei, had been growing dramatically more powerful. Many suspect that the Guards rigged the election. Certainly they led the crackdown that followed. IRGC intel is now responsible for Iran’s internal security, which means that its rampaging paranoias have suffused the regime. There remain players within the system who can make rational decisions about Iran’s international interests; if there weren’t, I would still be in jail. But the Guards are exacerbating the Islamic Republic’s worst instincts, its insecurity and deep suspiciousness. As world powers try to engage Tehran to mitigate the threat of its nuclear program, it’s critical that they understand this mindset and the role the IRGC now plays within the Iranian system. I learned all too much about both while in the Guards’ hands. Everything was an education inside Evin—from the questions Mr. Rosewater asked, to what answers made him beat me, to physical details. Now, for instance, I studied his slippers and light-gray socks. In Iran, low-ranking functionaries often wear shabby plastic sandals, and they have holes in their socks. That first day I was hoping Mr. Rosewater was only a junior agent, a flunky trying to make himself sound important. I was hoping to find a hole in his socks. But there wasn’t one. His slippers looked as if they had been polished.

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CNN with Farid Zakaria – Nov 22, 2009