Marina Nemat on reclaiming her life and breaking the silence on torture

A sneak peek at The Next Chapter (01/17/11)

Every day after her shift at the Swiss Chalet, Marina Nemat would spend an hour or so writing. That work would eventually become her best-selling memoir Prisoner of Tehran, the story of her imprisonment and torture as a teenager in Iran's notorious Evin Prison.

When Nemat was released, she married her high school boyfriend, had children and moved to Canada. But the past was never far away, and eventually it seeped into her carefully constructed routines in the form of flashbacks, nightmares and survivor guilt.

Her new memoir, After Tehran: A Life Reclaimed, is a sequel to Prisoner of Tehran and traces Nemat's struggle to acknowledge her past without letting it consume her.

Nemat was 18 when she was released from Evin, only to find herself returned to a world where fear kept her friends and family silent. Rather than asking about her life during her two years, two months and twelve days in jail, they chose to talk about the weather. Her torture and forced marriage to a prison guard remained a secret.

"I didn't have the maturity and the ability pull anything together, to draw conclusions, or to analyze anything and decide what to do next," Nemat told host Shelagh Rogers in a recent interview on The Next Chapter. "So I just reacted, and my reaction was to run away from reality, pretend it never happened and just move on."

But she couldn't run away forever, and after breaking down into an uncontrollable fit of crying and screaming at her mother's funeral, Nemat was encouraged by her husband to write about what happened to her.

They had been married for 17 years by that time, but it was only when he read what she wrote that he found out what she had been through. According to Nemat, he reacted in exactly the right way, by apologizing for not asking about it sooner. This, she said, is exactly what she hopes her new memoir will do — get people talking about what happened to her, and countless others, in Iran.

"This is not about pointing fingers. This is not about placing blame. This is not about being angry at anybody," Nemat said. "All that me and many other survivors are asking is to acknowledge it. To remember. To not let all of these lives be buried as if they never existed."

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