Author recounts torture, puts experience to work

Fri Jun 26, 2009 7:33am EDT
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By Jillian Kitchener

TORONTO ( -- For Iranian-Canadian Ezat Mossallanejed, working with victims of torture is a chance to give back to a long-suffering community and help them climb back into society after what may be years of ill treatment.

But it's also a way to bury his own ghosts after spending four years in an Iranian jail 36 years ago, where he experienced both mental and physical abuse, after being accused -- falsely he says -- of being a leftist guerrilla seeking to overthrow the Shah.

"When there is no justice, when there is no human rights, then you can struggle for justice and human rights," Mossallanejed, a policy analyst and researcher at the non-profit organization Canadian Center for Victims of Torture (CCVT), told Reuters ahead of the United Nation's International Day In Support of Victims of Torture on Friday.

"There is some kind of impulse, and something - a fire inside you that keeps you going. Some kind of ecstasy. I can't rationalize it, but it is a love for freedom, it is love for change, it is love for human rights."

In 1973, Mossallanejed, a human rights activist, was working for the Ministry of Energy in Tehran when the secret police came to his office and took him away. At the beginning of his imprisonment, he says he was repeatedly tortured, variously tied to a metal bed and beaten with both a wooden stick and a thick electrical cable, hung upside down and subjected to verbal attacks.

He came to Canada as a political refugee in 1985.

Mossallanejed, now in his early 60s, also is the author of the book, "Torture in the Age of Fear," which chronicles the history of human suffering and global torture.

"The experience they have gone through is beyond the normal range of the tolerance of any human being. They have suffered in silence," Mossallanejed said, referring to victims of torture. "I have always been inspired by their fortitude, steadfastness and determination to make change in this world."   Continued...

<p>Ezat Mossallanejed, policy analyst and researcher at the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture, poses for a portrait at the centre in Toronto June 17, 2009. The Iranian-Canadian has suffered a torturous past under the Shah of Iran, where he says he was wrongly jailed and tortured countless times. Mossallanejed, who spoke to Reuters ahead of the United Nations' International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, which falls on June 26, now helps other torture survivors to overcome their trauma at the CCVT. REUTERS/Jill Kitchener</p>