Testimony of an Iranian Woman: Ghazal Omid By Ghazal Omid (Biography, pdf 57 kb) February 8, 2007
On February 8, 2007, Ms. Ghazal Omid–Human Rights, Women Rights and political activist, author of Living in Hell, and a Shi’a Islam scholar–presented her testimony at the the British House of Commons, as an Iranian woman who had experienced the Iranian educational system. This is the contents of her testimony.
House of Commons Ghazal Omid was invited by honorable MP Louise Ellman to speak on the research conducted by IMPACT-SE On their research of – “How Iranian Textbooks Prepare School Children for Global Jihad and Martyrdom” February 8th 2007 Committee Room 6 11.00am – 1.00pm Westminster Hall (St Stephen’s Entrance)
My lords, Honorable Members of parliament Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my great pleasure to be at the House of Commons.
I am an Iranian, a practicing Muslim woman, who sees it as her responsibility to stand up to hard core Muslims who use Islam to brainwash children of that faith, in particular the Iranian children, who the Iranian government is turning into ticking bombs.
After all I have gone through, some in the audience might ask, why do I put myself in danger again? I made it out alive. I have a successful life outside Iran. Why would I want to be here? My answer is best summed up by the Edmond Burke quotation, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”
I teach people that if they have something to say, it shouldn’t be just a desire but a human duty and responsibility to help others. If we can change the text books, if we can teach the children of Iran and the Middle East that hate is not inherited; it is taught. If they can understand that children everywhere are innocent and if they can learn, as I often say, that “Governments do and People pay”, we will save generations of our human family from the hard core fundamentalists who are turning them into human bombs.
Yes it is true that I escaped from all the animosity in Iran. I lived a fairly peaceful life in Canada but this changed when I published my book, Living in Hell. On a tour in California, an Iranian taught me a lesson while I was being interviewed on the radio. I will never forget: He called from Iran and said Dear Ms. Omid, you have a good life. You are a published author. So, what about us? What have you done for your country? What have you done for the Iranian children, for the next generation?
It hit me hard. He was right. It is my time to serve because the honest truth is when I was a child, I dreamed of having someone to stand up for me. That hero never came to rescue me. I learned early on to scratch my own back. Now, I am in a position to do something for the children, for the next generation and perhaps, hopefully, for the current one. I don’t see it as my work or obligation, I see it as my responsibility, as a member of the human family, to serve; however small that might be.
I was born in 1970 in Abadan, Iran, minutes from the Iraqi border. I am the youngest of eleven siblings, from my father’s second wife. I am the youngest of four children my mother bore my polygamist father. I grew up both rich and poor at the same time. My father neglected both of his families, abandoning us to hide in the US to avoid the danger of the Iranian revolution.
During the revolution when we didn’t have any schooling, my mother, at my request, purchased me a small Bible.
My interest in reading holy books started with reading the Koran and extended to other holy books at very young age. On one hand, my mother’s stories from her non-Muslim friends influenced me to want to know more about other religions. On the other hand, I always relied on my own experiences and didn’t accept answers without logical explanations.
As an Iranian female, I was brought up not to question but to obey. However, my mother and later the government of Iran found it impossible to turn me into just a follower. After the revolutionary Islamic government came to power, the school texts taught us that Muslims were good and will go to Heaven, while all others won’t be saved and will go to Hell. That wasn’t a good enough explanation for me. After reading Koran and doing the Arabic prayers starting at age 7, I did not agree with the explanation I was given because I knew God has not called the people of the book the infidels. This phrase was taken out of context and used over an over by the government of Iran to teach the Iranian children, “We, the Muslims are good and the rest of the world, the Non-Muslims, are evil. And therefore, Good and Evil will fight and Good will eventually win through human sacrifices.”
I was an inquisitive child. I loved history, philosophy, culture and I liked to read. Instead of playing with dolls and toys, I was reading the news as my mother helped me to understand Iran’s past and present.
But my childhood dream was to become a doctor! However that dream died when I entered the political arena against the government of Iran at age 14.
Like many children of today’s Middle East I grew up in the war zone. At night we heard shootings, yelling and screaming from the streets and alleys. Bullets flew over our yard and some landed in our garden.
At a young age, I had a bad feeling about the future of our country. I predicted that we were going to pay a heavy price for our naivety.
During the revolution crimes were the norm, after the revolution; brain washings were part of the regime’s instructional mandates. Books which were part of our culture for centuries were burned to ashes. Book burnings were the usual event at the universities. For almost two years the doors of universities remained closed while the Revolutionary Guard, better known as “the Iron Guard”, cleaned up everything they thought was Ungodly or Anti- Regime. The clean up included, art, history, philosophy, poetry… and even people. During the years I lived in Iran, I saw plenty of devastation toward humanity, in particular toward the children. In my teen years and youth while living in Iran, children were brain washed into believing that Westerners were evil; and that everyone else in the world who didn’t agree with Khomeini, including moderate Muslims. were also evil.
During the war, children were told that if they get a Key to Haven from a Mullah, they will receive his blessing and will go directly to Heaven when they across the mine fields.
I was asked on more than a dozen occasions to sign up for Bessigi or the revolutionary militia. I refused. I was asked to join the army behind the war zone and help as a Zainab Sister, as the regime called it. I refused and made more comments about the mullahs’ that they didn’t quite like. The Zainab sisters did everything from cleaning up the injured Iranian soldiers brought to the hospitals in the so called “safe zone” to becoming their temporary wives and even wrapping a bomb to their chest and going after whoever the Iranian regime called the Enemy. The Zainab Sisters program still exists and since Ahmdinejad has come to power as the President, it is again being promoted, this time against the West.
During the years I was studying in Iran, we were lined up at 7 A. M, every morning, rain or shine, before attending our classes at 8 A. M to yell, “Death to America, Death To Israel, Death To United Kingdom, Death to France and Death to Germany.
I know most people who haven’t seen any shouting against Europeans have a hard time believing this is true. Especially because for the past decade, Europe has had an OK relationship with the Iranian regime.
The truth of the matter is: The Iranian regime will never change. The regime’s watchdogs teach hate against you and all of the Western world in their schools.
As children we were ordered to yell every day but when the camera’s were rolling we were told to not yell Death to the European countries publicly! I REMEMBER VIVIDLY, MY FRIENDS, BEING HUSHED IN FRONT OF THE CAMERAS. The government of Iran considers all the West their enemies. They simply select whom to hate more on public television!
Back in Iran, when I made it to high school at age 14, through reading more books on Islam, I realized that what the Government of Iran does to the mind of children is an unspeakable crime and certainly a great sin. At that age, I didn’t know how to stop this crime. I went for more than a year trying not to show up for the morning prayers which always contained the anti-western slogans.
After a year of playing with the minds of the regime’s watchdogs in the high school, the principal who was watching me in the school yard, finally found me in one of the classes. She forced me to go to the morning prayers and stood in the line up next to me. I stood up there but wouldn’t shout. Then she stood right in my face. I moved my mouth up and down but no voice was coming out. She screamed , “Why aren’t you yelling?” I said: “I have a sore tooth.”
She said. “Apparently, you have had sore tooth for the past year.” The angry principal who had no shame confessing that she was the Government watchdog added: “You don’t think that we know what you are doing, we are watching you….”
I said, “OK, do you want me to tell you the truth?” She said, “What is that?” I said, “I can’t hate someone I don’t even know. I can’t hate the westerns because you don’t like them.” She said, “You will pay a price for your attitude.” I gave her my version of advice in Farsi, which in translation is: “When someone is drowning and submerged by water they couldn’t care less how deep they have sunk.” I knew I would find myself in trouble but I wanted to let her know that I am not brain washed.
She was true to her word. I paid a heavy price for a very small phrase coming out of a teenager’s mouth. But, their reaction made me realize that the government of Iran is much weaker than many think. We just have to know how to press them in the right spot.
I didn’t know that answering back to the government was such a horrific crime, until later when I finally made it to a Private university and had begun to discover the extent of my youthful folly.
The Iranian regime doesn’t have much to fear from the opposition. But they do fear those who are informed about the message of the Koran; and can translate and comprehend its deeper message, and who also have enough courage to teach and encourage others not to listen to the madness the government of Iran preaches.
Among the many arguments I had with the government concerned the issue of forcing children to publicly pray, so they could be photographed for propaganda purposes. Even though I pray five times a day, I didn’t want to be manipulated by the government. I argued with the watchdogs over the verses of Koran which state that women shouldn’t pray publicly nor should anyone be forced to pray…
The theory of the Iranian regime is: When anyone is opposed to the government, that person must be pulled out of the crowed and isolated and, most often, taken to prison so others wouldn’t follow–this was done on numerous occasion under Khatami’s regime; the most liberal president the Westerners thought Iran had.
The only reason they couldn’t do that to me was because I was well informed; both about the Islamic laws and because my mother worked with a Lawyer for many years. I knew enough about my rights that they couldn’t find my weak spot to make me quiet. And, of course, it didn’t help them that I had a very big mouth, was very persistent and my mother was an extremely religious woman.
But, having said that, there was always a chance of being kidnapped by the Iranian regime’s Intelligence services, which was exactly what happened to me a little later.
At other times during the war when Iraqi planes were dropping bombs on us and the government watchdogs were telling the children to just pray and if they died they will end up in Heaven. I asked them, “What if they didn’t die in their cause and what if they are injured, who will be responsible for their lives? Why should we follow you to the Depths of Hell when you are not even sure about your own afterlife?”
I despised the Iranian regime even more when the child soldiers were taken off the streets without their parents permission or consent and, after a short while, a letter, along with a key drowned in their child’s blood was delivered to their families. The children, who were recruited directly from schools with the help of the Iranian regime’s employees, were sent to the borders, fed for two weeks and supposedly given military training. The truth of matter was: Most of these children were coming out of extremely poor families. The children were not in military camps, but were brain washed by excessive prayers that government of Iran used to persuade them to walk into the mine fields to clear a path for the soldiers to follow.
Every child soldier was given a key. They were told that if they step on the mines, they will end up in heaven in the arms of 72 virgins.
After Graduating from high school following the end of the Iran-Iraq war, I set my ambitions on a place at medical school. However, despite high scores on my entrance exams, I was denied enrollment in medical school or any public university because of my record of non-conformity to arbitrary non-Islamic dictates by the regime. Little did I realize that to get a passing grade you had to be approved by the Intelligence services who monitored all students wishing to go to university. Despite financial difficulties, I enrolled in a private university, studying French Literature to prepare for a law degree. At university, my low-key defiance in speaking to other students about the indefensible dictates of the government mullahs caused me to be continually watched and harassed by faculty spies in retribution for daring to quietly defy petty rules.
In October 1990, I was abducted from the street by the secret police. When I realized what was happening, I escaped by jumping from the kidnapper’s speeding car into a busy street. I was seriously injured but was rescued, temporarily, by the crowd. Although I was the victim, I was rearrested on trumped up charges, which typically resulted in a rapid death sentence, taken to prison and released only by agreeing to non-disclosure and signing away my rights to pursue the case.
This was just the beginning of three long years of fighting with the government of Iran on a daily basis. The second major incident happened in my third year of university after receiving threatening mail and phone calls from the Iranian Intelligence services. I was threatened for taking innocent pictures of university classmates. I was publicly condemned as the “American Patriot” in national Friday prayers by Iran’s leader, the self-titled Ayatollah Khamani.
When I was 24, I was required to return to my birthplace, the city of Abadan, to renew my birth certificate. During a tour of the city, I attempted to photograph, from a distance, the rusty hulk of what had once been one of the world’s largest refinery. My grandfather had worked in that refinery during its good old days. I asked the cab driver to slow down. Instead, he sped up, produced his Pasdar, Secret Police, identification and threatened to arrest me as a spy. Realizing the government had marked me; I escaped out of Iran and made it to Canada.
But I am here because I was a witness to atrocities of the government of Iran. During the war, I, along with millions of other kids was a victim of brainwashing; forced to yell against anyone the regime dictated. Some could not resist the propaganda. I did not become a suicide bomber. Instead I turned my anger against the Iranian regime. Once again, I want to return the favor and I will teach other kids to do just that. Ghazal Omid (http://www.ghazalomid.com) Human Rights, Women Rights and Political Activist, Shiah Islam Scholar and author of Living in Hell (http://www.livinginhell.com), a story of struggle: One woman representing millions against the brutalities of the government of Iran and their brain-washings. Read her biography (pdf 57 kb) for more information.