Leaving Islam



Open letter by three dissident student leaders

Text of the open letter by three dissident student leaders (Ahmad Batebi, Abbas Fakhr-Avar and Iman Sami'Zadeh),

In the name of the Almighty


To my brothers and sisters, children of Adam and Eve:

Iran is my homeland. You all are familiar with it. It is an ancient land with citizens known for gentleness, beauty and wisdom. A nation today mired in the greatest of catastrophes. In Iran, we are today deprived of the most vital human needs - that which is even more essential than the most basic of foodstuff, simply because human nature is described by it - Freedom!

In a nation where slavery has always been an unfamiliar term, in a country where even the archives of its history attest to the absence of such vile practices, an entire nation is enslaved today. Enslaved by petrifaction of its citizens' souls, by superstition, by ignorance and the audacity of a small clique, which some 25 years ago, took control of our nation's destiny, killing the bravest and the most dedicated children of Iran -- supposedly to uproot dissent and eternalize its rule. 

We were children in those days and unable to speak out. We were simply witnesses, yet today, we can reveal the truth of our history:

We are two schoolmates. Upon entering elementary school, our heads were shaven and were told that our clothing were to be colorless and dark. We were separated from the opposite sex and we were told that women are evil and needed to be avoided. 

Joy and laughter in school were frowned upon and suppressed. In school we queued up much like in military garrisons. We heard military orders and irrespective of the season, we had to chant slogans - Death to America, Down with Great Britain. Death to Israel. Any refusal would result in the whipping of our palms with a hose or rope. 

Everyday, the schoolmaster and teachers would lecture us on the evil nature of the United States and on the righteousness of religious violence and murder. We were children. 7 year of age. We had no idea what the United States meant. Only daily lectures, that the US was an evil creature, with long nails dripping with blood; A Dracula with sharp teeth, wearing a large "stars and striped" hat. This horrific creature we were told has an unquenchable thirst for the youth - especially Iranian youth. Everyday we would sing a hymn: "America! America! She Fails! She Fails! The blood of our youth drips from her nails!" 

These are the stories of 20 years ago when we were only school children. It continued during our days at the university. Insults, defamation, slogans, speeches and punishments all continued. Yet, the difference was that on campus we became familiar with two new terms; Intellect & Reason. We learned that a significant number of our questions were left unanswered. We had learned to ask the ultimate question: "why?" 

We overcame great difficulty, and started communicating with the outside world. The Pegasus of the Internet, helped us learn about the views and ideas of our peers around the world; the other children of Adam and Eve. 

Inevitably, we realized that not all in this world are "infidels" and that not everyone living outside of Iran is busy devising "evil plans" for our destruction. This was quite an awakening. A contrast to what we had been taught throughout the years in school up to college.

Emboldened by our reason, challenged by our intellect, we gathered our courage. By the grace of the Almighty and our hearts filled with love, we dared to stand up, speak and challenge. Friday, July 7th, 1999 was the day the world heard our voice and learned of our rebellion. While I found myself stitching the lacerated flesh of my classmates, at one point Ahmad [Batebi] held up the blood-stained shirt of another friend, the world caught our moment on camera, and came to realize that Iran is still alive!

The true history of our nation, we have extracted from amidst the worn out books in prison and from those who mourned the decay of our motherland; we then realized what has befallen our nation. Those who have governed during the past 25 years, wanted us to remain "totally unaware" so they could effortlessly eternalize their rule, yet through our rebellion we have reached "partial enlightenment"; we are one step away from reaching prosperity, from joining the civilized movement of modernity and becoming "fully enlightened" citizens.

Soon after February 1979, Iranians, after having recognized the catastrophe that had befallen their nation under the pretense of progress, liberty, and under the guise of a "scared revolution", tried numerous methods to rid themselves of the evil dressed in religious cloak. All these efforts were brutally repressed by the fundamentalists. The best and the brightest were murdered and eliminated. The prisons were filled with those who had dared to voice their dissent. The executions, and the inhuman nature of the clerical regime, portrayed a repugnant picture of Iran in the eyes of the world community. 

Through attractive & populist words, the religious propagandists penetrated the soul of Iranians. They toyed with the sincere sentiments of the kind-hearted people of my nation and when the public learned of their vile intentions, every voice, and every whisper was silenced. Perhaps, they thought neither Iran, nor its citizens will have the zeal to rise again. 

In an arena filled with emotion, ignorance, regret and prejudice which dominated the political scene in the chaotic months after the revolt in February 1979, a small clique attacked the U.S. Embassy in the hopes of grabbing their supposedly unpaid shares, ended up gravely damaging the name "student", because they were identified as such. These so called "students" facilitated and paved the path to a "cultural revolution" with their sheer ignorance. They mobilized the world public opinion against Iran. Today, when we ponder those 444 days of global - and especially American - anxiety, and the plight of the hostages at the Embassy, we understand the world sentiment in perceiving Iranians as advocates of violence & terror. 

But the truth lies elsewhere. A small group forced their short-sighted and horrid views, upon us. Every single effort by the public toward liberty had turned fruitless. People were no longer participating in the elections. The will to live had gravely deteriorated. Poverty was rampant and in a nation as wealthy and, as rich as Iran, we were desperately struggling to make ends meet. All of this was due to the incompetence and ignorance of the ruling clerics, although, the fact that our fathers were not innocent either when they were emotionally deceived & eventually became mere tools to shape the revolution. 
The lack of public participation in the elections did not phase the ruling clerics. Those who governed Iran in the post-revolutionary era, were unfamiliar with the concept of "political dignity" and as such, do not and will not have any respect for the will of the people. If they had a shred of dignity, they would have grasped the meaning behind the lack of interest by the people to participate in the elections before May 23rd, 1997. 

During all these years, via various deceptive methods, they would steal the vote of the people. "If you do not vote, your children will not be accepted in the University" - "If you do not vote, you will not be eligible to receive food coupons" - "if you fail to vote, you'll end up losing your job" - and similar platitudes were propagated.

On May 23rd 1997, the astute people of Iran, isolated in the world because of the ignorance and mismanagement of the incompetent ruling clique, resorted to their common sense and through massive presence at the voting booths, modified the method of their struggle such that various flanks of the regime were shoved at each other's throat so the power of the ruling clerics will corrode and the world would then end up hearing the voice of the Iranian people.

Khatami came to power and spoke of grand reforms. To a certain degree, the voice of our people resonated in the world. But before long, Khatami and his so called reformist team showed their true colors. In both elections we voted for Khatami. Our generation in fact, voted for him because we aspired for change through nonviolent methods. We opted to side with the reform movement so that they could not label us as "knit pickers" who will shy away from offering second chances. That is precisely what our generation did. The generation I speak of, constitutes 70% of the population today and is all under 30 years old and had not come of age in any of the two previous "referendums," neither in April of 1979 nor in July of 1989, for the amendment to the constitution. 

Today this generation of the "70 percentile" who thinks quite like us and has numerous unanswered questions, has opted for a grand struggle. 

Our demands are minute. Iranians are gentle people without greed. We wish to be embraced, once again, by the global human family. We want to enjoy life with the rest of humanity and share in their sorrows. We wish to openly and overtly express our dedication to all universal covenants. We want to show our respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Universal Peace, Nonviolence, Environmental Protection, Permanent Progress, and all the other noble covenants sanctioned by the mankind. 

We hope to alleviate despotism and totalitarianism, setting the vote of the people as the gauge for governance. We aspire to redeem the rights of our sisters that have been ignored for so long, and establish an all-encompassing equality between men and women. We want to rid our nation from hypocritical rulers and promote and re-establish the age old Persian creed of "good deeds," "good speech" and "good thoughts." We want everything that is good for our ancient homeland and for this earth and its inhabitants and we strive, as humanly as possible, to rid mankind of all that is evil. All this, for a people who have paid a grave price in self-sacrifice and a nation which has been victimized, is very little to ask for. 

Violence has absolutely no place in our struggle, neither in our words nor in our deeds. Our goal is to reveal the un-masked face of the Islamic Republic and for the whole world to see the level of its unpopularity amongst Iranians. We are of the belief that with the pure grace of Almighty God and support of international public opinion, the evil of theocracy will be brought to its knees. 

We have bore the burden of endless tortures. We actually witnessed executions of our friends. Others have plunged to their death after being thrown off dormitory buildings. Many have been shot or tortured for months. Some have been in solitary confinement for years and endured great sufferings at the hands of the regime. 

We have faced these perils without fear hoping to lessen the pain of our tired people in struggle and as a price for freedom. In return, we expect nothingójust that our people do not lose hope. 

If this letter is long in length, it is because the depth of our pains is as grand as the history of our homeland. 

Ahmad Batebi, my dear schoolmate, shares these words and the expressions of the pains of our people. Ahmad's voice emanates from a throat which has twice felt an executioner's rope; and I, write these words with the same hand crushed and shattered under the most ruthless of tortures.

While in solitary confinement, Ahmad awaited his execution for 7 months. Insofar as myself, throughout 2001 - the same year of "dialogue amongst civilizations" - I also experienced confinement in a solitary cell in the same dungeon. 

We are not alone. Many of our schoolmates also chose to revolt and have sacrificed much so that Iran can one day be free.

We call on our brethren to join us in a complete and total boycott of all elections - unless it is a free and fair referendum on the type of the future regime. This collective boycott will demonstrate to the world the level of the regime's unpopularity. And also call on the international community to support our goal, namely, a referendum with United Nation's observation. 

In honor of all those who have sacrificed so much through their gallantry and all pain endured by our freedom loving nation, we owe it to keep the faith that we shall prevail! And keep our hope alive that:

Iran shall never die!

Signed by:

Amir-Abbas Fakhr-Avar (Siyaavash)
27 year old Univ. Student 
Sentenced by the Revolutionary Court to 8 years in prison

Ahmad Batebi
25 year old Univ. Student
Sentenced by the Revolutionary Court to 15 years in prison

Iman Sami' Zadeh





Articles Op-ed Authors Debates Leaving Islam FAQ
Comments Library Gallery Video Clips Books Sina's Challenge

  ©  copyright You may translate and publish the articles in this site only if you provide a link to the original page.