Face to Face with the Beast


Translator’s Note

What can I add to Hengameh’s story? It is one of the
most harrowing books I have ever read. Like Hitler, the
mullahs tried to destroy the humanity of their victims,
and like him they failed. This book shows that even under
conditions hardly possible to imagine, people can retain
their courage, their generosity, their capacity to love and
even, astonishingly, their sense of humour. I feel honoured
and privileged that I had the opportunity to translate it.
Carolyn Beckingham


“Khomeini’s prisons are quite unlike any others…”

In August 2004, a girl of sixteen was hanged in public by the religious judge of the town of Neka, in Iran, because he blamed her for being “a chatterbox” at her trial. This news revolted the whole world. Now, for a quarter of a century, tens of thousands of prisoners have been executed in Iran, women and adolescent girls among them. Through the fate of Shekar, and many others, the author, who lived through that hell herself for three years, retraces and denounces the terrible physical and psychological torture inflicted on Iranian women in the mullahs’ prisons. She also, above all, describes the formidable will to live and to resist that animates them. Beyond mere witness, here is the modest and poignant cry of a whole generation of women truly determined to face the fundamentalist “Beast”.

Hengameh Haj Hassan was a nurse in Tehran at the time of the Islamic Revolution. She immediately saw the consequences of the Khomeini regime’s takeover in the course of her hospital work. Being unable to remain indifferent, she denounced the acts of the theocratic power. Arrested in 1981, she spent three years in various prisons, including that of Evin, in conditions that are impossible to imagine. On her liberation, she rejoined the People’s Mojahedin and lives at present in the city of Ashraf in Iraq.