Published in German at “Spiegel”, printed edition of 10 May 2010 (not available online)

Published in English at Spiegel Online International on 17 May 2010

Photo: AFP

It has been a year since the Iranian opposition took to the streets to protest the re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. But many dissidents who were forced to leave the country are still in limbo. Germany has still not decided which asylum seekers to accept.

Ali Kantoori doesn’t know what his tormentors look like. Instead, it is their voices that have been burned into his memory. He was blindfolded and stripped naked. “When we’re finished with you,” one of the voices said, “your hair will be as white as your teeth.”

Kantoori, who was a student of physical education, was imprisoned in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison for five months, including 25 days in a completely darkened cell. During the interrogations, the torturers broke several of his ribs and whipped the soles of his feet with electric cables. Sometimes, the 29-year-old Iranian recalls, they forced him and other prisoners to crawl on the ground, lick up the dirt and make animal noises. His family was eventually able to secure his release from that particular hell by paying €120,000 ($152,000) in bail money.

Today Kantoori lives in Nigde, a city in the heart of Turkey. By fleeing Iran in early March, he escaped arrest under a new warrant for engaging in “propaganda against the Islamic Republic.” Although his hair hasn’t turned white, Kantoori now suffers from severe depression and asthma attacks. […]

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