Canadian reporter jailed in Iran thought of suicide
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Thursday, November 26, 2009 8:59PM EST
Maziar Bahari, the Canadian journalist who spent 118 days in an Iranian prison, says he thought about using his eyeglasses to slit his wrists during his ordeal.
Speaking to CTV News Channel on Thursday evening, Bahari said that during long periods of solitary confinement at Tehran's Evin prison, he began hallucinating and his thoughts wandered into the dark corners of his mind.
"A couple of times I woke up and I looked at (my) glasses and I thought to myself, 'I can always just break the lens and slit my wrists with the shards,'" he said from Ottawa.
"But when I thought about it a little bit more, I thought, 'you know, I have so much to lose.' I thought about my family, I thought about my wife, my unborn child," he said.
"Then I thought, 'I should not be their executioner.'"
Bahari said that he was kicked, beaten and humiliated during his four-month captivity, but he said that the psychological torture he endured was more effective in breaking his spirit.
"You are in a cell, alone by yourself. I just had a copy of the Qur'an and a book of prayers," he recalled.
"I didn't know what to do. I exercised for five, six hours, and then for the rest of the day, I had imaginary conversations with friends and colleagues, and after a while, I started to hallucinate."
Bahari said that the beatings were more geared to humiliation than punishment, and he said his captors didn't want to injure him because they hoped he would make a public confession about being a spy.
"They wanted me to be intact for television cameras for televised, forced confessions," he said.
Still, Bahari also appeared to have maintained a sense of humor about his captivity and compared it to a dumb Hollywood movie.
On the one hand, Bahari said that his captors had many resources to work with, but he said their accusations were ultimately hollow.
"It was like an Iranian version of 'Waterworld,'" he said, referring to Kevin Costner's 1993 motion picture flop. "They had a huge budget, they had a huge production, but the script was not very good."
For example, Bahari says that he was accused of working for four different intelligence services, including the CIA and MI6.
But when those theories didn't hold up, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard then accused Bahari of working as a "media spy."
Bahari was first arrested on June 21 in the Iranian capital as he was reporting on the clampdown on anti-government protests, which broke out after the country's highly-contested presidential vote.
The journalist, who was released on Oct. 20 just before the birth of his first daughter, said his imprisonment was likely motivated by several factors.
First, Bahari had been working for both U.S. and British media outlets, meaning both countries would be affected by the arrest.
Secondly, Bahari explained that he had close contact with many politicians within Iran, and that the Revolutionary Guard captured him to send a message to the country's myriad political powerbrokers.
"By arresting me, they wanted to tell the different factions of the Iranian government that we can do whatever we want, and you cannot stop us."
Bahari was in Ottawa to meet with Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon this week, and the journalist said that the government was instrumental in securing his release.
"I have to thank him because I know that he and other Canadian diplomats worked hard to release me."
While Bahari said that Ottawa has repeatedly come under fire for not actively speaking out for Canadians imprisoned abroad, he said the government takes a low profile approach which can be very effective.
When asked if he was planning to return to Iran, Bahari said he likely won't be heading back anytime soon. He said he still faces charges there that carry sentences of more than 15 years.
"It's very nice to be out of prison and everything still looks a little bit surreal, but I am adjusting to life now."