“Let the blood-stained pattern continue. Iran after the fall of the Shah: another manifestation of Man’s inhumanity to Man, multiplied by a factor of about five. Only the justifications change, hiding the sham and shame of a society supposed to be free of the past. Jafar Yaghoobi’s account bears witness to this... His unemotional, meticulous chronicle brings home both the horror and camaraderie that developed among prisoners in the face of despair. Who would think that a wrong answer to 'Do you pray?' could get you hanged?”
—Sacramento / San Francisco Book Review
"A timely, inspiring story of the triumph of the human spirit in the face of oppression."
“The best of humanity grew amid the horror and structured chaos of Iran’s prisons. Within this dehumanizing system designed to crush then obliterate human beings, Yaghoobi maintains a steadfast belief in the best of life: freedom to explore where the mind and heart lead, the support and respect for friends and family, and the necessity to germinate and nurture these qualities for the future.”
Author of Long Time Passing: Mothers Speak about War and Terror
In the summer of 1988, the Islamic Republic of Iran began a systematic execution of political prisoners. Overriding earlier sentences handed down by its own tribunals, the regime summarily hanged thousands of prisoners, many of them incarcerated at the notorious Evin and Gohardasht Prisons in Tehran. In great secrecy the bodies of the victims were transported to mass, unmarked graves.
For more than two decades, the Iranian government has tried to hide the existence of these gravesites, and as recently as January 2009 it has attempted to destroy evidence of their whereabouts. According to Amnesty International, the cumulative death toll of this mass purging of political enemies ranges from 4,500 to 10,000.
Against all odds, Dr. Jafar Yaghoobi survived this wave of state-sponsored killings. In Let Us Water the Flowers, to date the most comprehensive English-language memoir by a survivor of the mass killings, he recounts his personal experiences as a political prisoner in Iran, and captures in his own words the vivid testimonials of those who shared the ordeal. These riveting stories describe the courage, resistance, sacrifice, camaraderie, and solidarity of prisoners who refused to give up hope, even in the face of brutal interrogation, torture, and fear for their lives. But they also candidly depict the cowering appeasement of other prisoners who broke down under the unrelenting pressure of prison authorities and became collaborators in the abuse and control of their fellow captives. In Dr. Yaghoobi’s tense and gripping narrative, Iran’s prisons are revealed to be microcosms not only of Iranian society but also of the global human community: depicting the horrors that we are capable of inflicting on one another, while at the same time revealing the care, concern, and cooperation that can still flourish in the midst of utter chaos.
Including an introduction that explains the events of the 1980s within the larger context of twentieth-century Iranian history, an epilogue that movingly describes the traumatic effects of imprisonment on survivors and their families, a glossary, and a list of resources for further research, Let Us Water the Flowers is essential reading for Americans trying to understand the complexities of Iranian politics and the nature of the current regime, many of whose leaders were involved in the events described.
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Jafar Yaghoobi, PhD, was released from prison in 1989 and subsequently escaped to Turkey before joining his wife and daughter in Germany. After settling in the United States, he worked as a genetics research scientist in the Department of Nematology and Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis, until his retirement in 2005. Since his retirement he has been active in bringing attention to human rights abuses in Iran.