‘I was brutally tortured in Iran where they made me watch my friends die’

A refugee living in London was forced to watch his best friend die as he hung by his legs upside down in a torture chamber in Iran. Arashk, 35, fled Tehran where he was held hostage for three days after being abducted on his way to university.

Arashk, who now works as a Deliveroo driver in London, endured mental and physical torture after attending protests against the Iranian regime in 2006. At the age of 18, Arashk was arrested and made to spend days in the dark hearing only the sound of a clock and the tormented screams of others in pain.

Arashk said: “We went to lots of protests in Tehran, Iran. One day when I was on the way to university I was blindfolded and taken somewhere and hung by my legs for three days.

Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe arrives home after six years detained in Iran

Arashk Farahani works as a takeaway delivery driver after experiencing extreme physical torture in prison

“It was dark. All you could hear was tick-tock and the screams of other people being tortured. One day they opened the door and my best friend was on the floor bleeding from everywhere, and they just said, ‘watch him’. And they just beat him to death and he died in front of me just there.”

Arashk says he suffered days of torturous mind games where he’d be tricked into thinking he’d be executed. He said: “They used to bring me down to keep me alive because you can die if you’re hanging all the time. They put the rope around my head and said, ‘that’s it. End of story’. And then they were like, ‘we won’t kill you today, maybe next time.’”

But on the third day of taunting the then-teenager, rather than killing him, he was forcibly made to watch another friend’s life brutally slip away.

Arashk said: “They forced me to turn around and watch one of my friends and they kicked the chair under his legs. Forcibly. I didn’t want to watch but they held my head and forced me.”

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Arashk Farahani fled Iran after being tortured for three days

The 35-year-old says that he was only able to escape because he was found by someone who knew him and helped him flee to London.

Arashk says he was brought to the UK by a man who offered to help him set up a bank account and start a new life. But after giving the man £1,000 to do so, the Londoner says he never received any details and was left to sleep in parks and eat leftovers from bins.

He said: “I was dropped in the middle of Waterloo Road and I had about £1,000 in cash and he said let me take your money and open a bank account for you. I was like he brought me here so I can trust him. I gave him money but 16 years later I’m still waiting for him to give me a bank account.

“I had to sit in the park in Hampstead Park. I walked from Waterloo all the way to Hampstead looking for a job. I didn’t know any areas, their names. All I could say was, ‘hello, hello. I need job, I need job.’ I was eating people’s leftovers in the bins.”

After drifting around London in search of food and a job for three weeks, Arashk eventually found an Iranian restaurant where the owner was brought to tears upon seeing him.

He said: “After three weeks of sleeping in the park I was able to find a job. I saw one restaurant, the name was in Farsi and I could read the line. So I just went in and told the guy, ‘I’m starving, I need a job, I need money’. He was a really nice guy. When he saw me in that state, he cried and he just said, ‘go to the kitchen, eat some food’, and then we talked.

“I ate like a cow because I was starving and then he came out and said you can have a job here. I started working there washing dishes and being a waiter for a while. Slowly, slowly changed everything.”

Arashk was able to get on his feet and find other jobs to make ends meet. He eventually graduated in media and television and occasionally does a standup comedy routine.

But even though he’s managed to build a life for himself, he still misses his country. But most of all, he misses his mother who passed away whom he hadn’t seen for 16 years.

The 35-year-old said: “I’m a political refugee, I’ve been here for 16 years. I haven’t been back to Iran. I haven’t seen my family, my mum just passed away a few months ago, I Haven’t seen her for all these years. I miss my family, home, friends, food culture, weather, you name it. – except the regime.”

But overall, he says that he’s been lucky to be alive and that some people don’t ever find their families after they get abducted. He said: “Iran is a complicated situation as well. If your family is lucky they might get the body back from the government. They cause fear so you won’t talk. It’s a dictatorship, that’s how fascist countries work. Speaking out means I’m gathering, talking together, educating each other, that’s dangerous for these kinds of regimes.”

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