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If you read one thing from me, please be this

Behdad Esfahbod
Aug 17 · 6 min read

On January 3 US forces assassinated Gen. Qasem Soleimani in an unprecedented and illegal act of aggression initiated by Trump without Congressional approval and without notifying the UN Security Council outside wartime. On January 7 I entered Iran on 2week vacation to visit family, despite my partner’s pleas for me to cancel my trip. I intuited and reasoned that if I get stopped and questioned again, I will just have to explain and establish my innocence. I vastly under-estimated the lasting effects of such an incidence on my life and people around me. Yet that is exactly what happened.

The night I arrived the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) attacked multiple US military bases in a sham and staged act of “retaliation” to exert dominance. I woke up on January 8 to the news of their rushed and botched act of “defense” shooting down the Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 by “human error”, killing all 176 civilian passengers and crew, many of which friends of my friends and all innocent humans, now collateral damage to US aggression against Iranian terrorist shadow regime.

Same night after the IRGC attacks before going to sleep I handed down HarfBuzz maintenance to my next-in-line without consulting him for consent (https://lists.freedesktop.org/archives/harfbuzz/2020-January/007454.html): “PS. Talk about “bus factor”. Or is that called “bomb factor” these days..”

On Wednesday January 15th around 11am as I was walking from meeting with my dad to meeting with friends at @cafebazaar, four plainclothes people approached me with a warrant to arrest me on allegations of activity against the security of the Islamic Regime, cooperation with hostile entities, etc. I got chills seeing the “IRGC Intelligence Service” on the warrant. They are *the* deadly intelligence force in Iran and the one I had not encountered before and dreaded.

Within minutes it became clear that resistance is futile, so I co-operated fully from then on. They checked me into Evin Prison’s IRGC enclave. I was held in solitary confinement for 7 days and questioned daily for 6+ hours. They were “nice” for the most part since I was co-operating, but didn’t shy away from showing me what awaits me on the “other side of the coin” should I not co-operate, with two episodes of psychological torture. They raided my devices obviously, and downloaded all my private data from Google (300+GB), Facebook, Twitter, and devoured my data on other services (Telegram, LinkedIn).

I was an activist around and after the 2009 Iranian contested election as part of the “Green Movement”. Pictures of me with leaders of opposition groups I got to befriend in that period is what flagged me down as a sure suspect that led to my arrest.

They released me on a cooperation deal that they will keep my “case” within the judiciary on hold indefinitely (“10, 20 years”) as long as I continue to co-operate by informing them of people of their interest within my network after I leave Iran. In all this time, their biggest concern was to make sure my family do NOT inform the media of what is happening.

I agreed to that deal under coercion because I knew I need to get out of that country alive to be able to have a chance to survive and tell my story. Also to reunite with my partner.

I became paranoid and avoided people for weeks. It took me weeks to regain access to my accounts, which were disabled after my employer (Facebook) was notified and embarked on disabling them. The Canadian authorities were notified but were unable to do anything because I entered Iran (as I was obliged to by international law) as an Iranian citizen.

I dreaded entering the United States and having to be detained and interrogated for days again. Fortunately, I was just questioned at the border for two / three hours and let in. No US intelligence agency contacted me after.

I could not get back to work. I tried for months. It didn’t work. BLM uprisings happened and I realized I’ve been going on with sustained abuse in all aspects of my life for years. I became determined to undo that.

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On June 14 they finally contacted me on Instagram as “agreed”. When I ignored them, they tried sending me messages and calling me on WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal. I kept ignoring, while I planned how I come out. https://twitter.com/behdadesfahbod/status/1274840244588707840

They reached out to my sister a few weeks later. She eventually told them that she passed the message to me and that she has no control over my actions.

I’ve been focusing on exposing my professional abusers and spreading the word on the corruption in the type industry, while I planned how to come out re my Iran experience. And that’s what I’ve been doing since June 21.

At this point, I figured they are calculating whether to pursue me legally, or stay silent and hope I stay silent. Just five hours ago my sister sent me a picture of the notice the mailman brought in requesting that I appear for further questioning in Tehran within five days. The timing couldn’t match any better. And I’ve been working on this writeup since.

What’s their next move gonna be? I don’t know. Will they pressure, detain & torture my family, dox me since they have my 15+yr private data, or any other pressure tactic, I don’t know. I posted bail, with a 2-bedroom apartment I own in Tehran that is my sister’s family residence. That I have written off. But what inhumane thing they will do to my friends & family I don’t know.

I don’t have answers to these questions. But I know ONE thing: that like EVERY abuser, their biggest fear is that I expose them. So that’s what I’m doing. I don’t know what their next move will be. Don’t know how much more time I have before I will determine that I’d rather end my life to stop others’ torture. But if I do, I know I’ve done after exposing all my abusers. I’ve done my job here.

I stand in front of you all to be judged, ignored, dismissed, ridiculed, harassed, or believed. Because the way modern world is set up re sovereignty, there is no court for me to plea to. So I have no recourse other than to plea my case to the court of public opinion. To those who called me impatient, who advised me to slow down, to wait, etc, that is why I can’t afford to wait even longer. I already waited over five years on the OpenType issue, tried to fix, resolve, address, from within. Don’t tell me I have to wait longer, I don’t have that kind of luxury anymore.

In early June, unable to get any work done after months, I asked my psychiatrist for and went on Adderall, completely oblivious to the fact that it could and did push my otherwise-benign Bipolar II hypomania into full-on mania. My one-hour a month followup with my psychiatrist over Zoom wasn’t enough for them to notice this, and I was living alone, so there was no one to pull the emergency brake either. In that state I became extremely argumentative and hurt a few innocent people on the way. I apologize for that (@theoriginalecs tried to contact you privately to express that before doing publicly but couldn’t find a way to reach out; @kupfers I shouldn’t have targeted you directly; should have kept my criticism of @alphabettes_org constructive and without speculating about individuals). This climaxed on July 25th (another story I hope to share soon), and I stopped taking Adderall on July 26th.

If my story keeps getting more & more bizarre, that is because it is. Most of you question my sanity. I know that. Yet I couldn’t be thinking any more clearly. I trust there is enough of you to believe me for my message to not die off in obscurity.

I like to acknowledge the influence of two people, whose professional ideas I’m not fully qualified to assess, but I learned from their perseverance and living their values at the cost of becoming unpopular, dismissed, outcasts, and semi-abandoned by their communities: @hhpapazian and @Evertype. You inspired me most recently.

To live my values, stay curious, and not forget to have fun I learned from Richard Feynman. The finest man. I wish there were more like him in this world. I suppose I also learned a lot from Hamilton soundtrack in the past year as well; remarkable work by @Lin_Manuel no matter what your opinion of the historical accuracy.

Phew. I go rest now. I know I promised to release my full salary & negotiations yesterday. Haven’t got to write that yet.

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