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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


July 27, 2000

Iran not armpit of universe

Dear Kelley,

I'm glad you wrote and I'm sorry that you were exposed to the harshness of "Not Without My Daughter"!

I saw the movie with my (then) girlfriend, Susan, back when it first came out! We didn't know what type of message or image it contained about Iran but I literally held my head down and ran out of the theater.

Susan and I got married in 1996 and she (who is a blonde native of Texas, USA) went to Iran with me for a visit in the Summer of 1997. Susan loved her treatment in Iran by my family and everyone else who came in contact with her, but she can comment to you directly about that.

We now have an adorable 7 month old baby boy who proudly carries the "Iranian-American" ethnic designation and we fully intend to make sure that he learns the Persian language, visits Iran and stays in touch with his father's cultural roots!

I don't know what happened in Dr. Mahmoodi and his wife Betty's marriage but they apparently had a rocky marriage and not much harmony in their lives' goals and future plans. Furthermore, he seemed to be coming from an ultra religious Muslim family in Iran which is a minority by any statistical account.

The first point to note is that Iran does not look like the armpit of the universe, as depicted in the movie. It is much cleaner and prettier; ask my wife! Secondly, note the fact that the husband, Dr. Mahmoodi, has countered and denied a great majority of his wife's so called "true story" and even accuses her of being hateful and untruthful in her book and the subsequent motion picture! The incorrect depiction of Iranian society and street scenes, as well as some of the cultural facts that are stated in the dialogue, is clearly geared towards making the story more heart breaking and believable, in an attempt to sell the book, etc.

Thirdly, when I was in Iran back in the Fall of 1998 (Christmas), the national Iranian TV network broadcasted a documentary miniseries which was a response to the movie "Not Without My Daughter" and included interviews with actual neighbors of the couple when they lived in Tehran, co-workers, Matob's school mates and teachers, etc. etc. The overwhelming majority of people swore that non of the violence depicted in the movie did not happen in public and up until the end the wife seemed far away from the evident misery that she accounts in her book/movie. Which product would you be more likely to believe, a documentary with real people talking in the street, classroom, their home or a fictional production from Hollywood's dream factory?!

I also believe that the whole endevour may very well be the product of the nasty propaganda and political lobby peddling that goes on in this country's media and on the Capitol Hill against each other by different Middle East political factions (ex. The powerful Jewish lobby, the Arab lobby against the perceived threat from then Khomeini's threat - early 1990's - and even the Iranian exile - the supporters of monarchy - who needed to portray a dark ages and religious decadent picture of Iranian society under the current theocracy in the U.S. and Western public opinion!)

The fourth point is that she made millions from her book, the movie and ridiculous speaking engagements as an expert in international child abductions!! All the while, the father has offered a number of resolutions, including getting visitations of his daughter in a European country for a couple of days under supervision, but Betty is the abductor now.

But at the end I would like to emphasize that I don't question or downplay the possibility that she may have really been an abused wife and done wrong, but she shouldn't have dragged an entire nation, their culture and their reputation in mud to get back at her husband.

That was my (long!) two cents.


Ben Bagheri


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