The grand plan
May 17, 2004
Once again Persian language filled the room and I
had a feeling something ominous was going to happen. Ironically
it was my turn to come up with a plan that would prove my loyalty
to our little group. We're reduced to four after two of us
were serving time for theft and damage to properties. Most of us
at least once, had appeared before the magistrate as an alibi or
a witness, or the accused. In all the court cases, as far as I
could remember Ferry was always the main player in all our misadventures
but somehow managed to get away. In fact I don't recall him
ever being accused of anything.
Our room was usually the center of all activities.
In a way, I acted as Ferry's secretary, giving him the report of
came to see him and how important the matter was. After six months
living with him I knew fairly well what was his priorities and
advised him accordingly. Lot of the times refugees came to ask
for his approval about certain things, actions, usually to do
with beating somebody up. He was the one with the final say in
A leader, I suppose.
Everybody thought he had balls. While I
shared a room with him I discovered things about him that others
On the surface nothing seemed to scare him. But he had this
poker face that no one could read into. He kept his cards as close
to his chest as possible. He was the oldest of all the single
men in our camp, and by far the most disciplined one. He had
completed his military service and was working in the Department
of Treasury as an accountant before fleeing the country.
The first time I met him was at the office. He came
on my arrival to interpret our conversation with the camp's administrator.
As soon as the subject of my accommodation was mentioned he told
the admin that I could stay in his room for there was a bed vacant.
He said it with such persuasion as if he had kept the bed empty
just for me to occupy it. Ferry was like that. He always got
he wanted. His ravenous appetite for control and dominance hypnotized
people around him.
Later, however, I realized it was to my advantage
to remain in the room with him. As the camp was divided between
rival groups and Ferry had established himself as the leader
among the Iranian refugees. He had brought several of the Iranian
together and formed a small gang. Then by using his fists
had subdued the ones who questioned his leadership. He offered
those refugees from other countries who intimated and bullied
Ferry, a couple of times, had handpicked the strongest,
ugliest and meanest of their tough guys and roughed them
up publicly as a lesson to the rest. The Iranian and Afghani
young attractive girls unequivocally had approved of Ferry's
leadership. Whenever there were sexual advances on their
or sisters Ferry was called in to punish the harasser.
And he did
it successfully and with doing so he reinforced his leadership
in the camp.
Although Ferry had all the qualities of a leader,
but his motive stemmed from a series of complex political agendas.
That night all the eyes were on me.
"You never come up with a plan Jamshid! Don't tell
us you're out of ideas," Ali told me with his Isfahani accent.
"I'm sure Jamshid is capable of something ingenuous,"
Vahid confidently told the group.
I was certain they were both
mocking me. I'd never come up with anything clever let alone
ingenuous. I'd abstained from
suggesting a course of action, particularly anything that was
outside the law. Yet I was a humble follower, which made me
culprit that up-until then the German law had failed to apprehend.
If there ever was a safe side to our misdemeanors I was there,
gnawing away at my bone in the background, dawdling the time
away until things cooled down. And Ferry for his own reasons
the pressure on me to do anything more, which baffled me and
raised a few eyebrows.
Last month we followed Ali's childish plan, which
was to go on a rampage. He was upset by the sentencing of his friend
bashing up a German bartender. We dented up as many cars as we
could and stole some of their valuable parts for sale later.
A silly plan really but Ferry gave his stamp of approval. God knows
what went on in his mind. Only in retrospect I could come to
concrete conclusion about some of the decisions he made. Most
of his action had to be looked at within a given time span. Fleeting
moments could reveal nothing about his long-term plans, deceptive
impressions if anything.
Ferry only approved things if they suited his purpose.
He was too calculating to let things just happen, particularly
rampage like that. Two of the Iranians got busted, when the police
searched the rooms and found the vehicle's parts hidden in
their room. Ferry never liked those guys. That's why I think
he had something to do with it. He once told me that he hated the
communists. And that those two communists didn't deserve
to get refugee passports and be allowed to live and work in the
free capitalist Europe. Those were his exact words. He thought
they should have gone to Soviet Union or one of her "backward
colonies" instead. It was only the night before the police
search that he took the vehicle parts to their room and asked them
to stash them away.
In the last year or so all of the members of his
gang, those who sided with certain political ideology or parties
to which Ferry
had aversion for, ended up getting a criminal record. And in
all those incidents Ferry was involved. All of his gang members
over time. He never had much difficulty recruiting new ones,
As for Vahid, Ferry's recent gang member, was a
locksmith back in Tehran. Soon after the first Alaha Akbars were
out from the rooftops he joined the Mojahedins and worked within
their network to overthrow the Shah.
Ali, God knows what he was or what he believed in.
Ferry had a nickname for him, the lizard he called him. He thought
of him as
a piece of trash that should have been washed away by the currents
of Zayande Rood long time ago.
Ferry never let anybody close to his own political
convictions. People, in their first few encounters with him tended
he was on their side. But this was his style of orienting himself
particularly with the new refugees. I still remember his first
conversation with me, "Running away from the oppression of
Khominie's regime? Don't worry we'll return one
day and triumph over them.' He sat and sighed along side
of me as if he knew exactly how I felt inside and what I've
left behind. I know for fact that he was on no body's side.
He only allowed people to get the impression that he was; just
for a while though. But before anybody began preaching about his
political affiliations he'd establish his own rules. "The
rules of the camp", he coined it. "You see Jamshid, there
are brawls here on daily basis. Rape even. If we don't stick
together we'll get bullied and humiliated. All the refugees
respect me in this camp because I've showed them what I'm
capable of. That they can't fuck with the Iranians. Without
me they walk all over us," he told me.
There were problems in the camp, I can't deny them,
but he exaggerated them to his own advantage, and often added to
existing problems by overreacting to minor incidents, only because
they benefited him in the publicity department.
Although Ferry never expressed what political ideology
he adhered to, but occasionally divulged what he didn't like. Having
brought with him from Iran several paperback. Translations of
Orwell, Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller, he talked about
his favorite writers when he was in the mood; only to me that is.
He liked George Orwell above all others. In all his conversation
vilified the communists. I don't know why Ferry was so much
against the communists. Since we all ran away from the Mullahs,
Ferry seemed to be wasting his energy on the wrong mobs. But
he blamed the communists for everything. But once again it was
out of character for an Iranian to blame somebody else for something.
night the onus was on me to come up with a plan and I couldn't
budge it either.
nowing Vahid always boasted about his skills
in opening cars, I told them we should steal a car and drive
to Hamburg. After a year in the camp I thought I needed a holiday.
I thought if one day I was going to get arrested, it better be
on something that I really wanted to do.
Something fun. It was
the best thing I could think of considering our circumstances
any way. I thought we all needed a short break from the vicious
of the camp that engulfed us like a giant octopus. Hamburg's
notorious nightlife was something that we had heard about but
never experienced. For a moment everybody pondered over the possibility
and practicality of it. We all knew it didn't matter how
great or how poor we thought the plan was, for Ferry had to give
his stamp of approval.
"Vahid's skills in opening cars is going
to be tested," Ferry said.
Vahid had bragged about his specialty
in opening cars before. The Japanese cars, the Toyota to be precise.
"I can open any cars but
if we could find a Toyota, it'll be even better," Vahid proudly
"Don't worry we can find a Toyota for you to open.
I think I've seen a few in this town. It's a shame you haven't
specialized in German cars, our little journey to Hamburg would
have been more luxurious," Ferry told him with a ting of
sarcasm always detected in his tone of voice.
Ferry ordered Ali to go to town and scout the streets
for a Toyota. An hour later, having spotted a Toyota Ali returned.
He said a
Toyota was parked in the eastern side of town on a quite residential
street. It was pass midnight and we left the camp for our dream
It was January and relentless snow was adding to
its thick layer of white over everything visible in town. Ferry
instructed me to
stay watch on the north side, nearest to the car, while Ali guarded
the south side for any coming cars or pedestrians from the two
adjacent roads. Vahid took his little tools out and began opening
the driver's door. A faint dog's bark became audible
from one of the houses in the neighborhood but it was remote
enough to be ignored.
"Did you know how long it takes for German car thieves
to break into a vehicle and start it?" Ferry asked Vahid as he
engaged with the lock
"No, how long?" Vahid asked, steam oozing
out of his mouth.
"Thirteen seconds," Ferry answered.
"I'm a bit rusty,
but I'll have this car opened and started in few minutes." As
he was speaking, the door opened.
He pushed the seat back and crawled underneath the
steering wheel and began pulling out the wires. By this time about
three to four
minutes had passed. Except the distant, intermittent barking
of the dog, the whole neighborhood seemed to be in a deep slumber
buried underneath the heavy, powdery snow that kept falling.
was no soul or cars coming from either direction. I couldn't
wait long enough for the engine to ignite, as my hands and feet,
despite their adequate cover, were beginning to get desperately
cold. Ferry had his hands in his pockets and stood motionlessly
as he watched Vahid. Ali was furthest from us and couldn't
hear any of our conversations. I lit up a cigarette.
I saw a car turned into the road. I wasn't sure
whether it was going to drive straight or turn right to the street
and Ferry were on. I signaled Ferry and began to walk. Ferry
and Vahid clambered into the car's backseat. But the vehicle
drove pass. Vahid resumed his work.
It was about fifteen minutes now that Vahid was
struggling to get the car started. He had a small torch lying on
the floor of the
car beaming up the jumbled, colored chords. Ferry began to talk
to him again.
"Is there any problem?" He asked him.
"I've connected the wires
but I don't know why the engine it's not starting?" He told
him with much puzzlement.
"Forget what I told you about the German car thieves-make
it happen within twenty three minutes instead." He told him in
his previous comment had cooled him out.
"I'm doing my best', Vahid
Ali began walking toward us. Since
he didn't signal we didn't panic. He probably wanted something
or just wanted to tell us that
he was cold.
"What's up guys?' He asked annoyingly.
"Go back to your post," Ferry demanded.
"I'm freezing to death," he told us.
"Well you're not the only one,"
Ferry told him, "I'd rather you freeze to death at your post
than here." Ferry
harshly rebuked him.
Ali scurried back to the top of the street. Before
he reached the top a person unexpectedly turned into the street.
It happened quickly,
catching us all off guard. Ferry told Vahid to get into the car
and stay there. He himself crossed the street. And I walked away
to the opposite direction. The man must have entered one of the
houses on the same street for neither of us saw him coming out
This put us more on the edge. For if he had suspected
anything he could be watching the street through the window from
the houses. But Ferry didn't flinch and insisted we continue
We all resumed our posts, with Vahid hammering away
at his job.
The car, to our big relief, started after a few
minutes and we all got in without the slightest hast and drove
"How much petrol
is in the tank?" Ferry asked Vahid who was driving.
enough to get us out of town though," Vahid replied.
car," Ferry told him.
"We're not going to run out of petrol in middle
of the autobahn. Drop me and Jamshid here and go to the nearest
Fill the tank up and come back pick us up. We'll be waiting
for you here.' Ferry told him. Always thinking ahead. I dreaded
walking out of the car into the cold again, but I had to follow
his instructions. Beside what he said made sense.
"Why don't we all go to the petrol station,' Vahid
"I don't want to raise the attendant's suspicion
by seeing four Middle Easter men crammed in a small Toyota at
3am on a Sunday morning.' Ferry told him.
We got dropped off
all right and as soon as Vahid turned the corner, Ferry headed
to the opposite direction.
"Where are you going?" I asked him.
"Come on, lets go," he told me in a hurried voice.
"I've been waiting for the moment like this for
a while," he said.
"What do you mean?" I asked him.
"I'm going to call the police," he told me.
"What?' I expressed in horror.
"What're you talking about?" I asked him again.
"I'm going to tell the police that they've stolen
Ferry was playing a dirty game with his fellow refugees.
He's been the mastermind probably of all the previous arrests.
was letting me in on it, because he probably was thinking that
I could be trusted? That perhaps my role as a secretary could
be promoted to something higher? Or that he could not longer hide
things from me?
"It was you who called the police to search the
rooms after passing over the spare parts to Hassan and Asghar,
"Yes, clever man it was me. They're all busted because
of me turning them in."
"You didn't turn them in. You set them up. That's
even worse," I told him firmly.
"How could you do this?" I asked him with disgust.
"You don't understand. You're non political. You're
lucky that you're. That's why I let you share the room
"I guess I have to consider myself lucky-otherwise
you've put me in jail like the rest of them," I told him, hiding
the nervous shaking of my hands in my warm pockets.
right', he told me coldly.
"Is it a sin to be political?'
I asked him.
"Ye it's a sin, particularly when you destroy other
people's lives and then you dash away to another country. You see
I love my country. I loved my government despite all their shortfalls.
But I never betrayed my country. But these guys did. Communists,
Mujahedins, Hezbollahis. They are the true enemies. The enemy
within is far more dangerous than the enemy from a foreign land.
you believe in the truth the better prepared you'll be to
fight them.' He told me as didactically as a religious leader.
"Neither of these guys believe that they betrayed
their country. Even the Hezbollahis that you and I have run away
from are fighting
the Iraqis. Right at this very moment they are defending the
country- protecting your family and my family from Sadam's army.
you see the problems is much deeper than your simple analogy
of the situation."
"They're not defending the country they're defending
their own asses. If the Iraqis win they go. It's as simple
as that,' Ferry told me.
"What if they thought the same thing about you or
the likes of you? That you're the one who betrayed your country,
government put the interest of the West before the interests
of his own people. That you're the one who cowered away during
the war with Iraq to another country," I asked him angrily.
sure they do. It's always the same, your belief against theirs.
But look at them. How easily they have abandoned
their political ideals."
"But Ferry you're the instigator of it all. If they
do break the law it's because you encourage them to do it.' I
told him, hoping to break into his own fanaticism that had blinded
"I don't. No, you're wrong. They're already thieves
and murderers. I've seen them kill people, destroy property.
I'm only making them pay for some of the crimes they've
Ferry was calm and collected as if he'd done nothing
wrong. There was no way I could reason with him. He was as convinced
his actions as the revolutionary guards back home about theirs.
But there was a huge difference between them. They were protecting
their new government and Ferry was this self appointed judge,
jury and the executioner, who single-handedly betrayed his fellow
as a form of payback.
"Listen Jamshid, you're a good
kid. We could work together. After we've been granted our
asylum you can come to Turkey with me. I've got friends over
there. We can be active to free country/." He spoke
with such affection that nearly made me throw up.
"You're kidding me Ferry. I'll
go to the police and tell them everything," I told him.
"They won't listen to you. The police
and I work together. They think I'm their spy in the camp.
Can't you see
stupid! I've never been arrested for anything. So don't
waste your time talking to them. I've thought about everything.
I don't leave anything up to chance any more.' He finished
with a long concluding gaze into my eyes, as if all his calculations
about me was wrong and I didn't pay the dividends he expected
Ferry that night made a phone call to the police
and Vahid and Ali got arrested while driving around trying to find
us. I changed
my room the next day and kept my distance from Ferry. He still
dominated the camp, and surreptitiously plotted against those refugees
whom he didn't like. He got himself a few new gang members.
Ferry, shortly after getting his asylum left for
Turkey. He wanted to be as close to Iran as possible. He said he
was going to find
people who would accept and subscribe to his grand plan to rid
his country of the religious fanatics. The size of his delusion
expanded with his freedom to travel. I deliberately didn't
ask what his grand plan was. He described it as a masterpiece.
He said it was the best plan and the only real hope for people
who wanted to return home and liberate their country.
Farid Parsa left Iran in 1981 and lived in Europe
for three years. He immigrated to Sydney in June 1984,
where he has lived eversince. He has studied mass
communication, theology and Theatre at tertiary level. He
is currently employed as senior staff with the State
Library of NSW, Sydney.
May is Mamnoon
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